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Democrats stress unity after electing Tom Perez as chair at Atlanta meeting

Tom Perez Tom Perez huddles with a colleague before the results of the first ballot are announced (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta

The Democratic National Committee came to Atlanta this week almost equally divided between two candidates for chairman – former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Congressman Keith Ellison.

But on Saturday, after the election went to second ballot of voting, Perez won the chairmanship in a vote of 235 to 200.

The first act Perez did as chairman was to make a motion that he had “discussed with a good friend Keith Ellison” to appoint the congressman as deputy chairman of the DNC.

The motion passed through a vote of acclamation.

Tom Perez

Tom Perez huddles with a colleague before the results of the first ballot are announced (Photo by Maria Saporta)

It could have turned out much differently. The first vote (which needed a threshold of 214.5) was nearly split down the middle. Perez received 213.5 votes and Ellison received 210 votes with another 13.5 votes going to other candidates.

Either way history would have been made. Perez became the first Latino to chair the Democratic Party. Ellison would have been the first Muslim.

During the election process, Ellison supporters were more vocally enthusiastic – many of them part of the Bernie Sanders campaign for president, while the Perez supporters were a bit more restrained. But in the end, the votes spoke louder.

“I’m very, very proud of Chairman Perez,” Ellison said after he was voted in as deputy chairman. “In this race, he conducted himself with tremendous class and grace.”

Ellison also said the Democrats refused to form a circular firing squad – where they would have destroyed each other and the party. Instead, he asked all his supporters to stand up and support Perez.

“We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided,” Ellison said. “It is my honor to serve this party under the chairmanship of Tom Perez.”

Then Perez took to the podium where he pointed out one of the placards in the audience that said “Unite.” He said the Democratic Party would lead with its values including its love of the diversity and robust discussions. He urged everyone to take special note of this moment – 2017 “when we had the worst president in the history of the United States.”

Courtney and Matt

Atlanta School Board Chair Courtney English watches the proceedings with APS board member Matt Westmoreland (Photo by Maria Saporta)

And then he pledged that the Democrats would have a 50-state strategy and compete in every zip code so they would be victorious in upcoming elections in Montana and the 6th Congressional District in Georgia.

Many local Democratic leaders were part of the national gathering, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who was there with his brother Tracy Reed; Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, Atlanta Board of Education members – Courtney English and Matt Westmoreland.

At times the meeting seemed to be disorganized coming as different folks tried to balance an array of different interests. It certainly took longer than people had expected.

Outgoing Chairwoman Donna Brazile dispelled with electronic voting – opting instead for paper ballots that could not be hacked in some way.

The chairman was finally elected after 3 p.m., more than five hours after the meeting had begun on Saturday. Counting the paper ballots by hand ended up taking more time.

And there were still several other elections that were destined to drag out until the evening – those of treasurer, secretary, national finance chair, vice chair for civic engagement and voter participation and three vice chairs at large.

DNC - Kelly

DNC folks for Keith Ellison (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

DNC - Kelly

At DNC Winter Meeting (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

DNC - Kelly

On the way to the DNC meeting – through John Portman’s walkways and bridges – lined with signs (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

DNC - Kelly

More walkways on way to DNC meeting Saturday at AmericasMart (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

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On the way to DNC meeting (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

DNC meet

Democratic gathering in Atlanta on Saturday at the AmericasMart seemed a bit disorganized – especially before the election (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Tracy and Kasim Reed

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed chats with friends as his brother Tracy looks on (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Donna Brazile

Donna Brazile, interim chair of the party, presides over resolutions on Democratic positions on Friday at the Westin Peachtree Plaza

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. Burroughston Broch February 26, 2017 9:51 am

    The Democratic National Committee stressed unity during the 2016 election and tried to insure it by fixing the selection of Hillary Clinton and stifling all challengers. We all know how well that turned out.
    Now they are doing the same thing again, with a different public face but the same leaders in control. It seems to me they think they can repeat 2016 with a few minor changes and be successful. If I am correct then they are fools and will drive the Democratic Party to oblivion, like the Federalists and Whigs.
    If the Democrats do not return to strength by 2020 at the latest, they will be further minimalized when legislative districts are realigned, beginning in late 2020.Report


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