Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez bested Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) to become Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Feb. 25 at the party’s winter meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Ellison came up short in the second-ballot tally with 200 votes to Perez’ 235. During his acceptance speech, Perez asked to suspend the rules to appoint Ellison deputy chair.
Rep. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, previously said he would resign from his seat in the House if he were elected full-time chair. But he said Saturday in a statement that he looked forward to returning to his seat in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, in addition to helping Perez succeed.
Ellison was supported by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and many in the progressive wing of the party who had pushed for change in Democratic leadership. Perez, with backers like former Vice President Joe Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder, is viewed by some progressives as representing the status quo.
But in his speech after his defeat, Ellison warned against divisions in the party. “We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided,” he told attendees. He stressed that unity among the party’s progressive and moderate factions was needed to defeat President Donald Trump.
Perez, who served in the second of the Obama administration’s two terms, becomes the first Latino DNC chair, replacing Debbie Wasserman Schultz who resigned in July 2016. Longtime Democratic analyst Donna Brazile served as interim chair.
Former President Barack Obama congratulated Perez in a 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 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.”
As the DNC chair, Perez will oversee the messaging, fundraising and rebuilding the organization and technological foundations of the party for upcoming elections.
Like Ellison, Perez stressed the need for unity within the party. “We are one family and I know we will leave here united today,” he said. “A united Democratic Party is not only our best hope — it is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.”
Find video coverage of the event courtesy of C-Span here: