WASHINGTON — Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is running for governor of his home state of Maryland, where the outgoing Republican governor has proven immensely popular despite the state’s heavy Democratic tilt.
Perez led the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and then served as labor secretary under President Barack Obama. He was elected to lead the DNC in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016.
When his term as DNC chair ended earlier this year, Perez was replaced by current chairman Jaime Harrison, who ran for Senate in South Carolina last year.
Perez’ five-minute video announcing his candidacy delves deep into his biography as the son of immigrants who once worked as a garbage collector. His daughter says Perez came to all her soccer games despite his busy schedule.
And it leans heavily on Perez’s work for Obama, who once called Perez “one of the best secretaries of labor in our history” and a “tireless,” “wicked smart” and “extraordinary” advocate of working people.
Perez’s tenure as DNC chair started rocky amidst raw emotions after the 2016 election, but the party won back the presidency and House during his tenure.
Maryland goes heavily Democratic in presidential elections but, like its fellow Northeast liberal states Massachusetts and Vermont, currently has a popular Republican governor.
Larry Hogan won his first election in 2014 during a GOP wave, but he cruised to re-election on his own in 2018. He is now term-limited and cannot run again, though Republicans hope to hold the seat.
Perez enters the race with widespread name recognition, connections to national donors and some key local endorsements, but he is hardly alone in the race.
After eight years of a Republican governor, several high-level Maryland Democrats rushed to throw their hat in the ring, including several prominent local officials and another former Cabinet secretary, John King Jr., who briefly led the Education Department during the final months of the Obama administration.