The Democratic National Committee picked Barack Obama’s Labor Secretary Tom Perez to be its new chair Saturday, ending a bitter campaign that many saw as a proxy war between the centrist and progressive wings of the party.
Perez is the first Latino chairman of the party in its history. According to CNN, Perez triumphed over Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison by a margin of 235-200.
In a move to quell any internal divisions, Perez made his first move as chairman to appoint Ellison as deputy chair.
“We are all in this together,” Perez said, calling on Democrats to fight “the worst president in the history of the United States.” He added, “I am confident when we lead with our values and we lead with our actions, we succeed.”
While as many as seven candidates entered the field at one point, Ellison and Perez were the only candidates to advance to a second round of balloting after Perez just barely missed the simple majority needed to win, per the Associated Press.
Ellison, who would have been the first Muslim chair of the DNC ever, was endorsed by former Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in his bid to lead the party, while Perez had the support of former vice president Joe Biden and numerous other Obama administration officials.
As a result, many observers saw the race as symbolic of a greater struggle within the Democratic party following its shocking defeats in the 2016 election. On one hand, Perez was seen as the representative of the Obama White House, as well as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. While neither Obama or Clinton endorsed any candidate in the race, Perez was at one point considered a candidate for Clinton’s vice presidential nominee.
On the other hand, Ellison was seen as the standard-bearer for the party’s more progressive, liberal wing, which saw a surge in popularity during the failed presidential campaign of Sanders. Ellison had the support of numerous liberal power players in Congress, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, as well as former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
After Perez’s win, Sanders issued a statement congratulating him but added that the status quo must be changed for Democrats to make electoral advancements.
Perez succeeds outgoing Chairwoman Donna Brazile, who led the party as interim chief in the fallout from disclosure that internal party communications were stolen by hackers and leaked during the 2016 presidential campaign.
U.S. intelligence officials have blamed Russian agents and said Moscow’s intention was to help Trump win.
Brazile said Saturday the party has worked with cybersecurity experts to address vulnerabilities. She chided Trump for his mockery of DNC cybersecurity and his doubts that Russians are at fault.
“No, Donald Trump, you can’t go to Staples and buy anti-Russian hacking software,” she said, urging Congress to investigate whether Russians hacked the Republican National Committee.
No RNC emails were leaked during the 2016 campaign. Republican officials insist their party communications were not breached.
Brazile suggests that proves Russians wanted to help Trump.