Critics expressed frustration that the list of 29 people that DNC chair Tom Perez announced on Wednesday included only two supporters of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, of whom just one was an ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
By Saturday morning, there were six more committee members, including DNC vice chair candidate and Sanders campaign veteran Melissa Byrne, Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb, an Our Revolution board member, and California Democratic National Committeeman Michael Kapp, all of whom backed Ellison in the DNC chair race. Liz Jaff, a young executive at the political crowdfunding site Crowdpac, who narrowly lost a bid for DNC vice chair after a campaign that earned the respect of diverse elements of the party, is also joining the advisory panel.
Figures from the more moderate wing of the party were added to the committee as well: Kevin O’Connor, assistant to the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters; and Mike Monroe, chief of staff for the AFLCIO’s building and construction trades department. The IAFF and several building trades unions, which have clashed with environmentalists over their support for pipeline construction, endorsed Perez in the chairmanship race.
Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for Tom Perez, said that the list of committee members was not final, since they are still adding more people.
“We want the transition team to be as diverse as possible and reflect the big tent of our party,” she said in a statement. “Tom Perez believes that everyone has something to add towards rebuilding our party and that is why we will continue to involve various leaders and activists from coast to coast.”
Perez’s decisions are fraught with particular significance for the party’s left flank, however. Many grassroots activists viewed Perez’s victory over Ellison in the DNC chairmanship race as yet another sign that the Democratic establishment is determined to marginalize the party’s populist wing, even after the establishment’s preferred candidate in Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. In a nod to these concerns and the historically close margin of the race, Perez named Ellison his deputy chair immediately after winning in late February.
But in drafting the first list of committee members, Perez apparently did not realize just how closely the contingent of Sanders loyalists is watching the DNC for evidence that they, and their priorities, are being excluded from party decision-making.
Winnie Wong, a founder of the People for Bernie Sanders, who was among the original committee’s critics, praised the addition of Sanders backers.
“Pleased to see the addition of Melissa Byrne and Jane Kleeb to the DNC transition advisory team,” Wong said. “They are both amazing organizers from the grassroots who can authentically rep the Bernie wing of the party.”
Author: Daniel Marans