Democrats chose the new leader of their party Saturday in Atlanta, with former President Barack Obama’s administration’s labor secretary Thomas Perez besting Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) on a second-ballot vote. I picked some of the best and the worst from the DNC chair race. My thoughts are below.
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– Thomas Perez: He wasn’t the first major candidate in the race (that was Ellison). And he wasn’t the most dynamic candidate in the race (that was South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg). But Perez understood something very important: The Democratic establishment still has lots and lots of power within the party committees. Perez was the establishment (and Obama)-preferred candidate, and that still matters in a group like the DNC. Perez will now be one of a small handful of Democratic leaders entrusted with rebuilding a party at the state and local level that has been decimated over the past eight years.
– Pete Buttigieg: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, dropped out of the chair race before any votes were cast Saturday. That was smart. He wasn’t likely to come close to either Perez or Ellison, and that might have slowed the momentum and buzz he clearly built in the race. Buttigieg won rave reviews during the contest with his emphasis on middle America and how Democrats can start winning there again. Buttigieg is already being talked about as a Senate or gubernatorial candidate in 2020 as a result of his strong performance during the DNC contest.
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– Sens. Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren: The two most prominent voices of liberals in Washington made a show of force with very early endorsements of Ellison. The goal was to end the race before it started, discouraging other serious candidates from running. Didn’t work. Not only did Perez get into the race but he won it. That sequence of events should raise real questions about just how much swat the Sanders/Warren wing of the party has. This was Ellison’s race to win. He didn’t.
– Republican Party: Republicans had been open about their hopes that Ellison would win the chair’s race, believing his strongly liberal record and past controversies would give them a useful punching bag for years to come. Perez, while still quite liberal, is not the lightning rod that Ellison would have been. The search continues . . .
– Technology: Interim DNC chair Donna Brazile announced just before the first-ballot vote began at 1:30 p.m. Eastern that the electronic voting system would have to be scrapped because of spotty WiFi service. Paper ballots were used instead. This is 2017 people! We can’t get a WiFi network that 500 (or so) people can use to cast a vote with their phones?
– Ambitious Minnesota Democrats: Ellison had pledged to resign his seat in Congress if he was elected DNC chair. Ellison’s solidly Democratic district is a seat you can hold for life. Now the line of suitors has to keep waiting until he decides when – and if – he wants to walk away in the future.