Democrats pick ex-la­bor sec­re­tary for post

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - BILL BAR­ROW In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Jonathan Martin of The New York Times.

AT­LANTA — Democrats elected for­mer La­bor Sec­re­tary Tom Perez as their new na­tional chair­man Satur­day over a Min­nesota con­gress­man, cap­ping a di­vi­sive cam­paign that re­flected the depths of the party’s elec­toral fail­ures as well as the en­ergy from re­sis­tance to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Perez, the first His­panic to hold the post, edged Rep. Keith El­li­son, of Min­nesota, in the sec­ond round of vot­ing by Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­bers gath­ered in At­lanta. The new chair­man must re­build a party that in the last decade has lost about 1,000 elected posts from the White House to Congress to the 50 state­houses, a power deficit Democrats have not seen na­tion­ally in 90 years.

In a nod to his win­ning mar­gin of 35 votes out of 435 cast, to say noth­ing of the lin­ger­ing fric­tion be­tween old- guard Democrats and out­spo­ken lib­eral up­starts, Perez tapped El­li­son to serve as deputy chair.

“We are all in this to­gether,” Perez said, calling on Democrats to fight “the worst pres­i­dent in the his­tory of the United States.”

El­li­son, who had back­ing from many lib­er­als, in­clud­ing 2016 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Bernie Sanders, added his

own call for unity and noted that both men had promised to re­build state and lo­cal Demo­cratic par­ties across the coun­try.

“We don’t have the lux­ury of walking out of this room di­vided,” he said, as the two men stood to­gether on stage as some El­li­son sup­port­ers jeered from the gallery.

Republicans con­trol the White House, Congress and 33 gov­er­nor­ships, while the GOP is one Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion from a con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity on the Supreme Court. De­spite for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s per­sonal elec­toral suc­cesses, the party

suf­fered crush­ing de­feats, los­ing the House ma­jor­ity in 2010 and the Se­nate in 2014.

Perez had told party ac­tivists ear­lier in the day that Democrats face a “cri­sis of con­fi­dence” and “a cri­sis of rel­e­vance.”

Perez first en­tered the race upon urg­ing from Obama and his in­ner cir­cle, and the for­mer pres­i­dent re­leased a state­ment prais­ing both men af­ter the vote.

“I know that Tom Perez will unite us un­der that ban­ner of op­por­tu­nity,” Obama said, “and lay the ground­work for a new gen­er­a­tion of Demo­cratic lead­er­ship for this big, bold, in­clu­sive, dy­namic Amer­ica we love so much.”

The son of Do­mini­can im­mi­grants, Perez comes to the job with a demon­stra­bly lib­eral record as a civil-rights at­tor­ney and backer of or­ga­nized la­bor, but he car­ried the es­tab­lish­ment la­bel as a Mary­land res­i­dent who’s spent years in the Wash­ing­ton or­bit, work­ing in the Jus­tice De­part­ment and ul­ti­mately as an Obama cabi­net of­fi­cer.

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den en­dorsed him; one of Obama’s clos­est aides, Va­lerie Jar­rett, made calls to Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­bers on Perez’s be­half as late as Fri­day night.

The new chair­man will not be the undis­puted “leader of the party,” even with Democrats out of power.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer of New York and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia will re­main the high­est rank­ing Democrats in Wash­ing­ton. But Perez must now join with Schumer and Pelosi as part cheer­leader, part fundraiser, part or­ga­nizer and re­cruiter, part pub­lic mes­sen­ger, help­ing frame the party’s ar­gu­ments and iden­tity, while chart­ing a strat­egy to turn en­ergy into votes in elec­tions.

AP/BRAN­DEN CAMP

Newly elected Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tom Perez gives a vic­tory speech Satur­day dur­ing the gen­eral ses­sion of the DNC win­ter meet­ing in At­lanta.

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