Democrats have voted for former US Labor Secretary Tom Perez to navigate the party out of a “crisis of relevance” after the shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Perez won over progressive Keith Ellison on the second ballot.
Perez got votes of 235 out of 435 members of the Democratic National Committee conference in Atlanta. He emerged as frontrunner in the first round but fell one vote short of an overall majority, forcing the contest to go into a second round.
Perez, who has received backing from former Vice President Joe Biden, is widely viewed as an establishment candidate as opposed to Ellison, who was touted for the post by Clinton’s democratic socialist rival, Bernie Sanders.
After Perez emerged as the winner, Ellison hinted that his opponent’s victory would play in the hands of big corporate donors. “No big money. Party for the people,” Ellison chanted in protest as cited by US Today.
However, the newly-elected chair was quick to sooth rising tensions by offering Ellison to become his deputy and calling for a unity in the face of “Trumpism.”
“Trump is right outside that door — and not just Trump but Trumpism,” Perez said, adding that the Democrats must put on a united front against the new president, who he denounced as “the worst president in the history of the United States.”
Apart from a challenge to provide strong resistance to the Trump administration, Perez also noted the need to tackle the “crisis of confidence, crisis of relevance.”
“We need a chair who can not only take the fight to Donald Trump. We also need a chair who can lead a turnaround and change the culture of the Democratic Party and the DNC,” Perez said, addressing DNC members.
Perez, who is a descendent of Dominican immigrants, specifically took aim at Trump’s decision to ban arrivals from seven predominantly Muslim nations, which has been since overridden by the US judges.
“You are the ones who can bring comfort to people fearing a ban or a wall or losing their Social Security,” Ellison appealed to the gathering, adding that “the American people need us in the moment.”
Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was one of the first to congratulate both Perez and Ellison with their new roles in a tweet, stating that she is “excited for strong, unified party standing for best of our country into the future.”
Her words were echoed by former US President Barack Obama, who expressed hope that the two will “lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership.”
President Trump has also weighed in.
“I could not be happier for him, or for the Republican Party!” Trump said in a tongue-in-cheek remark.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
The DNC has suffered a series of blows to its credibility during the presidential campaign after the emails of Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta containing evidence of the DNC’s bias in favor of Clinton were published by WikiLeaks.
The scandal, which arguably cost Clinton victory on November 8, also mired interim Democratic Party Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile and saw her resigning as a CNN contributor after the new batch of emails revealed she had leaked CNN debate questions to the Clinton camp.
The appointment of Brazile as interim chair was preceded by the resignation of former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz just before the Democratic party convention in July, prompted by a WikiLeaks publication of her emails, in which she described Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver as “a damn liar” and accused Sanders of lacking any understanding of the party’s operation.