The United States has its first Latino Democratic Party chairman… And, his name is Tom Perez.
The 55-year-old Dominican American politician, consumer advocate, and civil rights lawyer, a former Labor Secretary, beat out Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison a hotly contested race to lead the Democratic Party as their new chairman, and their first-ever Latino leader, on Saturday.
Perez defeated Ellison in a 235-200 vote among the Democratic National Committee‘s 435 members who cast ballots Saturday.
It took two rounds of voting to select a winner after Perez found himself just one vote shy in the first ballot. The five other candidates, who had amassed 13.5 total votes, all exited the race before the second round began.
In a victory speech, Perez vowed that Democrats would wage an all-out battle to deny Trump a second term.
“We are at a ‘where were you?’ moment in American history: Where were you in 2017 when we had the worst President in US history?” he said.
Immediately after winning, Perez made a quick move to bring Ellison’s supporters into the fold — appointing Ellison as the deputy chair of the DNC, to cheers and unanimous approval from the crowd.
Ellison called on Democrats to support Perez.
“It’s my honor to serve this party under the chairmanship of Tom Perez,” he said.
The results brought a chaotic close to a race that stretched on for three months. In the waning days, former Vice President Joe Biden and several aides to former President Barack Obama — including Valerie Jarrett and David Simas — made calls to undecided members in an effort to sway them toward Perez.
In Ellison’s camp, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and supportive members of Congress applied pressure on DNC members with phone calls.
Obama touted what he said was the party’s track record of expanding the economy, creating new jobs, keeping Americans safe through “tough, smart” foreign policy, and expanding the right to health insurance.
“That’s a legacy the Democratic Party will always carry forward,” Obama said. “I know that Tom Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity, and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much.”
In a tweet, Hillary Clinton congratulated Perez and Ellison, writing: “Excited for strong, unified party standing for best of our country into the future.”
Perez, a Maryland Democrat who worked in Obama’s Justice Department before serving as labor secretary and making Clinton’s short list for the vice presidential nomination, made overtures to Ellison’s backers in his nomination speech before the votes were cast.
“Good leaders are great listeners. You will always have my ear, and I will always have your back,” Perez told the crowd, promising to “plan strategy together, lift each other up together.”
“You will not be underutilized,” he said. “You are of import in everything we do. The most important question you will hear from me is, ‘What do you think?'”