Former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez has been elected the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, grabbing the reins of the political wing of the party and emerging as a key figure in the party's opposition to President Donald Trump's agenda.
More than 400 party insiders gathered in Atlanta this weekend to cast their ballots. The former Obama appointee will try to rally the party of Democrats still reeling from its presidential election defeat and crippled by down-ballot losses across the country over the last decade.
Many in the party's progressive wing had rallied around Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, expressing their frustration with the status quo of the party. They felt strongly that Ellison better identified with the grassroots movement growing across the country in opposition to Trump.
Perez had fallen one short shy of victory in the first round of voting.
"We need a chair who can not only take the fight to Donald Trump, make sure we talk about our positive message," Perez told the crowd before the vote. "We also need a chair who can lead turnaround and change the culture of the Democratic Party and DNC."
The next chair will be key in trying to unify and rally a party still reeling from its presidential election defeat and crippled by down-ballot losses across the country over the last decade.
"We're in this mess because we lost not one election but a thousand elections," Ellison said before the vote. "We gotta go to the grassroots, ya'll. Unity is essential. We gotta walk out of here with unity."
Many in the party's progressive wing had rallied around Ellison, expressing their frustration with the status quo of the party. They felt strongly that Ellison better identified with the grassroots movement growing across the country in opposition to Trump.
After emails leaked last summer revealed former chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had purportedly influenced the presidential primary, many activists who sided with Sen. Bernie Sanders were left feeling betrayed and disillusioned by the party establishment. Those leaks last summer forced Wasserman Schultz to step down.
Perez is backed by many from former President Obama's political orbit, including former Vice President Joe Biden, while Ellison garners support from liberals like Sanders. But the lines are not hard and fast. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is also backing Ellison, while Perez has the support of some labor groups.
President Barack Obama released the following statement:
Congratulations to my friend Tom Perez on his election to lead the Democratic Party, and on his choice of Keith Ellison to help him lead it. I'm proud of all the candidates who ran, and who make this great party what it is. What unites our party is a belief in opportunity - the idea that however you started out, whatever you look like, or whomever you love, America is the place where you can make it if you try. Over the past eight years, our party continued its track record of delivering on that promise: growing the economy, creating new jobs, keeping our people safe with a tough, smart foreign policy, and expanding the rights of our founding to every American - including the right to quality, affordable health insurance. That's a legacy the Democratic Party will always carry forward. I know that Tom Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity, and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much.
Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez elected DNC chair