DNC Member Proposes Plan For New Nominee If Biden Steps Aside

James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, would require candidates to secure the endorsements of at least 40 DNC members. He thinks it would winnow down the field.
James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, would require candidates to secure the endorsements of at least 40 DNC members. He thinks it would winnow down the field. Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Democratic National Committee member James Zogby has proposed an alternative presidential nominating process in the event President Joe Biden withdraws as nominee.

The memorandum, submitted by Zogby to DNC Chair Jaime Harrison on Monday evening, would have the DNC meet after July 4 to lay out a one-month campaign schedule ahead of the Democratic National Convention. Harrison has not yet responded to Zogby, Zogby informed HuffPost; the DNC declined a request for comment.

Under Zogby’s plan, Democrats hoping to replace Biden would campaign for the support of the DNC’s 448 voting members, and would need the endorsements of at least 40 to qualify as a DNC-certified candidate. To ensure a geographically diverse base of support, those 40 DNC members would have to include at least four people from each of the DNC’s designated regions — East, South, Midwest and West. Candidates would need to submit their applications for certification to the DNC’s secretary within a week of the process officially beginning.

The DNC would then sponsor at least two “major televised events for the candidates to appear together to make their cases before Democratic voters across the country,” according to Zogby’s memo.

Finally, there would be an open convention, where the more than 4,700 delegates at the national convention in Chicago from Aug. 19-22 would decide on a presidential nominee, taking as many ballots as necessary for a single candidate to achieve a majority.

Zogby, the elected chair of the DNC’s ethnic council who serves as an at-large member of the DNC, told HuffPost he came up with the idea after hearing from fellow Democrats who agreed on the need to replace Biden — including in conversations long before Thursday’s debate — but balked at a top-down coronation of Vice President Kamala Harris, in whom many Democrats lack confidence.

“I was agnostic on that, but if that’s the concern, then the question is, how do you come up with a process that is both open and transparent and results in a candidate that is viewed as legitimate through a democratic process?” he said. “That’s what I tried to do.”

It is unclear how much influence Zogby, a frequent DNC critic with close ties to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), will end up having over the DNC’s decision making.

In addition to the decision to withdraw being solely up to Biden, Zogby acknowledged Harrison and other DNC brass would have authority to adopt his plan or any other. Biden and his campaign have repeatedly insisted on his commitment to continue as a candidate since his disastrous debate performance on Thursday night.

But Zogby’s proposal speaks to how seriously at least some Democrats are taking the possibility of a world without Biden as the nominee and the need to plan for, or even encourage, such an eventuality.

Zogby, a pollster and founder of the Arab American Institute, envisions the requirement that candidates secure 40 DNC endorsements to qualify for the nomination as a way of sifting out frivolous candidates and ensuring a compact field.

Whoever emerges, whether Harris or one of the Democratic governors often floated for the nomination, would have had to prove themselves to rank-and-file Democrats on television and in turn win the confidence of the party’s convention delegates, including all Democratic members of Congress.

Harris still has a leg up, Zogby said, but “she would emerge from a month-long really, really hyper-energized campaign that would both energize the party faithful and would have whoever is the victor emerge as the consensus choice of the party.”

Zogby, a major pro-Palestinian voice who has been outspoken against the Israeli invasion of Gaza, emphasized he is not backing any particular candidate for the nomination. He said he did feel Harris was “very thoughtful” in a conversation she had with him about the situation in Gaza.

Whether the U.S. should continue to support Israel amid its ferocious response to Hamas’s deadly terror attack on Oct. 7 has become a major fault line within the Democratic Party.

But Zogby maintained an open convention would not become the site of a major internecine party debate on that topic or any other, since 99% of the pledged delegates are committed to Biden already.

“Would I love to have Gaza debated on the floor? Absolutely,” he said. “But that’s not going to happen, because the delegates are already constrained by the candidates.”

The Uncommitted National Movement, which urged Democratic primary voters to vote “uncommitted” in protest of Biden’s support for the Israeli invasion, is due to send 29 delegates to the Democratic national convention in Chicago. The group’s central body announced Saturday it welcomes the opportunity to nominate a Democratic presidential candidate supportive of its policy priorities. While such a vote would likely be symbolic, it could take on greater significance in the event of an open convention.

“We have 29 Uncommitted delegates who are ready to back a Democratic candidate for President who supports a permanent ceasefire and ensures that no more American bombs get supplied to the Israeli government’s war and occupation against Palestinians,” Abbas Alawieh, a spokesperson for the Uncommitted National Movement and “uncommitted” delegate from Michigan, said in a statement.