Labor Secretary Tom Perez is expected to announce his bid for the chairmanship of Democratic National Committee sometime this week, entering his name into a race that some say reflects the embittered divide among Democratic leaders in the wake of the 2016 election season.
Perez will challenge the current frontrunner for the chairman position, Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison. Ellison was a vocal supporter of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, while Perez, a longtime ally of President Obama, supported Hillary Clinton. Ellison’s run for DNC Chair has already been endorsed by Sanders, as well as by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
Perez, on the other hand, would likely have the implicit approval of President Obama on his side, along with other high-ranking allies in the Democratic Party who have reportedly urged him to run against Ellison. The battle for control of the DNC may therefore become another symbolic tug-of-war between Obama/Clinton loyalists and the progressive faction spurred by Sanders’s grassroots movement.
Ellison, who has served as representative for the Minnesota area since 2006, was the first Muslim-American ever to serve in Congress. He remains only one of two Muslim representatives among the 435 members of the House, along with Andre Carson of Indiana. Ellison has said that he will resign from his representative seat if he wins the DNC nomination.
Although Perez has strong ties to the Hispanic community and the Rust Belt — he was born and raised in Buffalo, the son of Dominican immigrants — critics say that his appointed positions within Obama’s cabinet have not garnered him sufficient experience dealing with electoral politics and the campaigning process.
Voting for the DNC chairman position will take place in late February. Though Perez’s entry into the race could very well make for a two-man competition, the position is hardly a shoo-in for either candidate at this point. Other challengers include New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley and South Carolina Chair Jaime Harrison.
“Whoever wins the DNC chair race faces a lot of work, travel, planning and resource raising,” Ellison said when he announced his run. “I will be ‘all-in’ to meet the challenge.”
Perez is said to be meeting with top officials, including President Obama, this week to discuss the position. He was also rumored to be seeking a run for governor in his home state of Maryland in the coming year. Perez is expected to make an announcement about his potential bid for the DNC chair as soon as Wednesday.