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Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez Elected To Lead Democrats

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Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez Elected To Lead Democrats

Politics

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez Elected To Lead Democrats

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez Elected To Lead Democrats

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The DNC has a new chair — former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Party members voted in Atlanta on Saturday. Now the hard work of rebuilding the party begins.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The Democrats have a new leader. Members of the Democratic National Committee have elected former Labor Secretary Tom Perez to head the party. Perez has a lot of work ahead of him. Democrats are in the minority at all levels of government. And, as the race for the DNC chair showed, there's still a lot of tension between the activist and establishment wings of the party. NPR's Scott Detrow reports from Atlanta.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: After he was elected, Tom Perez took the big-picture view of where he sees politics right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM PEREZ: Someday, they're going to study this era in American history. And they're going to study it alongside the Know-Nothing movements. And they're going to ask the question of all of us - where were you in 2017, when we had the worst president in the history of the United States?

DETROW: Opposing President Trump is something most Democrats can agree on right now. After that, it can get complicated. And last year's bruising primary battle can still linger. Take just one thing, big money in politics. It's something Keith Ellison talked about in his speech before the vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEITH ELLISON: We believe that we would rather have a million donations of $10 than 10 donations of just $100,000. We've got to go to the grassroots, y'all.

DETROW: DNC members had just voted down a resolution that would've banned corporate political-action committees from giving money to the party. That's something a lot of grassroots activists cared deeply about.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Party for the people, not big money.

DETROW: And it's something many Ellison supporters began yelling about after Perez's victory was announced on the stage. Dana Bowers (ph) was one of them.

DANA BOWERS: It's obvious that the DNC is still caring more about their ties with corporate money than they are about the voice of the people.

DETROW: That's not to say Perez is a conservative Democrat or even moderate. In fact, as Labor secretary, he was one of the most progressive members of President Obama's cabinet. But the fact that Ellison's campaign stalled and failed and that so many high-profile Democrats endorsed Perez after Bernie Sanders backed Ellison left a lot of liberal activists frustrated. Perez was clearly mindful of this. He talked over and over about party unity, addressing it again after his win.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PEREZ: It kind of reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner at my house when we have the extended family, and we have spirited discussions, and we have viewpoint diversity. And then we all lock hands and celebrate our shared interests.

DETROW: Perez and Ellison are making it clear to everyone they can that they're on the same team. They were calling each other buddy after the vote, posing for pictures with each other's families and even wearing each other's campaign buttons. Ellison says he's looking forward to working with Perez to rebuild the DNC. Standing next to the new chair, he addressed his supporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELLISON: I want you to support Tom Perez. I want you to put your energy, your time, your resources behind making this the best Democratic National Committee it can possibly be.

DETROW: That's going to be a hard job. The committee itself has been in a holding pattern since this summer, when internal emails likely stolen by Russian hackers made their way to WikiLeaks and led to major turnover and high-profile resignations. And on top of that, Democrats are in the minority in most states and in all of the federal government. Perez framed it this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PEREZ: We are suffering from a crisis of confidence, a crisis of relevance.

DETROW: Step one to rebuilding - putting the focus on the one thing Democrats can agree on, stopping Donald Trump. Scott Detrow, NPR News, Atlanta.

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Perez Elected As Chairman Of Democratic National Committee

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3:23 p.m. ET: Perez wins DNC chairmanship, names Ellison deputy

Former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez won the DNC chairmanship on second round.

It was met by protest from about a dozen Keith Ellison supporters, who chanted, repeatedly, "Not big money, party for the people."

They were shushed and overshouted.

Supporters of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison cheer as he is being introduced. Ellison is seen as one of the two front-runners for chairman of the party. Domenico Montanaro/NPR hide caption

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Domenico Montanaro/NPR

Supporters of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison cheer as he is being introduced. Ellison is seen as one of the two front-runners for chairman of the party.

Domenico Montanaro/NPR

"Shut up," one man eventually yelled from the Perez side.

Here's the final tally, 218 needed. 435 total voted:

Perez 235
Ellison 200

Perez responded by appointing Ellison deputy chair of the Democratic Party, which was greeted by huge cheers, including from most in the Ellison section. He called for a motion to do so that was passed by voice vote.

