Labor Secretary Tom Perez to join DNC race

Labor Secretary Tom Perez to join DNC race
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Labor Secretary Tom Perez will launch his campaign to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) this Thursday, a source with knowledge of his thinking told the Hill.

Perez is expected to announce his bid on a conference call with state Democratic chairman then, giving Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) his first serious challenger for the role.

The New York Times first confirmed Perez’s intentions with three senior Democrats familiar with the Obama administration official’s plans late Monday.

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Ellison, meanwhile, is planning on conducting a rally with the American Federation of Teachers and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCorker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death Gillum reached out to O’Rourke amid 2020 speculation: report O'Rourke spoke with Al Sharpton amid 2020 speculation MORE (I-Vt.) the day before Perez’s campaign launch, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

A spokesman for Ellison told the Post there would be no further comment until Perez officially began his bid, but the two other DNC chairmanship contenders praised his reported entry late Tuesday.

“Tom’s a good friend, a great Democrat, and I welcome him to the race,” said Jaime Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. "I’m a firm believer that iron sharpens iron.”

“I spoke with Secretary Perez today [and] welcomed him to the discussion about the future of the Democratic Party,” said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. "I am confident by the time the DNC meets in 10 weeks, the party will have ample opportunity to hear our plans and participate in an open and vibrant process.”

Perez was believed to be weighing other career options before Tuesday’s news, including a run for governor in his home state of Maryland in 2018.

Two sources close to Perez told The Hill last week that President Obama and Vice President Biden have privately encouraged him to seek the position.

Ellison is the current front-runner for the DNC chairmanship, however, having scored several endorsements from lawmakers and national labor groups like the AFL-CIO.

Democrats are wrestling with their party’s future after last month’s elections, when Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Ayers decision casts harsh light on Trump NASA offers to show Stephen Curry evidence from moon landings Freedom Caucus calls on leadership to include wall funding, end to 'catch and release' in funding bill MORE stunned Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing Press: Mueller closes in on Trump McCarthy dismisses Dem-led Trump probes MORE, their party’s nominee, to win the White House and Democrats failed to make significant gains in either chamber of Congress.

Jonathan Easley contributed