Democrats elected former Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Saturday in a fierce contest where Perez narrowly defeated Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota by a 235-200 vote margin.
After winning the chairmanship, Perez became the first Latino leader to lead the party. He has been chosen to bear the responsibility of rebuilding and uniting the still-divided party. Perez, a veteran during the Obama administration, was considered a favorite among the DNC members. He earned 235 votes from the 447 DNC members and won against Ellison in a second round of voting.
"Team Tom means team, and as a team, we will work together," Perez said at the 2017 Winter DNC Meeting in Atlanta.
Perez selected Ellison as the deputy chairman. "We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided," Ellison pleaded to his supporters.
Perez has taken over the seat from Interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile who became the chairman after the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz last summer.
"While it will be bittersweet for me to leave this job and this tremendous organization, I'm confident that the future of the Democratic Party will be in good hands with Tom Perez. And I want to congratulate all of the candidates for a race well run," Brazile said in a statement, according to NBC News.
Perez, born to immigrants from the Dominican Republic, became a lawyer and was the former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and worked in various positions between 1988 and 1999. In 2009, he was appointed as leader of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights team.
Perez worked in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, presided over the Montgomery County Council in Maryland and served as the state’s secretary of labor, licensing and regulation. Former President Barack Obama nominated him as labor secretary in July 2013.
After Perez's victory, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders offered his congratulations to the newly elected chair.
President Donald Trump responded to the DNC's election in a lighter tone.
Former President Barack Obama also congratulated Perez. "I'm proud of all the candidates who ran, and who make this great party what it is," Obama said.
"Over the past eight years, our party continued its track record of delivering on that promise: growing the economy, creating new jobs, keeping our people safe with a tough, smart foreign policy, and expanding the rights of our founding to every American including the right to quality, affordable health insurance. That's a legacy the Democratic Party will always carry forward. 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, according to NBC News.
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