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N.H. Democratic chair exploring run for DNC chief

Ray Buckley.
Ray Buckley.New Hampshire Democratic Party

New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley is having “active conversations” about running for Democratic National Committee chairman this spring.

He would join US Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota and former Vermont governor Howard Dean who are actively pursuing bids for chairman, as Democrats ponder the future of their party in light of Republican Donald Trump’s surprising win in the presidential race on Tuesday. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2016, said Friday that he is also considering running for the post.

Buckley, who has led the New Hampshire Democrats since 2007 and has been a DNC vice chairman for eight years, told the Globe Friday that he is “definitely being strongly encouraged to consider it by DNC members.”


During his tenure in New Hampshire, Democratic presidential candidates have won the swing state three times in a row, and Democrats have won the governorship four out of five times. In 2014, US Senator Jeanne Shaheen was the only Democrat in the country to win a competitive Senate race. In 2016, as Republicans nationwide had their best year since 1928, New Hampshire voted for an all-Democratic delegation to Washington for the first time ever. (The Democrats’ candidate for governor, however, lost to Republican Chris Sununu on Tuesday.)

“I think that what we have proven here in New Hampshire is that having a strong and vibrant grassroots-driven operation is key to success,” Buckley said in an interview.

Ellison announced he was running for chairman on Wednesday, the day after the election. He has since been endorsed by US Senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders. Dean, who served as DNC chair from 2005 to 2009, said on Twitter Thursday that he was open to running again. On Friday morning, Dean said he would pursue a 50-state strategy, which led to big wins for Democrats in 2006 and 2008, and would reach out to young people if he became chairman.


“I know they understand that politics matters,” Dean said on MSNBC. “They already are the largest demographic group in the country, and they’re the group that most heavily voted for Hillary Clinton. So you know, we’ve got to rebuild this party and I know how to do that.”

O’Malley announced his interest in a statement released Friday morning.

“Since the election, I have been approached by many Democrats who believe our party needs new leadership,” O’Malley said. “I’m taking a hard look at DNC Chair because I know how badly we need to reform our nominating process, articulate a bold progressive vision, recommit ourselves to higher wages and a stronger middle class, and return to our roots as a nationwide, grassroots party.”

Unlike Ellison and Dean, Buckley may already have a sizable number of votes in his pocket. For the past eight years he has been a very active chairman of the Association of Democratic State Chairs. Every state Democratic chair and vice chair is a voting member of the DNC, which has 450 or so members.

Asked when he will make a decision about jumping into the race, Buckley said, “I will probably have a better sense next week.”

No one from New Hampshire has ever served as a national party chair, at least according to lists going back to the 1940s. After the 1996 election, New Hampshire’s governor, Steve Merrill, ran for Republican national chairman but did not succeed.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com.