Perez Will Focus on Rebuilding Party Structure
Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez became the new Democratic Party chair on Feb. 25, receiving the most votes at the winter meeting of Democratic National Committee members.
"I am very excited that Tom Perez is the new DNC chair. I have had several conversations with him, and I embrace his vision for the DNC,” said Earl Fowlkes, a DNC member and president of Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. “Chairman Perez believes in an inclusive political party and he will continue to be supportive of the LGBT community's continue fight for full equality. I look forward to working with him in my role of DNC LGBT Caucus Chair."
Along with Perez, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota was elected as deputy chair. Vice chairs elected include Michael Blake of New York, Maria Elena Durazo of California, and Vice Chair Grace Meng of New York. Karen Carter Peterson of Louisiana was elected chair of civic engagement and voter participation. Wisconsin’s Jason Rae was elected secretary. Bill Derrough of New York was elected treasurer. Texas’ Henry Munoz, III, was elected finance chair.
Perez laid out an agenda during his campaign to rebuild party infrastructure which includes:
- Fighting voter suppression and disenfranchisement by working with state parties and progressive groups to stop unjust laws,
- Targeting gerrymandering where it starts by working to elect more Democratic state legislatures and governors,
- Supporting state parties to find, recruit and train candidates for office at every level of the ballot, from school board to senate, who reflect our big tent and diverse party,
- Standing up and leading efforts to stop policies that undermine the middle class and make it harder for Americans to get a fair deal, and
- Building a robust Voter Empowerment Office with a fully staffed team operating year round.
Perez has the unenviable task of reversing the red tide that's taken place in the last decade. Extreme gerrymandering, Voter ID laws, limits on voting locations and times, and Democrats' inability to turn out in midterm elections have hurt the party. A report by The Hill said the GOP controls 1,000 more legislative seats than it did in 2009. As of today, the number of seats held by Democrats, according to Ballotpedia, are as follows:
- U.S. Senate: Democrats hold 46 seats, plus two independents that caucus with Democrats.
- U.S. House: Democrats hold only 194 of 435 seats in the House, two dozen short of a majority.
- State Houses: Out of 49 chambers, Democrats hold 13 Senate majorities and 17 House majorities in the states (not counting coalitions between parties).
- Governorships: Out of 50 states, 16 have Democratic governors.
“No matter where they live every American should hear our message of inclusion and opportunity. It’s not enough to shout at people from Washington, DC, or try to re-engage only when election season rolls around,” said Perez, who plans to advocate for Democrats in every zip code. “We need to be listening and talking to voters—from rural communities and urban, on the coasts and in the middle of the country - year-round, with state parties driving the conversation—and we also need to make sure we’re finding candidates who will stand up for our values and the needs of their communities.