Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez will be the first Latino to chair the Democratic National Committee, having won Saturday’s election on the second ballot by 235 votes to 200 for Representative Keith Ellison. Perez immediately moved to name Ellison deputy leader of the party, and delegates approved that motion by acclamation. Soon after, Ellison urged those who “came here supporting me”
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 and every one of them, urban, rural, suburban, all cultures, all faiths, 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, folks, to walk out of this room divided.
Perez and Ellison then did a joint media appearance, wearing each other’s supporter buttons. Unfortunately, the Facebook comment thread below that video is dominated by angry progressives threatening to leave the party.
I’ve seen similar arguments playing out in several popular Facebook groups for Iowa Democrats, ever since news broke late Friday that Iowa’s voting members of the DNC would support Perez. Many activists who favored Bernie Sanders in the caucuses, including some members of the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee, are upset by the unified vote for Perez, considering how many Iowa Democrats backed Ellison. Others felt it was poor form that the SCC didn’t get advance warning before Perez announced the Iowa delegation’s support on Twitter. A few claimed that state party chair Derek Eadon and first vice chair Andrea Phillips had led them to believe they would support Ellison for the DNC job.
More broadly, Democrats in Ellison’s camp were upset by what they perceive as party insiders choosing corporate lobbyists over progressives, failing to grasp the need for reform, attaching too much importance to fundraising, or being afraid of a black Muslim representing the party. The comments in this Bleeding Heartland thread reflect views I’ve seen in many other forums. Apparently the rhetoric is even harsher in some of the “secret” Facebook groups frequented by Iowa Democrats on the Sanders wing.
I understand why so many activists preferred Ellison, but I don’t understand the widespread condemnation of Perez, given his record on labor and civil rights issues. People who have followed his work closely think highly of him. After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Perez’s official bio, along with the statement Sanders released following the DNC vote.
This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Yet again this weekend, legislative forums around the state drew hundreds of attendees. I’m always seeking tips on noteworthy remarks by Iowa House or Senate members at public events. If you have an anecdote to share, or better yet a recording, please post a comment in this thread or contact me privately by e-mail at the address near the lower right of this page.
UPDATE: Ellison sent the following e-mail blast to supporters:
Dear [first name],
The Democratic Party finally has a leader – a leader who has demonstrated time and again that he has what it takes to fight for all Americans. That leader is my good friend, Tom Perez.
I’m immensely proud of everything that our campaign accomplished, of how hard my staff, volunteers, and delegates fought. And now, I ask all those who love our country and believed in our vision to support Tom.
With Trump in the White House, at stake is the very essence of our democracy, and I want us to be able to look back at this moment and tell ourselves that we did the right thing and helped Tom succeed.
We must be united – because we live in times when the judiciary is under attack, when the press is under attack, and hate groups are desecrating Jewish cemeteries and defacing mosques. Two Indian men were even shot down for looking ‘foreign’ in the eyes of the terrorist who shot them.
I look forward to returning to Congress and continuing to represent the 5th Congressional district of Minnesota. And I look forward to helping the Democratic Party in any way that I can. I urge all to do the same. Working people across this country are depending on us.
Excerpts from the “Meet Tom” page on the Perez campaign website:
For the last three years, Tom has served as the 26th U.S. Secretary of Labor, working to reignite the department’s fight to protect and expand opportunities for American workers. Under his leadership, the Labor Department has fought to secure collective bargaining rights, better wages and overtime pay, and the opportunity for middle-class families to retire comfortably and securely.
But Tom’s story doesn’t start at Labor.
The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tom grew up in Buffalo where he learned the values of a union town: hard work, integrity, service, and perseverance. Having lost his father when he was 12, Tom understood early in life never to take a day for granted, and that urgency has driven him to spend his life in public service.
After high school, Tom put himself through college earning tuition money on the back of a garbage truck, went to law school, and started his career as a civil rights attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. There, he fought to protect and expand opportunity for all Americans. While prosecuting some of the Department’s most high-profile civil rights cases, Tom saw firsthand the effects of hate and bigotry, and he fought to ensure that our justice system held accountable those who would violate the civil and constitutional rights of their fellow Americans.
Later on, Tom was special counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy, advising him on civil rights, criminal justice, and constitutional issues. He worked with Senator Kennedy to fight discriminatory laws like the Defense of Marriage Act. And as African-American churches were being burned to the ground in the late ‘90s, Tom and Senator Kennedy worked to pass the Church Arson Prevention Act, making it a federal crime to commit arson or vandalism against a place of worship.
Tom also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under Attorney General Janet Reno and led the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the end of the Clinton administration.
Tom returned to the Department of Justice in 2009 after President Obama was elected, serving as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Leading the Civil Rights division after the Bush administration had decimated it, Tom oversaw the effort to restore and expand the division’s achievements.
With his leadership, they successfully implemented the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act; protected equal housing opportunity by pursuing and resolving the largest fair-lending cases in history; helped ensure schoolchildren are free from discrimination, bullying and harassment; dramatically expanded access to employment, housing and educational opportunities by fighting for people with disabilities; defended Americans’ right to vote free from discrimination; took record-setting efforts to ensure that communities have effective and accountable policing; and safeguarded the employment, housing, fair lending and voting rights of service members. Tom expanded the division’s partnerships, working across federal agencies to address shared challenges in human trafficking, employment discrimination and fair lending, among others.
Tom’s also been a local leader and organizer, running and winning a seat on the Montgomery County Council. He was the first Latino elected to the council, serving from 2002 until 2006, and was Council president. He then served as Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. In 2002, Tom started as board president at CASA de Maryland, an organization that provides services to immigrants. Under his leadership, CASA experienced monumental growth – from the basement of a church to a $7M headquarters that opened without a lease – and grew from a service provider to one of the largest immigrant advocacy organizations in the country.
February 25 statement from Bernie Sanders:
I congratulate Tom Perez on his election as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and look forward to working with him. At a time when Republicans control the White House, the U.S. House, 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. Now, more than ever, the Democratic Party must make it clear that it is prepared to stand up to the 1 percent and lead this country forward in the fight for social, racial, economic and environmental justice.