Labor chief Perez joins mix of candidates vying to head DNC
Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez announced Thursday that he is running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, adding another high-profile liberal to the mix of those seeking to rebuild the party after a series of disappointing elections.
Mr. Perez has close ties to President Obama, having led the Labor Department and served in the Department of Justice before that, and was thought to be a likely pick for attorney general if Hillary Clinton became president.
Donald Trump’s victory dashed those hopes, and Mr. Perez now says he can use his experience in the Obama administration to reshape the Democratic Party.
“Now more than ever, I believe we need a full-time chair who can inspire people, grow our party and speak to its broad tent,” Mr. Perez said in an op-ed post on Mic.com. “And we need a chair with the leadership and management experience to protect the progress we’ve made and keep us moving forward.”
Particularly after a race in which Democrats said some of their voters were disenfranchised by restrictive laws, Mr. Perez’s experience fighting those laws at the Justice Department could give him an edge.
Before his announcement, the DNC race had centered on Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who has won backing of powerful labor unions and liberal lawmakers on Capitol Hill — namely Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who said at a rally Wednesday that the “status quo is not working” and that Mr. Ellison would bring “real change” to the DNC.
Mr. Perez, meanwhile, defended the Obama administration, saying the president “inherited a mess eight years ago, and under his leadership we’ve made tremendous progress putting people back to work.”
“Yet all across the country, there are millions of people still waiting for the basic promise of opportunity to be fulfilled,” said Mr. Perez, a native of Buffalo, New York. “These Americans deserve a Democratic Party that will fight for them. That’s why I’ve decided to run for chair of the Democratic National Committee.”
The White House has offered praise for Mr. Perez but indicated this week that Mr. Obama would not be making an endorsement in the race.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley and South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison also are running in the election, which DNC members will decide at their February winter meeting in Atlanta.
Mr. Ellison, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, welcomed Mr. Perez into the race. He said he is looking “forward to discussing how Democrats can speak to all Americans, harness the grass roots to turn out the vote, and strengthen our state and local parties.”
He also blasted out an email touting the endorsements he has received from state party leaders, labor groups and members of Congress — indicating battle lines in the contest already have been drawn.
The focus on Mr. Perez and Mr. Ellison could test ties between two key constituencies — black and Hispanic voters — that have played pivotal roles in delivering wins for Democrats.
“Tom Perez is the son of Dominican immigrants who came to this country in search of a better life, and he has devoted his career to fight for what’s right, expanding opportunity for all Americans and ensuring that all voices are heard within our democratic process,” said Cristobal J. Alex, president of the Latino Victory Fund. “Tom Perez is the right person for the job and we are proud to support him for DNC Chair.”
Thomas E. Perez says he can use his experience from key positions in the Obama administration to reshape the Democratic Party after election losses.