Labor Secretary Tom Perez to join DNC race

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 SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness 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 TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE stunned Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida 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 

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