"Allow me to congratulate our chair," Ellison said to big applause, "on successfully passing his first motion."

That was greeted by laughs.

"I want to congratulate" Perez, Ellison said, noting that he conducted himself with "class."

He added, "I'm asking you to give everything you've got to support Chairman Perez." He said he was "honored" to serve under Perez.


2:48 p.m. ET: Howard Dean endorses Ellison

As votes are being tallied for Round Two, Keith Ellison's campaign sends out an endorsement from former Chairman Howard Dean:

"This is Governor Howard Dean. I believe that Keith Ellison would be the most likely person to be able to successfully bring in the first global generation to the Democratic Party. (This is real)"

"This is real" is in response to fake texts to committee members that Buttigieg was endorsing Ellison after voting in Round One.

Domenico Montanaro


2:28 p.m. ET: Perez one vote short after Round One; Ellison close

This was billed as a race between former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, and now it officially is.

After Round One of voting, Perez is just one vote shy of the votes needed with Ellison just 13.5 votes behind. The other four candidates dropped out. (The magic number was 214.5 as 427 total votes were cast.)

Here's the tally:

Perez 213.5
Ellison 200
Boynton Brown 12
Buttigieg 1
Greene .5

After the vote, Sally Boynton Brown (12 votes) did not endorse; Sam Ronan (0 votes) and Peter Peckarsky endorsed Ellison. Jehmu Greene endorsed Perez.

(For those wondering, a candidate could get half a vote because each Democrat abroad got half a vote.)

— Domenico Montanaro


1:56 p.m. ET: Ellison's religion

The Democratic National Committee has wrapped up Round One of voting and officials are tabulating the votes for new chairman. We have just come back from a 5-minute break. But vote-counting is expected to take some 30 to 45 minutes.

To recap, the biggest news so far: Popular Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has dropped out of the race. He did not endorse. It could signal momentum for Perez, but his team would have preferred an endorsement, of course.

There's been some talk of the party divide but some prominent voices, including Dr. King's daughter, Bernice, urged unity.

It's also been a stark contrast to the Conservative Political Action Conference, especially on religion. The elephant in the room here is Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison's religion. He's the first Muslim elected to Congress.

At CPAC, conservative radio host Mark Levin introduced Ted Cruz and called Ellison the front runner for DNC chairman and that it was controversial because of his "ties to Farrakhan."

Cruz followed up and said, "I'll commend the Democrats for one thing— if they name Keith Ellison, we can commend them for truth in advertising."

Here, not only does Ellison have the most enthusiastic following, but an Imam led the convocation.

— Domenico Montanaro


1:27 p.m. ET: "Time to vote"

All the candidates have now spoken, and as Donna Brazile just told a cheering crowd, "It is time to vote."

The race will be conducted on paper ballots. This morning, the DNC conducted several test runs with electronic clickers that would have allowed for instant on-screen tabulations, but Brazile was uncomfortable with their efficacy and even noted questions about the security and speed of the room's wifi, among other factors, made her lean toward sticking with a more low-tech approach.

— Scott Detrow


1:25 p.m. ET: Fringe candidate questions validity of Trump's win

Milwaukee lawyer Peter Peckarsky used his speech to raise questions about validity of President Trump's electoral win, saying Trump's narrow victories in Florida, North Carolina veered too far from exit poll results. There's been no evidence that electoral results were tampered with in any state. In fact, a recount funded by the Green Party increased Trump's margin over Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by about 100 votes.

— Scott Detrow


1:18 p.m. ET: "Women of color" are the "backbone" of the Democratic Party

Speeches are wrapping up. The second to last speaker was Jehmu Greene, former president of Rock the Vote who was also a Fox News analyst. Being a Fox analyst was something that was a hurdle for her with this crowd, as she acknowledged.

"I go toe to toe with Republicans who lie for a living," she said, "and I have been living with the truth."

She said it was "not a time for re-rebuilding; it's a time for regeneration." She whacked Trump, who she said is "arrogantly marching us toward fascism." She also spoke against superdelegates and the caucuses, which she said disenfranchises working people, like her mother, who is a nurse.

