Election 2020

Perez's DNC Pitch: Go to 'Suburb and Exurb and Rural America and Talk to People'

Labor Secretary Tom Perez arrives for a news conference at the Treasury Department in Washington on June 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Vying to lead the Democratic National Committee, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said he jumped in the race to lead the party “to communicate our message of opportunity and inclusion, that optimistic message.”

“We have to get back to basics,” Perez told MSNBC. “…We’ve got to organize, organize, organize. And we’ve got to make sure we build those relationships with state parties because we’ve lost touch with our voters.”

Perez is competing against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the Progressive Caucus co-chairman who said he would resign from Congress if elected to lead the DNC, as well as state party chairs from Idaho, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean withdrew from the race at the beginning of the month.

The party will elect their new chairman at the end of February.

Perez said he’s “a big believer in data analytics” to rally the party, “but at the same time, data analytics cannot be a substitute for persuasion and organizing.”

“And I’m also a believer, you know, in what Howard Dean called that 50-state strategy. I would call it a 57-state strategy, because we’ve got to include the territories and the District of Columbia,” he said. “And we’ve got to empower our states. We’ve got to talk to people everywhere. We’ve got to build a bench of candidates — if we’re going to take over the redistricting process, we’ve got to be running candidates for state legislature. And the way you do that is to get out there in the communities, not just in urban areas, but in suburb and exurb and rural America and talk to people and listen.”

“And that’s what I’ve been doing, you know, my entire career, is being an active listener, fighting for the values that people care about, whether it was taking on Joe Arpaio in Arizona, whether it was taking on Texas on the voter ID cases, whether it was fighting Wall Street, because so many people got screwed by this foreclosure crisis and I helped negotiate the two largest fair lending settlements in our department’s history under The Fair Housing Act.”

Perez said the race “isn’t about Bernie Sanders, it’s not about Barack Obama, it’s not about Hillary Clinton… it’s about who can take the fight to Donald Trump and win.”

“And I think it’s really important to have somebody who has a proven track record in taking complex organizations and leading them and succeeding. And that’s what I’ve been able to do at the Labor Department and before that at the Justice Department,” he said. Perez formerly led the Civil Rights Division at DOJ.

“Donald Trump and his billionaire boys club, you know, their vision of America is not our vision of America,” Perez added. “And I don’t think it’s the vision of the majority of Americans.”