ATLANTA — In an extremely close race that went to multiple rounds of balloting, former Department of Labour Secretary Tom Perez was elected to head the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, ending the months-long jockeying for the top spot in the Democratic Party’s election arm.
Perez was elected with 235 votes, narrowly defeating Rep. Keith Ellison. Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Idaho Democratic Party chair Sally Boynton Brown, who also ran, dropped out on Saturday.
During the first round of voting, Perez fell just one vote short of the majority votes needed to win the chair.
The decision came after a contest which some viewed as a rehash of the 2016 presidential primary, with Perez garnering support from establishment figures like former Vice President Joe Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder and Ellison representing the ascendant progressive wings of the Democratic Party.
Some close to Ellison felt the congressman’s victory would rectify the DNC’s treatment of Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary, in which some DNC staffers appeared to favour Hillary Clinton over the Vermont senator.
“The mood is that the previous leadership of the DNC was biased toward one candidate, and biased against another candidate,” Brian Ellison, Keith’s brother, said shortly before the vote.
“It’s not even about Tom Perez. It’s about Obama, Hillary, and the people feeling slighted from Bernie Sanders’ slight.”
Some members were unconcerned with the perceived rehash of the primary fight.
“There’s a little bit of [animosity] between Tom and Keith and their supporters. But I think we are getting beyond it,” said Gary Winston Apple, a DNC member from Missouri who supported Ellison.
Others noted that chairs need to focus on uniting the party.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who backed Perez, dismissed that the contest was a “proxy war,” but advised the chair to call members who did not vote for him to offer an olive branch.
“Call every other person who voted for someone else and say ‘This is also your party and you’re just as important and I want to work with you,'” Garcetti told Business Insider on Friday.
“Whoever wins should be calling everybody else and saying ‘let’s make sure we’re unified.'”
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