WASHINGTON - After a messy fight that highlighted strains with the White House, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Tuesday completed what should have been the routine election of officers.
As expected, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was given another term as national party chairwoman.
But below that level, chaos reigned for a time as DNC members balked at rubber-stamping a White House-approved list of replacements for several veterans of the pre-Obama era.
Among the incoming DNC leaders are vice chairwomen Maria Elena Durazo, a Los Angeles labor official, and Tulsi Gabbard, a newly elected congresswoman from Hawaii. Henry Munoz of San Antonio, Texas, was named finance chairman, the first Latino in that post.
But many on the DNC strongly resisted the forced removal of Alice Travis Germond as DNC secretary. Highly popular with the membership, Germond, who calls the roll of the states at presidential nominating conventions, is only the third person to hold that job since 1944.
In order to tighten its control of the DNC, the White House wanted to replace her with Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore, who has no experience in national politics.
Angered by the handling of the leadership change by Patrick Gaspard, a former Obama organizer who serves as the party's executive director, DNC members tried to postpone election of the secretary until the fall. A clearly flustered Schultz, after halting the proceedings and huddling with Germond, returned to announce that Germond had agreed to become secretary-emeritus of the party and an at-large DNC member. With that, the slate of officers, including Rawlings-Blake, was approved.
The unexpected drama came only days after President Obama announced creation of his new national advocacy operation, Organizing for Action, widely seen as undermining the DNC's already weakened status as a political organization.
Schultz, who was Obama's pick as party chairwoman during his first term, defended the president's decision, telling the DNC that the new Obama group didn't pose a threat to the national party.