Kenney endorses 'Mayor Pete' for DNC chair

In this Feb. 12, 2014 photo, South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttigieg delivers his State of the City address.

As the race for Democratic national chair comes down to the wire, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney Thursday endorsed fellow Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., calling him the “bridge” who can unite the party.

“Pete Buttigieg will be a strong and bold leader who will champion our progressive ideals and stand up for our families, our immigrant communities, equal rights for women and our LGBTQ citizens,” Kenney said in a statement. “He will convey our party's message of fairness and inclusion as we battle Trump's extremist forces of exclusion, racism and xenophobia.”

Buttigieg, 35, has emerged as the choice for some progressives between the front-runners, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was on Hillary Clinton’s short-list for vice president, and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, endorsed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“Mayor Pete” can help move the party beyond the bitter divisions of the 2016 primary, supporters believe. Buttigieg, a Navy veteran of Afghanistan, is credited with an ongoing South Bend revitalization. He also is openly gay.

The 447 members of the Democratic National Committee is scheduled to elect the next chair Saturday at a meeting in Atlanta. On Wednesday, the Associated Press estimated Perez with a solid lead over Ellison, but without a majority. Observers say the battle could go to extra ballots.

Also on Wednesday, the candidates for chair debated on CNN.

Kenney joins former Gov. Ed Rendell in backing the young mayor. State party chairman Marcel Groen, who has a vote on the DNC, supports Perez.