BREAKING: Tom Perez Wins DNC Chair
Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor
After nearly seven months, the saga of the chaotic turn of events at the Democratic National Committee has finally come to an end. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez has been elected the new chairman of the DNC.
The DNC drama traces back to late July of 2016, when former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Representative, was forced to resign when Wikileaks released emails proving that she was actively rigging the Democratic presidential primaries for Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders. Democratic campaign strategist, Donna Brazile, was appointed as the interim chairwoman. However, the mess was just beginning; it was revealed shortly after by yet another email leak that Brazile, who also worked with CNN, was feeding debate and town hall questions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign ahead of the events. Despite being fired by CNN as a result, Brazile remained with the embattled DNC, which limped through the remainder of the presidential campaign up to Clinton’s devastating loss against Donald Trump.
From the rubble of the DNC, the grassroots base began actively protesting the establishment corruption within the organization. Accusing the incumbent DNC leadership of cronyism and bias in favor of establishment candidates, there were calls for a more radical, more left-wing outsider to step into the race for the new DNC chair. Meanwhile, a handful of more moderate, establishment candidates rose and fell in media speculation - such as former Vice President Joe Biden, and former 2016 candidate Martin O’Malley - and some even briefly entered the race before dropping out - like former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean.
Eventually, Perez emerged as the “establishment” candidate in the race. Perez was the Secretary of Labor during Barack Obama’s second term, and was the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights during Obama’s first term. Prior to that, he was the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation from 2007 to 2009, under Governor Martin O’Malley. He was allegedly on the short list to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, and his name has also been floated as a potential 2020 candidate.
However, the more radical base was manifested in one candidate: Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison. Ellison has been a member of Congress from Minnesota’s 5th congressional district since the Democratic landslide in the 2006 midterms. He was significant as the first Muslim-American ever elected to Congress, and was sworn in on a copy of the Koran rather than the Bible. However, he carried with him a long history of controversial comments (such as comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, comparing 9/11 to the Reichstag Fire, and openly calling for the Democratic Party to come out against the Second Amendment), and even more controversial affiliations (including the Nation of Islam and the Council on American-Islamic Relations).
Despite his clearly radical views, Ellison had received the most support in the DNC race by a considerable margin. As soon as his name began to receive mere speculation, he was endorsed by both the outgoing and incoming Senate Minority Leaders, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer. This began the considerable landslide of endorsements from all over the country, and even from the Democrats on Capitol Hill itself. Ellison had received endorsements from 10 Senators, nearly 50 Representatives, over 70 state and local politicians, many prominent labor unions and left-wing organizations - including the AFL-CIO, United Automobile Workers, 350.org, and MoveOn Political Action - and some of the most prominent left-wing activists in the country - including Alexander Soros (son of George Soros), UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, Gloria Steinem, Jesse Jackson, and filmmaker Michael Moore.
By contrast, Perez did not receive as much popular support from prominent individuals, organizations, or the grassroots, but definitely earned support from leadership figures in the Democratic Party. He had garnered endorsements from only two Representatives, one of whom was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He additionally earned the endorsements of several governors, including Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, who is also the chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association. Additional Obama Cabinet members who voiced support for Perez include former Attorney General Eric Holder, and former Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Perez also saw support from agricultural organizations and their representatives, including the United Farm Workers and former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. However, his single biggest endorsement came from former Vice President Biden.
In the last few days before the election, a major development seemed to indicate the scales tipping in Ellison’s favor. Raymond Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, was widely seen as the third major candidate in the race, having received endorsements from both of New Hampshire’s Senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, as well as New Hampshire Representatives Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter. However, Buckley dropped out of the race on February 18, and surprised most commentators by endorsing Ellison.
Despite the heated contest, it only took two rounds of voting on the day of the election. In the first round, out of the 427 total DNC members voting, Perez won 213.5 in the first round, while Ellison won 200 - this put Perez literally just one vote shy of the minimum needed to win. The five other minor candidates were all eliminated, and the race was brought down to just Perez and Ellison in the second round. Between the two rounds of voting, Ellison’s campaign team sent a text message to all of their supporters claiming that one of the candidates, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, had endorsed Ellison after dropping out. However, Ellison’s team was forced to issue a correction after Buttigieg Tweeted that he had not made any endorsement.
Between just Ellison and Perez, all of the voters for other candidates, plus some voters who didn’t vote in the first round, cast their votes for Perez. Thus, the final total was 235 for Perez and 200 for Ellison.
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