Former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed former Labor Secretary Tom Perez in the race for Democratic National Committee chair on Wednesday.
“I’ve known Tom Perez for a long time. He’s a man of integrity and vision,” Biden said in a statement. “And he knows what it means to be a Democrat—that we are a party that fights for economic fairness for working families and believes that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or who they love.”
The endorsement — Biden’s first political act since leaving office — is the most public sign yet that Perez has the backing of the highest ranking members of the Obama administration. Perez discussed running for DNC chair with top administration officials before he got into the race.
Capturing Biden’s backing deals a blow to the rest of the field, especially to Rep. Keith Ellison, Perez’s most high profile competitor. The Minnesota congressman worked early on in the race to round up top Democratic and progressive supporters, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“Vice-President Biden is known for loyalty to people he has worked with, and I can certainly appreciate him wanting to support Tom, who worked in the Administration,” Ellison said in a statement released shortly after Biden’s endorsement. “Democrats in every community tell me that winning elections is the number one job of the next DNC chair. I have won 16 primaries and general elections.”
Biden, in his statement, praised Perez’s tenure as a civil rights lawyer and Labor Secretary.
“And with Tom, it’s personal, as it’s always been for me. He’s never forgotten where he comes from and he’s anchored by a fundamental optimism in our country and the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things if given just a fair chance,” Biden said. “I’ve seen it the last eight years as he served as the nation’s top civil rights lawyer and as our Secretary of Labor. He’s stood up for workers, immigrants, and Americans living with disabilities. He’s fought for fair housing and protected the sacred right to vote. We’ve partnered together to help folks get the skills they need for good-paying, middle-class jobs. Most of all—Tom knows how to talk to people, not down to them. He knows how to explain why our party’s core beliefs matter to the immigrant family in Arizona and the coal miner in West Virginia. That matters.”
The endorsement comes less than a month before the 447 voting members of the DNC meet in Atlanta to pick a new chair. Besides Perez and Ellison, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown, and Democratic strategist Jehmu Greene are running to succeed interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile.
“We have a lot of good people vying for this important job. But I do think for this moment and in this time, Tom Perez is our best bet to help bring the party back. I’ve watched him work. I think I know his heart. That’s why I endorse him as the next Chairman of the DNC,” Biden said.