The Democratic National Committee (DNC) finally has a new chair, former President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.
This was an important decision for the floundering DNC, which just lost the White House, both chambers of Congress and plenty of state houses across the country.
While Perez had Obama’s support, the decision was far from unanimous. There were originally seven candidates fighting to lead the party, but five dropped out before the second round, leaving just Perez and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison standing.
In the second round of voting, Perez received just 235 out of 447 DNC member votes. Ellison, who earned 200 votes, was appointed to be the DNC’s deputy chair.
After campaigning for four months, divided Democrats agreed the winner must bring together the party’s two warring factions: Perez and his staunch establishment support and Ellison’s more progressive followers.
Ellison called for party unity.
“We don’t have the luxury, folks, to walk out of this room divided,” Ellison said. “We don’t have that luxury, and I just want to say to you that it’s my honor to serve this party under Chairman Perez.”
Interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile, who took over after Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resigned after leaked emails showed the DNC may have colluded to support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy last summer, added her support.
Obama said in a statement, “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.”
In addition to Obama, the former president’s adviser Valerie Jarrett, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and DNC Finance Chairman Henry Muñoz, all considered part of the “establishment side” of the Democratic Party, rallied for Perez during the campaign.
But the battle for the beleaguered political party is probably not over.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders congratulated the winner, but tweeted, “It’s imperative Tom understands that the same-old, same-old isn’t working and that we must bring in working and young people in a new way.”