Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, as the party struggles to set a new direction after Hillary Clilnton’s November loss to Donald Trump.
While Perez, 55, is the first Latino to head the Democratic Party, he also represents continuity for the party establishment after serving as labor secretary and assistant attorney general for civil rights in President Barack Obama’s administration.
“A united Democratic Party is not only our best hope, it’s Donald Trump’s worst nightmare,” Perez said as he made his final pitch to voters. “I know we will leave here united today.”
He defeated Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress and the first black representative from Minnesota. Ellison, who had backed Bernie Sanders for president over Clinton in the Democratic primaries, represented calls within the party for a turn toward the left and populism as a response to the rise of Trump.
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Democrats have been struggling since Election Day to understand what happened in November’s election and to determine how to move forward. Outside groups are jockeying for influence and donors, while anti-Trump protesters are grappling with how to translate their anger into action and change.
The DNC has largely been in suspended animation, waiting for a new chairman to be elected before staffing up or launching the post-election work of its Unity Commission, which will consider possible reforms to the party’s primary process.