© Greg Nash
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison told Democratic National Committee members he is in "excellent position to win" the race to lead the party, criticizing an "unverifiable" whip count released by his top rival, Tom Perez.
Perez, a former Labor secretary, emailed members this week to tell them he has support from 180 of the 447 voting members of the DNC, which would mean he is closing in on the needed majority. But Perez's team is not publicly releasing a list of supporters, leading Ellison to claim that the numbers can't be proven.
"One of the other great candidates for this race released an unverifiable public whip count earlier this week. You received a voicemail, email and a text message trying to make the race sound like it is over. And the goal is clear: to exert pressure on you," Ellison wrote in his own letter to DNC members on Thursday.
"We chose not to engage in the same tactics because we believe you deserve the respect to make your own decision without a finger on the scale. However, I feel compelled to respond: we are very confident in our whip count and are in an excellent position to win next week."
Most of the seven major candidates for the DNC chair spot have been tight-lipped with their whip count, but Ellison has announced more public support than Perez.
The Minnesota Democrat came out of the gate strong, gathering endorsements from influential Democrats such as former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDrug importation from other countries will save dollars and lives Sanders: Trump a 'pathological liar' Buttigieg endorsed by ex-treasurer in DNC race MORE (I-Vt.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerOvernight Cybersecurity: Trump defends Flynn, blasts leaks | Yahoo fears further breach Overnight Finance: Trump's Labor pick withdraws | Ryan tries to save tax plan | Trump pushes tax reform with retailers Democrats declare victory after Puzder bows out MORE (N.Y.).
But Perez, who announced his bid weeks later, has won major endorsements from Democrats including former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTop union offers backing for Ellison in DNC race John Kerry to teach at Yale on global issues Ellison needles Perez for 'unverifiable' claim of DNC support MORE and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderEllison needles Perez for 'unverifiable' claim of DNC support With party in trouble, Dems hit voting laws Bottom Line MORE.
Perez's campaign issued a brief statement in response to Ellison's letter.
"We are proud of the broad support we've received, but it's clear that this race is far from over. Tom will spend the next 10 days traveling across the country to talk to Democrats about rebuilding our party," the statement said.
Both are seen as the frontrunners, although a deadlocked race could go to multiple ballots and provide the potential for another candidate to ultimately emerge victorious.
The party will vote during the DNC meeting in Atlanta next Saturday.
This story was updated at 3:19 p.m.