Iowa Democratic Party chair defends vote for Tom Perez

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Derek Eadon wrote to members of the party’s State Central Committee on Monday to explain why he supported Tom Perez to lead the Democratic National Committee. Among the roughly half of SCC members who supported Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, many are unhappy that 1) the Iowa delegation unanimously backed Perez instead of casting some of their votes for Keith Ellison, the preferred candidate of most on the Sanders wing, 2) SCC members were not consulted about the decision, and 3) SCC members received no advance warning before Perez’s campaign tweeted out the news on the day before the DNC election.

Over the weekend, a number of SCC members were among the Iowa activists vehemently expressing their disappointment in public and private forums on Facebook. Several asserted that Eadon and First Vice Chair Andrea Phillips had previously committed to supporting Ellison. Some drafted a joint letter to Iowa’s five voting members of the DNC (Eadon, Phillips, Scott Brennan, Sandy Opstvedt, and Jan Bauer) criticizing the bloc support for Perez and the lack of transparency surrounding the choice.

Multiple sources involved in those discussions told Bleeding Heartland today that SCC members decided to raise those concerns at an upcoming retreat on March 4, rather than sending a joint letter to the DNC delegation in advance. But former Sanders campaign staffer Evan Burger, one of the fourth Congressional district’s representatives on the SCC, did go public with his views. In a commentary for Iowa Informer, Burger argued the “block vote for the establishment candidate was a tone deaf move” symbolizing “a continuation of business as usual” in the Democratic Party.

After the jump I’ve posted the full text of Eadon’s message to the SCC, excerpts from Burger’s post, and part of an e-mail blast by Ed Fallon, an influential voice among Iowa progressives.

UPDATE: Added an excerpt from the speech Phillips gave at the January 21 State Central Committee meeting, where she was elected first vice chair.

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Weekend open thread: Is Democratic unity possible?

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.

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