The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has chosen Obama-era Labor Sec. Tom Perez as its next chairman – a position Fox News said could “determine the direction of the party.”
This weekend’s election, which was the DNC’s first contested leadership race since 1985, was extended by one month to allow more time for debate. Perez, who backed Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, won on Saturday after two rounds of balloting at the DNC’s annual winter meeting in Atlanta. The final vote was 235-200.
“We are at a turning point for our party and for all Americans,” said Perez after his win. “By getting back to basics, we can turn the Democratic Party around, take the fight to Donald Trump, and win elections from school board to the Senate.”
Perez beat out Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a Bernie Sanders supporter who used to call himself “Keith Ellison-Muhammed.”
Many of Ellison’s supporters complained of Sanders’ loss and launched a “resist Trump or be replaced” movement. The lobbying effort was almost overwhelming in its intensity and ended up pushing some voters away from Ellison.
Perez’s victory was another blow to the far left, and a few of Ellison’s supporters stormed out of the room after his defeat.
Perez appointed Ellison as his Deputy Chair directly following his victory. “We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided,” said Ellison. “It is my honor to serve this party with Tom Perez.” Ellison swore in using Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Quran.
In a way, the race between Ellison and Perez mirrored the presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Perez is viewed as an “establishment” candidate, while many worried that Ellison would take the DNC too far to the left. Both candidates appealed to voters’ opposition to President Trump, pushed a progressive agenda, and promised to rebuild the party.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were quick to congratulate Perez. “Congratulations to my friend Tom Perez on his election… 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,” said Obama in a statement.
“It is imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working,” said Bernie Sanders in a congratulatory statement. “We must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before.”
Sanders, who had endorsed Ellison, called on the two leaders to “stand up to the 1% and lead this country forward in the fight for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice.”
“Someday, they’re going to study this era of American history,” announced Perez. “They’re going to ask the question of all of us: Where were you in 2017 when we had the worst president in the history of the United States? We will be able to say that the Democratic Party led the resistance and made sure this was a one-term president.”