Perez ’83 elected DNC chairman

In close race, former labor secretary wins over MN representative Keith Ellison

By
Senior Staff Writer
Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Democratic National Committee elected former U.S. labor secretary Thomas Perez ’83 P’18 as its first Latino chair Saturday.

Perez received 235 votes to Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison’s 200 votes in the second round of voting, after falling one vote short in the first round of voting, according to CNN.

After winning the election, Perez immediately selected Ellison as the Deputy Chair of the DNC, though Ellison opted to remain in Congress, the Star Tribune reported.

“We will all be able to say the united Democratic Party led the resistance and ensured that this President is a one-term President,” Perez said in his victory speech.

The Democratic Party should direct its focus towards local and state seats in order to regain control of national positions, he previously told The Herald. He intends to focus on grassroots organization to shore up Democratic weaknesses in those areas.

“We need to make house calls, we need to listen to people, we need to get back to basics and we need to move forward,” Perez said in his victory speech.

Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, previously told The Herald that Perez understands what families need to do to make it in America because of his working-class background. “He knows what families ­— when they sit at the kitchen table late at night — talk about: How they’re going to be able to make ends meet … how they’re going to be able to ensure that they have access to health care,” Hinojosa previously said.

Media coverage often depicted the campaign as a fight between the establishment, represented by Perez, and the progressive side of the Democratic party, championed by Ellison, according to the Washington Post. But the majority of Perez’s platform resembled Ellison’s, the Post reported. Both Perez and Ellison called for small donors and innovation from Silicon Valley in their platforms. 

Perez is a Democrat from Maryland who worked in former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department before becoming labor secretary. While attending Brown through a Pell Grant, Perez worked with social-justice organizations through the work-study program, which later influenced his career choice, he previously told The Herald.