New Chairman Begins to Remake the Democratic National Committee

Image: Newly elected DNC Chair and former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez speaks during the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Winter Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, Feb. 25, 2017.
Newly elected DNC Chair and former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez speaks during the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Winter Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, Feb. 25, 2017.Erik S. Lesser / EPA

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By Alex Seitz-Wald

Tom Perez is beginning to make his mark on the Democratic National Committee with his first major personnel moves since winning the chairmanship last month.

With headcount at party headquarters near an all-time low, Perez will have many key decisions to make about how the party rebuilds after the devastating 2016 election and the turmoil surrounding hacked emails that lead to the abrupt departure of former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz last summer.

To guide his transition process, Perez on Wednesday tapped a wide range of Democrats for a transition advisory committee that will work over the next month or so to provide advice and recommendations.

The 30 members of the committee were selected to represent and highlight the party's broad coalition, from former Alaska Sen. Mark Begich to Black Lives Matters activist Deray McKesson to former South Carolina Gov. and DNC Chair Don Fowler to undocumented immigrant activist Astrid Silva.

“Our Democratic turnaround will be a success because everyone has a seat at the table” Perez said in a statement. “So I’m honored to have such a talented and diverse group of leaders guiding our transition process. Together we’ll right the ship and get the Democratic Party in a position to take the fight to Donald Trump and the Republican Party and win.”

With Democrats trying to repair their standing in the Rust Belt, the committee includes former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who was seen as a frontrunner to chair the DNC if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, along with several representatives of major labor unions.

And in a nod to Bernie Sanders allies, the committee includes freshman Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who won an election last year in Washington state with the backing of the Vermont senator.

The committee includes Pete Buttegieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who attracted national attention when he ran unsuccessfully for DNC Chair against Perez last month, along with other former DNC Chair and Vice Chair candidates, such as Sally Boynton Brown and Jehmu Greene.

Related: Perez grabs chairmanship in tight race

The DNC transition process will be chaired by two veteran Democratic operatives: Leah Daughtry was the CEO of Democrats' 2016 national convention in Philadelphia, while Chris Lu served as the executive director of former President Obama's 2008 presidential transition team and went on to serve as a deputy to Perez when he ran the Labor Department.

Democrats have been closely watching Perez's personnel decisions for hints about what direction he wants to take the party. Supporters of Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison, Perez' main rival in last month's hotly contested election, have urged Perez to bring on people who worked for Ellison or his ally Sanders.

Perez himself will spend much of the next few weeks outside the office, often joined by Ellison, as the two travel around the country to meet with local Democrats as part of their “Democratic Turnaround Tour."