Friday, January 20, 2017

Vilsack says naming former labor secretary Perez DNC chair could help party win back rural voters

Tom Perez (Getty Images)
Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said electing outgoing Secretary of Labor Tom Perez chairman of the Democratic National Committee can help Democrats win back rural areas, Alex Seitz-Ward reports for NBC News. Vilsack, who said Democrats have failed to pay attention to rural voters, "said Perez could change that by educating people who have drifted away from the Democratic Party about what government can do for them."

Vilsack said in a conference call with reporters: "I know that he understands the necessity of the party spending time and resources and being physically present in rural areas, not just the month or two before the election, but throughout the year."

Seitz-Ward writes, "In fielding questions from DNC members who represent rural states, Perez repeatedly recalled one trip he took to coal country in Kentucky, and admitted he doesn't know how the party should thread the needle between urban and rural areas on the divisive issue of guns." While in Eastern Kentucky Perez attended a meeting of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, which is focused on revitalizing the economies of an area hurt by the loss of coal jobs.

Betty Richie, a Texas Democrat who chairs the DNC's Rural Council, "said she was thrilled Perez reached out to her group and is taking this issue seriously," Seitz-Ward writes. She said "Democrats do remain in rural areas are 'uncomfortable" speaking up in an increasingly urbanized party," telling Seitz-Ward, "We have found that our voices are not resounding with the rural voters."

Perez will begin a listening tour Feb. 6 in Wisconsin, Seitz-Ward writes. "The DNC chair election will be held in late February at a party meeting in Atlanta. Only the 447 members of the DNC may cast a ballot."

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