Agriculture head backs Perez in DNC race

Agriculture head backs Perez in DNC race
© Getty

Outgoing Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE on Wednesday announced his endorsement of departing Labor Secretary Tom Perez for Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman.

“I don’t think Democrats have been focused on as present and as listening to rural voters as we need to be,” he said while revealing his support during a conference call with DNC members ahead of a Wednesday night debate between the candidates, according to NBC News.

“I know that he understands the necessity of the party spending time and resources and being physically present in rural areas, not just the month or two before the election, but throughout the year,” Vilsack added of his fellow Obama administration Cabinet member.

ADVERTISEMENT

NBC said Vilsack’s endorsement coincided with Perez’s announcement that his campaign will conduct a “listening tour” of rural America.

Perez’s trek begins on Feb. 6 in Wisconsin, it added, and will continue throughout the week at several yet-to-be-announced stops.

“Wisconsin saw firsthand what happens when Democrats fail to show up in every community,” said state Sen. Janet Bewley (D), who will host Perez in her district. "Tom understands that the Democratic turnaround begins with listening to and organizing Democrats in every community across the country.”

Democrats are reassessing their party’s future after Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Poll: Nearly half of Clinton's former supporters back Biden Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE, their 2016 presidential nominee, lost to President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE in November.

Trump defeated Clinton in part by wining traditionally Democratic strongholds like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin on Election Day.

Perez is widely considered one of two front-runners in the DNC race, with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) serving as his closest rival.

South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley and Idaho Democratic Party executive Sally Boynton Brown are the field’s state official.

Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Ind., is also running, while Democratic strategist and Fox News analyst Jehmu Greene entered the race last week.

The DNC chair election is scheduled for late February in Atlanta, with only the organization’s 447 members capable of casting a ballot for the next chair.