CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Saturday, former US labor secretary Thomas Perez was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee. Perez won narrowly over Rep. Keith Ellison, who Perez immediately named deputy chair.
If the Academy Award producers and accountants ran the DNC election, the announced winner might have been Emma Stone or "Gary from Chicago", one of the tourists host Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel brought into the theater. Steve Harvey would have announced Miss Colombia as the new DNC chair.
Cynics might say it would be appropriate for a comedian like Harvey to lead the DNC since it has become a joke after losing the White House, Senate, House, and numerous state governorship and legislative races.
Perez becomes the first Latino to chair the DNC. Ellison is the first Muslim to serve in Congress and the first American Muslim deputy chair of the DNC.
The election concluded the first contested race for the DNC chair since 1985. In the past there has been a sitting Democrat president who, as head of the party, essentially anointed their choice to be chair.
President Trump's victory exposed a party divided into progressive, Obama/Biden and Clinton factions, which supported different candidates for the DNC chair.
Perez served in Obama's cabinet, was encouraged to run by former Obama administration staffers, and endorsed by Vice President Joe Biden.
Ellison, representing the progressive wing, was endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer and even some Clinton supporters.
Former DNC chair, Howard Dean, backed South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg. The mayor withdrew from the race on the day of the vote, recognizing he would not have enough of them to contend.
Ellison called on his supporters to unite behind Perez in the fight against "Trumpism"
"If you came here supporting me, wearing a Keith T-shirt, or any T-shirt, I'm asking you to give everything you've got to support Chairman Perez. You love this country, you love all the people in it, you care about each other and every one of them, urban, rural, suburban, all cultures, all faith, everybody, and they are in need of your help. And if we waste even a moment going at it over who supported who, we are not going to be standing up for those people. We don't have the luxury, to walk out of this room divided.
Unity is essential; we've got to walk out of here with unity. Not just between the candidates, but between the groups that support all the candidates. We've got to walk out of here hand in hand, brother and sister, because Trump is right outside the door. Not just Trump, but Trumpism."
Sanders congratulated Perez but counseled, "At a time when Republicans control the White House, the U.S. Senate and two-thirds of all statehouses, it is imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before."
Perez said he's learned "that great leaders are good listeners." He vowed to party members " You will always have my ear, and I will always have your back." An important vow to make for any party chair following Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Perez seems like a wise and safe choice to lead the DNC's rebuilding. He's not as far left as the Sander's wing, but he's also not in the middle-right Clinton camp either. As the former US labor secretary, he's already demonstrated the ability to lead a large organization. Most importantly, he appears to get what needs to be fixed and where the party went wrong in the race against Trump.
In a recent interview, Perez talked about the need to get back to fundamentals of rebuilding the party's base and state structures from local offices on up.
Perez also acknowledged that Trump did a better job connecting with those "forgotten people." Perez talked about how Trump made those voters feel like he felt their economic pain. In contrast, Perez said the only message Democrats seemed to offer was that they weren't trash-talking Trump, and they needed to do far more than that to win back voters.
The DNC has no time to waste in getting their act together with midterm elections not far off.
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