Ron Brown was elected the first black chairman of the Democratic National Committee Friday and the former aide to Jesse Jackson promptly urged his party to unite behind its traditional values.
"Only a few months ago, our friends in the press said this contest would leave us divided and shattered," Brown told hundreds of DNC colleagues who elected him by acclamation at a downtown hotel. "Instead, we stand here today shoulder to shoulder, an arm."There is no need to dwell on, but we cannot ignore, the history of this moment," he acknowledged. "In choosing the first American of African descent to lead one of America's major political parties, you have made history."
Nevertheless, he insisted, the election does not signal a rejection of the party's more centrist elements and does not mean the chairman is tied down automatically to the most liberal Jackson faction.
"I accept this responsibility beholden to no individual, afraid of no faction, and pledged to no institution except the Democratic Party and our members," the 47-year-old lawyer assured his audience.
Brown, who served as deputy DNC chairman from 1982 to 1985, was assured the top spot last month when four other men dropped out of what had been forecast as a bitter battle to succeed retiring Chairman Paul Kirk.
Throughout the brief campaign for the job, much was made of Brown's links to Jackson because he ran the civil rights leader's operation at the Democratic National Convention where Jackson abandoned his presidential bid last summer.
Some party leaders theorized that the election of Brown would send the wrong signal at a time Democrats should be attempting to reach out to more moderate and conservative voters, especially in the growing electoral battlegrounds of the South and West.
However, most mainstream party leaders eventually rallied behind Brown and argued that he would be best qualified to try to unite the disparate factions.