Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected head of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, charged with overseeing the formidable task of rebuilding a party left shattered by the presidential win of Republican Donald Trump.
Perez, who served under former President Barack Obama, and U.S. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota were the front-runners in the race.
Perez, the first Latino to hold the post, won on a second ballot by a margin of 235-200, in a contest widely seen as a proxy fight between defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her chief party rival, Bernie Sanders.
Immediately after the vote count, Perez moved to make Ellison the deputy party chairman, and DNC members ratified his choice.
“We are all in this together,” Perez said, calling on Democrats to fight what he called “the worst president in the history of the United States.”
Earlier Saturday, Perez told the 474 DNC members that the party was “suffering from a crisis of confidence, a crisis of relevance.” He also sought to define the tasks ahead as Democratic stalwarts push to regain the party’s stature in the aftermath of Clinton’s defeat.
“We need to make house calls, we need to listen to people. We need to get back to basics,” he said.
Perez, considered the establishment pick and a political moderate, is the son of Dominican immigrants. Ellison, a progressive, was the first Muslim elected to Congress.
Ellison, endorsed by Sanders and his progressive followers, said the Democrats were in “this mess because we lost not one election, but a thousand elections” — at all levels of government, from local councils to the White House — in November.
The new DNC chairman will oversee a party financially drained by the 2016 election, but one that has been energized this year by grass-roots protests against Trump and his policies. Notable among the protests was the nationwide Women’s March on Washington on January 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration, that produced one of the largest turnouts ever seen in the United States.
Perez will also face the challenge of restoring party fortunes after heavy losses in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections that produced the Republicans’ current majority in both houses of Congress. He must also coordinate the development of potential candidates to challenge Republicans for the White House in 2020.