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ATLANTA — Tom Perez on Saturday was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and was immediately forced to quell a budding rebellion among supporters of the candidate he defeated in a close vote, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota.

Ellison’s progressive supporters, angered by the results and shouting as the tally was announced, chanted: “Party for the people, not big money.” Perez moved to extinguish the brush fire and unify the party by installing Ellison as his deputy. At Perez’s direction, DNC members immediately voted, by acclamation, to elect Ellison DNC deputy chairman.

“We are at a turning point for our party and for all Americans,” Perez told the party faithful, gathered in the Atlanta convention center to elect a chairman slate of new leaders. “As I often say, this is a ‘Where were ya?’ moment.”

“By getting back to basics, we can turn the Democratic Party around, take the fight to Donald Trump, and win elections from school board to the Senate,” he added. “I’m humbled by this opportunity to lead our team, and that’s exactly what we’ll do together.”

Perez, President Barack Obama’s former labor secretary, defeated Ellison in the second round of voting after none of the candidates in the first round reached the winning threshold. The threshold in round two was 218 votes, and Perez won with 235. Ellison finished with 200.

Ellison had been endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who waged an upstart campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 against establishment favorite Hillary Clinton, who won that contest but lost in November to President Trump.

Sanders in that campaign, and since, has led an insurgency against the Democratic insiders in Washington. That has included trying to elect Ellison as DNC chairman.

The campaign unfolded as a proxy war of sorts between progressive insurgents loyal to Sanders, and establishment insiders generally supportive of Clinton and Obama. Indeed, most of Ellison’s endorsements came from party heavyweights like former Vice President Joe Biden.

Progressives, stunned and dismayed as outgoing interim DNC chair Donna Brazile announced Perez as the next party leader, brightened as he announced the nomination of Ellison to serve as his deputy.

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Still, it’s still unclear that the move will be enough to unite the Sanders and Obama wings of the party, divided since the 2016 presidential primary.

“We’re going to have to see, does Perez really include Keith in this? That will be a huge step in the right direction,” said Laurie Lockliear, an Ellison supporter from Atlanta. “If he doesn’t, my fear is it will be what happened with the Bernie and Hillary.”

Ellison implored his supporters to support Perez and remain engaged with the party.

“You love this country,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury, folks, of walking out of this room divided. We don’t have that luxury. And I just want to say to you that it is my honor to serve this party under the chairmanship of Tom Perez.”

Perez’s immediate challenge, and Ellison’s, to the extent he is involved, is to the unite a party fractured and depleted — in need of complete rebuild locally and nationally.

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To do that, he’ll need to convince the insurgent Democrats that follow Sanders, and are suspicious of the establishment, to stay active, that his leadership does not constitute business as usual.

During Obama’s eight years, Democrats lost majorities in the House and Senate, several governor’s mansions and nearly 1,000 seats in state legislatures.

That will require activism, and it’s unclear that Perez is positioned to encourage the kind of participation in the midterm cycle that Democrats will need if they’re to reclaim power in 2018. During a joint news conference with Ellison, Perez said he is committed to working with all wings the party.

“I like forward to listening and learning. I’ve already begun that, because we’re all in this together,” he said. “What is so important is for us to understand that what unites us far outweighs our differences.”

Perez’s victory is sure to relieve many Democrats.

They were concerned that an Ellison chairmanship would scare away major donors and discourage centrists and moderates from joining the party. There also was a deep concern that Jewish Democrats, a major force of activism inside the party, would reduce their commitment given Ellison’s past associations with anti-Semitic figures and harsh criticism of Israel.

Strong opposition to Trump has generated an explosion of liberal energy. Now Democrats have to figure out how to harness it and turn it into votes for their candidates, beginning this year in special elections for Congress and off-year elections in Virginia, where the race for governor is underway.

In the first round of voting for DNC chairman on Saturday, front-runners Ellison and Perez failed to clear the 50 percent-plus threshold among the 427 eligible voting members of the DNC who voted on first ballot.

Perez earned 213.5 votes (Democrats abroad each get one half of a vote,) one vote short of the threshold of 214.5 votes needed to win the election. Ellison came in second with 200 votes.



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