The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday to select former Labor Secretary Tom Perez to head the group, bring an end to a contentious race that pitted the more centric ideology of the party under former President Barack Obama against the progressive agenda of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Mr. Perez edged out Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who received the backing of Senator Sanders (I) of Vermont, in an unprecedented second round of voting, taking 235 of the 435 votes. In a nod to the party’s more progressive wing, Perez has selected Mr. Ellison to serve as deputy chairman of the party.
"We don't have the luxury of walking out of this room divided," Ellison said as he took the stage alongside Perez.
Still, the victory of the traditional candidate was all too familiar for Ellison’s supporters, who want to see the party usher in a new wave of progressive thinking after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential race.
And some have questioned whether or not Perez is the choice to bring together the fragmented party at a time when Democrats see themselves out of power in every branch of federal government.
“One of the most crucial questions for Perez may be how to interpret national demographic trends and translate them into Democratic strategy – itself a test of Democrats’ long-held notion that their future is assured by a natural-born coalition of minority and Millennial voters,” The Christian Science Monitor’s David Iaconangelo writes.
Despite the party’s uncertain future, some are encouraged by Perez’s record and experience. He served as head of the labor department under Mr. Obama beginning in 2013. Prior to that, he was the assistant attorney general for civil rights.
He is also the first Latino to head the Democratic party.
“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,” Obama said in a statement.
President Trump responded to the news on Twitter early Saturday evening.
“Congratulations to Thomas Perez, who has just been named Chairman of the DNC. I could not be happier for him, or for the Republican party!”
With just over a year and a half before midterm elections in 2018, Perez will be tasked with leading the party back to seats in the House and Senate, where Democrats have lost significant numbers. While there’s no clear path forward for Democrats to take, they likely will find common ground throughout the party and country by resisting the Trump agenda.
“Someday, they’re going to study this era of American history,” Perez said after his win, according to The Washington Post. “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.”
This report contains material from the Associated Press.