Election season has already started for Democrats. This Saturday the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted to select a new chair. This election came at a turbulent time for Democrats. Former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned after Wikileaks released emails that suggested the DNC favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. Donna Brazile became interim chair, but was faced with criticism when leaks claimed that she shared questions with the Clinton campaign before primary debates. The Democrats went on to lose the presidency and are the minority party in both the Senate and House. Former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez came out victorious with 235 votes to Representative Keith Ellison’s 200 after a close race that went into a second round of voting. Between being the public face of opposition to Trump and rebuilding a party with heavy divisions, Perez has his work cut out for him. Let’s take a look at Perez and the other candidates.
Fmr. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez
The new DNC chair served as Secretary of Labor under former president Barack Obama. While Perez represents the Obama wing of the party, he was one of the most progressive members of the administration and is considered to be an olive branch to the Sanders faction. Perez received endorsements from many members of the Obama administration, such as former attorney general Eric Holder and former vice president Joe Biden. While Perez is more liberal than the average Democratic congressman and has a background as civil rights lawyer, some in the progressive Sanders wing of the party consider Perez’s win to be an insult to the Sanders faction because of Perez’s support for the Clinton campaign and his perceived role as an establishment insider. Perez’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership has also come under fire.
Rep. Keith Ellison
Perez’s main competitor hails from the state of Minnesota. Keith Ellison represents the Democratic Party’s progressive wing in the House of Representatives and was a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter. The first Muslim elected to Congress, Ellison wanted to represent a more diverse Democratic Party that also supports a leftward shift in economic policy. Along with progressives such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, current Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and former minority leader Harry Reid, endorsed Ellison. However, Ellison’s past ties to the Nation of Islam came under scrutiny. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ellison defended Nation of Islam Founder Louis Farrakhan and other radical Black activists from accusations of anti-Semitism. While Ellison later publicly renounced the Nation of Islam for their anti-Semitic views, some Democrats are still critical of his involvement Jewish donors to the Democratic Party have also criticized Ellison’s views on Israel. After Perez won, his first act as DNC chair was a move to make Ellison deputy DNC chair as a sign of appeasal towards the Sanders wing.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Congratulations to newly elected DNC Chair @TomPerez - looking forward to joining you and all who share our values to grow our party!— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 25, 2017
South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg came out as a dark horse candidate. Sharing a home state with Mike Pence, Buttigieg believed that the DNC has underserved Democrats at the local level and hoped to visit each state, along with coming up with strategies for each state’s Democratic Party. A U.S. Navy Reserve and Rhodes Scholar, Buttigieg would have been the first openly gay DNC chair. Buttigieg supporters saw him as a safe pick that would not lead to factional conflict. Buttigieg received a big endorsement from former DNC chair Howard Dean. However the momentum was not enough for the South Bend mayor, and Buttigieg dropped out before the first round of voting.
Sally Boynton Brown, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, positioned herself as an alternative to the progressive vs. establishment debate between Ellison and Perez. Former Fox News analyst and Democratic strategist Jehmu Greene ran on a platform of inclusivity. The daughter of undocumented immigrants, Greene believes women must play a role in leading an increasingly diverse Democratic party. South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison also ran as a fresh face to Democratic leadership.