"Women are the backbone of this party, especially women of color," said Greene, who is African American."

— Domenico Montanaro


12:54 p.m. ET: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Drops out, declines to endorse

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has dropped out of the DNC chair race, even before the first round of voting began. He did not endorse anyone else.

"It looks like I'm not going to be the next DNC chair," he said, but he urged whoever would be not just to pay attention to the presidency, but to small towns "not as a foreign species."

Buttigieg called on the party to "engage a new generation." He added, "There's nothing wrong with our bench. We just haven't called enough people on the bench off the bench and onto the field."

He said being chairman "is not just about policy; it is soul craft."

Alluding to Trump, he said America has a leader who appeals to darkness. But, he added, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. We have the opportunity to do the reverse."

— Domenico Montanaro


12:50 p.m. ET: "Keith, Keith Keith"

Taking the stage to chants of, "Keith, Keith, Keith," Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison told DNC members that as energizing as recent protests and marches have been, Democrats need to focus their energy on electoral results.

"We're in this mess because we lost not one election, but a thousand elections," he said before the DNC chair vote. "And we're going to get out of it when we win elections."

Ellison promised to raise voter turnout and increase grassroots fundraising, if he becomes head of the DNC. "We would rather have a million donations of ten dollars than 10 donations of $100,000," he said.

Ellison, one of the two frontrunners for DNC Chair, also urged Democrats to unite after the seven-candidate race concludes this afternoon. "We've got to come out of here and-in-hand, brothers and sisters, because Trump is right outside that door. Not just Trump, but Trumpism," Ellison said.

Ellison was one of the first candidates to enter the race, and earned early endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. But since then, many other high-profile Democrats have backed former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Committee members also heard from Sally Boynton Brown, the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party. She said the party needs to improve its communication with voters, especially Millennials. "In the 21st Century, the way we've been doing business no longer works," Brown said. "We have to find a new path forward."

Sam Ronan spoke, too, urging Democrats to "regain the trust and the respect of the American people."

— Scott Detrow


12:24 p.m. ET: Perez, losing voice, vows to "get Democrats winning again"

Former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, the front-runner for DNC chairman, called for unity within the party, pledged to be an inclusive chairman if elected, vowed to fight Donald Trump, while striking a Trump-like tone.

"We will turn this party around and get Democrats winning again," Perez said at the end of a short speech. Perez strained to talk with a hoarse voice.

Perez said the party is "suffering from a crisis of confidence and relevance" and vowed to lead a "turnaround and change the culture of the Democratic Party and the DNC."

He noted that the party needs to refocus on down-ballot races, from school board on up, rather than focusing on winning the presidency.

Democrats are at their lowest point of power in about 100 years, out of power not just in the White House and both chambers of Congress, but also in governorships and state legislatures.

He alluded to the Democratic split, but vowed, "You will all be part of the team." He added, in something of an awkward line, "You can't go bowling alone to succeed, you must go bowling together."

He continued: "I know we will cross the finish line together. A united Democratic Party is not only our best hope, it is Donald Trump's worst nightmare."

— Domenico Montanaro


12:12 p.m. ET: Candidate speeches are about to begin. Mayor Garcetti from Los Angeles introducing Tom Perez who is going first.

For some background, here are some bios of key candidates and what they want to do.

— Domenico Montanaro


12:02 p.m. ET: We are told the election portion of the programming is coming up after a short break here — only two hours later than scheduled.

So, that means get ready for (at least) an hour and 10 minutes of speeches from seven candidates (10 minutes each).

— Domenico Montanaro


11:52 a.m. ET: To moderate or not?

As Democrats prepare to elect a new DNC chair, one of the party's rising stars has a message for fellow Democrats: don't moderate.

Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who lost a close Senate race last year but impressed party leaders with his run, told committee members in Atlanta not to shy away from liberal values as they attempt to win back voters.

Pointing out President Trump won Missouri by nearly 19 points, Kander said, "I came within 3 points of turning the Senate seat blue, and I did not do it by pretending to be a moderate Republican or hugging the middle."

"When Democrats make our argument," he said, "then we have a chance to win."

