After a difficult 2016 campaign that saw Democrats lose in the White House, both chambers of Congress and in state houses across the country, party officials elected Tom Perez, the former Labor secretary during the Obama administration, to lead the Democratic National Committee Saturday.
Perez won in the second round of voting during the 2017 winter DNC meeting in Atlanta, garnering 235 votes from the 447 DNC members — the voting bloc that decides the chairmanship.
Perez was considered the heavy favorite of the Democratic establishment, according to NBC News, which first reported Perez’s victory.
Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, the preferred candidate of the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, came in second, earning 200 votes in the second round of votes.
Half-ballots are given to Democrats voting abroad, NBC News reported.
Ellison stated that it was necessary to unite behind Perez for the party to move forward. He was appointed the party’s deputy chairman.
The other five candidates dropped out of the race before the second round of votes, leaving it to establishment favorite Perez and Ellison, the preferred candidate of the more liberal wing of the party.
Additionally, New York Assemblyman Michael Blake won his bid for the DNC vice chair.
Blake, a 34-year-old rising star and a veteran of former President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and White House, received the most votes — 171 — for the remaining position, open to a male or female out of 411.5 ballots received, but a second round was held because all contenders fell short of the 206-vote threshold.
Blake, who won 237 votes in the next go-round after several candidates withdrew, called in his platforms for rebuilding party infrastructure to support new candidates for local office.
“We have to leave here united,” Blake said. “We cannot walk out of here as Obama Democrats or Hillary Democrats or Bernie Democrats, we are a united Democratic Party and that is who we are.”
Obama issued a congratulatory message to Perez late Saturday.
“What unites our party is a belief in opportunity — the idea that however you started out, whatever you look like, or whomever you love, America is the place where you can make it if you try,” Obama said. “Over the past eight years, our party continued its track record of delivering on that promise. … 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.”
Mayor Pete Buttigeig of South Bend, Indiana, did not make it to the voting process, announcing during his nomination speech that he would be exiting the race.
Buttigeig, 35, built a national profile as an emerging dark horse in the race for the chairmanship with the backing of former DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
“I want to thank my competitors for their graciousness beginning the day I got into this race — proving what unites us is greater than our divisions,” Buttigeig said. “It looks like I’m not going to be the next chair. But whoever is, I am urging to do the things that must be done to be open to change, to look beyond Washington, to not treat the presidency like it’s the only office that matters, to pay attention to communities like ours in the heart of our country — not as an exotic species — but as your fellow Americans.”
The former Naval intelligence officer campaigned on the idea that the aging Democratic Party needed to empower its millennial members.
On the eve of the election, Perez forces were feeling confident as they told Democrats they had pulled ahead, buoyed by the late endorsement of Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, who quit the chairman’s race Thursday and endorsed Perez.
“We’re going to be unified and we’re going to get this thing done on the first ballot,” Harrison told supporters Friday night.
The DNC’s chief fundraiser, Henry Munoz, who is running unopposed for re-election as finance chairman, gave Perez a final boost late Friday with his endorsement after remaining neutral throughout the race.
Ellison allies acknowledged they were in a weaker position, but pushed back on the Perez campaign’s attempts to create an air of inevitability.
“It’s that moment. It is that moment to bring forth your strongest argument,” Ellison told supporters.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio towered over DNC members as he pressed his case for Ellison.
“Keith Ellison is a man of destiny,” he told them. “This is not an optional situation. We need Keith Ellison.”
Meanwhile, Valerie Jarrett, the longtime confidant of former President Obama, phoned DNC members to support Perez, while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reinforced Perez’s troops on the ground.