Key House Democrat says Perez must go: ‘He doesn’t lead on anything’
A top Democratic voice on election reform is calling for the ouster of Tom Perez, the powerful chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who has come under fire following the Iowa caucuses.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the House Administration Committee’s subpanel on elections, said Perez has failed to take responsibility for the Iowa vote-counting debacle as it unfolded this week, instead shifting blame on lower-ranking party leaders in Des Moines.
“It’s a lack of leadership,” Fudge told The Hill on Friday during a brief interview in the Capitol. “If you have the Iowa situation you don’t throw them under the bus, you stand up and you support and you try to fix it. He doesn’t lead on anything.”
Fudge, the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, also accused Perez of neglecting DNC promises to diversify the organization with more minority leaders, citing as an example the DNC’s recent personnel shake up in Milwaukee, where the Democrats are set to hold their convention in July.
“You know, they’re always talking about how diversity is important,” said Fudge, who had endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) in the Democratic presidential race. Harris has since dropped out of the contest.
“He doesn’t care anything about diversity. It’s just lip service,” Fudge said of Perez.
Fudge’s discontent with Perez was first reported by Politico. She expanded on the reasons on Friday.
Fudge also went after Perez over reports that the DNC had approved — and later retracted — a lucrative exit package for the chairman and two of his top deputies.
“It’s a combination of many things,” she said. Iowa was simply “the tipping point.”
“I absolutely have seen no leadership — since Day One,” she said.
Fudge said she has no one in mind to replace Perez.
“Just somebody who can run an organization [and] be responsive to the people that he serves,” she said. “That’s all I want to see.”
DNC officials did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. In a statement Thursday, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price personally took responsibility for the “unacceptable” caucus meltdown, but said his team needed to stay focused on collecting and analyzing the incoming results.
Democrats had hoped the Iowa caucuses, the first contest of the primary season, would jump-start the party’s bid to unseat President Trump in November. Instead, it proved an enormous embarrassment after a series of technical glitches delayed the vote counting. By Friday afternoon, The Associated Press had still not declared an official winner, though it appeared that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., were leading the pack.
Facing pressure, Perez on Thursday called for a recanvass — but not a recount — following days of confusion over the caucus results.
“Enough is enough,” Perez tweeted. “In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”
It’s hardly the first time Perez has taken fire from Capitol Hill Democrats. To win the race for DNC chairman in 2017, Perez, who served as former President Obama’s Labor secretary, defeated Keith Ellison, a former Minnesota congressman and Black Caucus head.
Then, as now, Ellison was a vocal supporter of Sanders’s presidential primary run, and Perez’s entry into the race — and ultimate victory over Ellison — was panned by many liberals as a case of establishment Democrats tipping the scales in favor of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton.
Following this week’s Iowa fiasco, other high-profile Democrats are calling for heads to roll but stopped short of specifically demanding Perez’s ouster.
“What’s happened in Iowa is a complete disgrace and someone needs to be held responsible,” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the progressive freshman and key Sanders ally, told The Hill as she descended the steps of the Capitol on Friday.
“I think there’s a conversation needed around taking responsibility for Iowa and ensuring that this bungled process never happens again,” she said.
Another Sanders backer, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), said the Democratic Party had three years to plan for the Iowa caucuses and called it “devastating” that protocols were not put in place to avoid Tuesday’s failures.
“I would say Tom Perez should be held accountable for this failure. I believe it all starts from the top. There are things that Tom should do and should have done,” Omar told The Hill on Friday. “If this was happening in my home state, we would be having a serious conversation about what accountability would look like for our own chair.”
While a state lawmaker, Omar backed Eillison to lead the DNC; she later won Ellison’s House seat after he won the race to become Minnesota’s attorney general.
“I was very supportive of Keith,” Omar said.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus who recently endorsed Sanders, called the Iowa debacle a “national embarrassment” that has already had serious consequences on the primary race. She said Sanders’s rival Buttigieg declared victory in Iowa with the official results still outstanding and managed to raise more than $2.5 million this week.
“I’m sure there is shared blame to go around. I don’t think we should blame just one person,” Jayapal said. “But Tom Perez is the head of the DNC, and I do think that there clearly was not the process in place to make sure all these [protocols] were going to be followed.”
Jayapal said she’s directing most of her attention on Friday night’s Democratic presidential debate and the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.
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