Kander shares some similarities with one of today's candidates for DNC chair, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttiegeg. Both are strong campaigners and speakers and have stellar resumes that include military service. Both are seen as rising Democratic stars. But both happen to live in red states where it's increasingly hard for Democrats to win statewide races, especially at the federal level.

— Scott Detrow


11:30 a.m. ET: King daughter: "Lay aside those things that divide you"

Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered a powerful speech to Democratic National Committee members. She implored the party to unify.

It's "no secret there's division even within this camp," she said, urging members and activists in the party to "lay aside those things that divide you to find common ground."

She told a story about a young boy who was giggling in a boat with his father. The father wanted to know why he was laughing. The boy told him because there's a hole in his father's side of the boat and he was going to drown — without realizing that they were in the same boat.

"There's a hole in the boat called these United States of America," King said.

She said Democrats should reach across the aisle. "We've gotta be willing to listen when we don't want to hear," she said, adding that people have to "seek to understand" before they can be understood.

"If we don't learn to live together as brothers and sisters — yes, together — we're going to perish as fools," King implored. She noted, the "strategy has to be winning people over rather than winning over people." There's "too much energy on winning over people rather than winning people over."

— Domenico Montanaro


10:57 a.m. ET:

A famous quote attributed to Will Rogers goes, "I'm not a member of an organized political party. I'm a Democrat." The party doesn't have the best reputation for sticking to schedules, and that's the case this morning in Atlanta.

The DNC meeting got started late, and committee members are still working through early business, like the approval of resolutions.

(One particularly contentious discussion: a proposition to ban corporate political action committees from contributing money to the DNC.)

There's other business on tap before the DNC chair vote, including speeches from all seven candidates. So at this point, it's highly unlikely a vote happens before noon.

— Scott Detrow


10:25 a.m. ET: Good morning from Atlanta!

We are covering the Democratic National Committee chair race. Here's the latest:

Timing

The earliest we're going to know a chairman will be 11:30 a.m. ET, and if it goes multiple rounds, it won't be at least until after noon. Vote counting should take 30 to 45 minutes, per round, a DNC official said.

If all that goes to time, voting for chair is slated to begin at 11 a.m. after each of the seven candidates speak. But the DNC is already behind schedule. Candidates are allotted 10 minutes each beginning at 10 a.m. The voting should only take about 10 minutes per round, but again counting will take 30 to 45 minutes, a DNC official said. So here's a quick schedule rundown:

9:30 a.m.: Party business closed session
10 a.m.: Candidate speeches begin
11:10 a.m.: Candidate speeches wrap
11:10 a.m.: Voting begins at the earliest

How it works

A candidate needs 50 percent plus one of all votes cast to be chairman. There are 447 voting members, but five current vacancies. So the highest potential voting members is 442.

That means the magic number is 222. But, again, that's only if all members vote. (Members can vote by proxy as well; there are expected to be 70 to 75 voting by proxy, according to a DNC official.)

There is a limit to how many round this race can go. All seven candidates will be on the ballot for Rounds One and Two. But the lowest vote-getter in Round Two will be kicked off the ballot for Round Three.

Where the race stands

Former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez has gained some momentum in the last couple of days with the endorsement of South Carolina Party Chair Jaime Harrison, and last night at an for Perez supporters, Harrison predicted that Perez would win in one round.

A week ago, a Perez staffer said he was at 180 firm. Harrison is believed to have gotten Perez about another 30.

This is far more than any other candidate has expressed publicly. The question is whether he has a ceiling or if other committee members see the writing on the wall and push him through. That's what Perez's team is expecting.

But these events tend to produce surprises.

Keith Ellison, the Minnesota congressman, also has strong support here from the more progressive members. Bernie Sanders endorsed him (but it should be noted — Sanders and other elected officials don't vote. The voting members aren't superdelegates, they're committee members).

Thought to have less support, but also in the running is South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He has impressed members here and has the backing of former DNC Chairman Howard Dean.

The race has shaped up to be something of a proxy battle for the fault lines in the party — the establishment/governing wing (Perez); the progressive firebrands (Ellison); and Middle America (Buttigieg).

— Domenico Montanaro