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Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez named Democratic Party leader

Newly elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez (Branden Camp/Associated Press)
Newly elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez (Branden Camp/Associated Press)

The Democratic Party put its faith in its old guard Saturday to guide it out of the political wilderness, choosing as its new leader an Obama-era Cabinet secretary over the charismatic congressman backed by the progressive wing of the party.

Tom Perez, a former secretary of Labor with strong ties to labor unions, persuaded the spirited assembly of party delegates in Atlanta that he can best help harness a grass-roots outpouring of anti-Trump protest and anger into a Democratic resurgence at the ballot box.

“We are suffering from a crisis of confidence, a crisis of relevance,” Perez told delegates before they chose him in a down-to-the-wire contest with Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, whom the Bernie Sanders wing of the party had rallied round.

“We need a chair who can not only take the fight to Donald Trump. … We also need a chair who can lead a turnaround and change the culture of the Democratic Party,” Perez said.

The ascendance of an establishment liberal is certain to renew tension between veteran party stalwarts and the unruly progressive movement aligned with Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, both of whom backed Ellison.

Some Ellison supporters erupted in protest as the final vote was announced.

Perez quickly sought to unite the party by naming Ellison his deputy chair, a move unanimously approved by the 435 assembled delegates, who had supported Perez 235-200.

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