Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) resigned her post as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) late Sunday afternoon, the day before the party was set to kick off its national convention in Philadelphia.
After detailing the party’s accomplishments and her goals for this election in a statement, Wasserman Schultz turned to her future at the DNC.
“Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention,” she said. She also stated that she would still open and close the convention, and address the delegates, though that remains to be seen.
The DNC’s vice chair, longtime party official Donna Brazile, would serve as interim chair, the DNC said. CNN’s Jeff Zelany said that it took a call from President Obama for Wasserman Schultz to agree to resign. Obama’s statement, released after Wasserman Schultz’, was supportive of her work for the party.
At the time Wasserman Schultz released her statement, thousands of supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were marching through Philadelphia, some of whom were calling for her resignation.
Sanders praised her decision to step down “for the future of the Democratic Party,” and called for more open, transparent, and impartial leadership.
Sanders statement on DWS resignation pic.twitter.com/Itovjr8ycw
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) July 24, 2016
Wasserman Schultz has become a lightning rod for criticism from supporters of Sanders, many of whom saw the Democratic primary process as rigged or at least biased against the Vermont senator.
On Friday evening, WikiLeaks released almost 20,000 internal emails from the DNC, with some showing a closeness with Clinton’s campaign and an intent at times to undermine the Sanders campaign toward the end of the primary race.
Ironically, Wasserman Schultz wrote in one email that she did not want to reply to a CNN story about Sanders, saying he would fire her if he was elected.
“This is a silly story. He isn’t going to be president,” Wasserman Schultz wrote to DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda from her personal email account.
Another exchange between other DNC officials appeared as an attempt to make grist from Sanders’ religion or atheism among Southern Baptists.
After stating he was not an atheist Sunday morning in an interview with CNN, Sanders said “it is an outrage and sad that you would have people in important positions in the DNC trying to undermine my campaign.”
Sanders said Sunday morning that Schultz should resign at some point “not only because of the prejudice I think [the DNC] showed during the campaign but also because I think we need new leadership that will open up that party.”
It was not just politics that caused strife between the activists and the DNC Chair — it was sometimes also policy. In Congress, Wasserman Schultz provoked outrage from progressives earlier this year for cosponsoring a GOP effort to protect predatory payday lenders. She reversed her position after an outcry amid the tight presidential primary campaign.
Wasserman Schultz was, however, the friend and former colleague that former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords turned to when House Democrats took over the floor to protest inaction on gun violence and Giffords had a supportive letter she wanted read there.
Her leadership of the DNC has been controversial since at least 2014, when some Democratic insiders said they had lost confidence in her ability to run the DNC. Politico reported at the time that “the perception of critics is that Wasserman Schultz spends more energy tending to her own political ambitions than helping Democrats win.”
Other insiders, including James Carville and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) said they thought it would be better for Wasserman Schulz to resign before the convention.
“She needs to resign before it gets worse,” Dingell said earlier on Sunday.
Presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton praised Wasserman Schultz in a statement, announcing she agreed to serve as Clinton’s 50-state program chair for her campaign. Clinton also said she looked forward to campaigning with Wasserman Schultz in Florida.
Clinton statement on the resignation of DWS: pic.twitter.com/BzHgT7BeuU
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 24, 2016
Wasserman Schultz’ primary election for her Florida congressional seat is on August 30.
Donald Trump did not resist the chance to hit Wasserman Schultz, and praise RNC Chair Reince Priebus as “the tough one and smart one.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2016
Last week in Cleveland, Wasserman Schultz did not hold back when pointing out in a tweet the chaos unfolding at the Republican National Convention: “Hey @Reince — I’m in Cleveland if you need another chair to help keep your convention in order.” The tweet had not been deleted as of publication time.
— D Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) July 18, 2016
A change.org petition gathered almost 65,000 signatures for demonstrating “the utmost sense of contempt and disdain for the Democratic Party, its principles, and the democratic process.” The petition declared victory on Sunday.