Schumer, who backed Perez’s chief opponent in the DNC chair race, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that Perez shares Ellison’s commitment to using the DNC to organize on the state and local level.
“Why I supported Keith, and Bernie was so strong for him, is we thought the DNC had not proved very valuable to Democrats. It didn’t get involved at the local level,” Schumer said. “And most of all, it didn’t get involved in grassroots organizing and campaigning. The only time it was activated was six months before the presidential election.”
“Tom Perez and Keith Ellison have the same philosophy as to what to do with the DNC: It should not be a bunch of politicians who get together every three months and yak to each other,” he added. “And I think this’ll be very, very good.”
Perez defeated Ellison, 235 to 200, on the second ballot of Saturday’s DNC chair election in Atlanta, after the most contentious race for the top post in decades. In a nod to the close margin and the grassroots enthusiasm behind Ellison’s bid, Perez immediately moved to name Ellison deputy chair of the DNC, a position that had not previously existed. They appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” together on Tuesday night, and Perez joined Ellison as his guest to President Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress.
Schumer said the unity tour will continue on Thursday when he will meet with Perez, Ellison and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who also endorsed Ellison.
Many Ellison supporters had backed Sanders in the presidential primary, as did Ellison himself, and saw Ellison’s bid as a chance for the party to embrace the brand of economic populism and activist energy that was missing in the general election.
Perez’s decision to make Ellison deputy chair, and Democrats’ shared goal of confronting Trump, have helped limit the frustration among stalwart Ellison backers for the time being. Divisions remain, however, and will be tested as the party body considers how to address the role of corporate money in financing its operations, among other issues.
DNC members backing both major chair candidates throughout the race echoed Schumer’s criticism of the committee’s previous inattentiveness to state and local party infrastructure. Several DNC members backing Perez told HuffPost in Atlanta that his experience rejuvenating the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division made him the best person to turn around the DNC.