PHILADELPHIA— Democratic National Committee Vice Chair R.T. Rybak talked about how the Party might heal from a divisive former chair and trying primary season during a reading from his new book, “Pothole Confidential: My Life as Mayor of Minneapolis."
In writing this book, Rybak said he “wanted to get real with people about public service and being a mayor.”Rybak is a journalist turned politician. He said that his experience in journalism informed how he worked during his mayoral administration.
“Your job isn’t to pick a side, it’s to listen,” he said.
After being elected for three terms as mayor, Rybak decided not to run again. He said that his mayoral mission was to try to be everywhere in the community. He added that he didn’t want to attend only positive events, such as construction projects and graduations -- he went to funerals and vigils too.
As a mayor,Rybak had “consistently high approval ratings,” and he won both his reelection campaigns by a comfortable margin, according toNorth Star Politics.
Rybak was the first mayor to endorse then-Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. Because of his position as one of the five vice chairs of the DNC, he did not endorse this year’s nominee, Hillary Clinton, until later in the election cycle in order to preserve neutrality.
“I actually think Hillary’s going to be a fantastic president,” Rybak said. “I would’ve loved to have supported her earlier.”
Rybak added that his late endorsement of Clinton in favor of neutrality put him “at odds with the chair of the party.”
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former DNC chair, resigned in the wake of allegations stemming fromWikileaks’ email exposures thatshe, and the Party, failed to be neutral during the primary season.
Rybak said that he thoughtWasserman Schultz“did a very poor job of creating the open process that we needed,” noting that the two had a “serious disagreement about that.”
“I felt the more she tipped toward so obviously supporting Clinton, the more important it was for me, as a vice chair, to maintain neutrality,” Rybak said. “I’ve spent a lot of this week cleaning up the messes created by the poor choices made by the previous chair.”
This week, Rybak said that he apologized to delegates and other Democrats for the Party’s mistakes and favoritism exposed in email exchanges by Wikileaks.
Donna Brazile, a noted political strategist and longtime Democrat, is set to take her place as interim chair. Brazile became the first African American campaign manager for a major presidential campaign when she led Al Gore’s campaign in 2000.
“I’ve worked with Donna [Brazile] as vice chair,” Rybak said. “She’s very fair and I think she’s a person who can also carry our message uniquely and phenomenally, so I’m very supportive of that.”
Rybak said that although this leadership transitionis tough, the primary season was effective.
“I’m thrilled that our party spent all this time in what was a deeply contested by ultimately very issues based campaign,” he said. “There were disagreements, but it wasn’t about the size of someone’s hands, or the size of something else.”
Concerns about the party platform, first voiced by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, continued to inspire protests from Sanders delegates and other conventioneers.Party leaders have attempted to make the platform reflect this progressive swing of the party, withsome noting that this is the most progressive platform ever.
“This is about Bernie Sanders, but also about much more,” Rybak said. “I feel that we’ve come through realigning in politics ... and that has been reflected in the evolution of the platform to be much more progressive.”
Clinton clinched the nomination during roll call on July 26 at the DNC, becoming the first woman to win the nomination of a major party for president.
Rybak is also currently the executive director of Generation Next, an organization dedicated closing the achievement gap.
Thereading of Rybak’s book took place at 2 p.m on July 27thand was hosted by theNational Conference of Democratic Mayors.