Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected as the chair of the Democratic National Committee, DNC, on Saturday, defeating Rep. Keith Ellison.
Perez, who began working for former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration in 2013, defeated Ellison 235 to 200 votes on a second ballot.
“With hard work and a hell of a lot of organizing, we will turn this party around,” Perez said on Saturday, the Washington Post reports.
Immediately after Perez won, nine Ellison supporters chanted “power of the people, not big money,” marching out of the room, the Washington Post also reports.
The son of Dominican immigrants is seen by many as an establishment pick. Receiving support from former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Perez supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, and believes the 2016 Democratic Primary was not rigged against Sen. Bernie Sanders.
DNC members voted in Atlanta, Georgia Saturday for the new chair, who will be responsible for rebuilding the party amid ongoing divisions after its shock presidential election defeat last year.
Voting began on Saturday morning for 447 members of the DNC. There were a total of seven candidates. Some of the tightest competition in years, the voting was almost certain to be pushed to later rounds, where a candidate is required to receive a majority of votes to win.
Perez, who was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, was seen as the preferred choice for Obama and former Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, was backed by progressives within the party, including Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Others candidates for the job included Sally Boynton Brown, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party; Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana; Jehmu Greene, a Democratic strategist from Texas; Peter Peckarsky, a Wisconsin lawyer; and Sam Ronan, a U.S. Air Force veteran.
In the wake of the party’s shock election defeat for Clinton, many have seen the vote as a key step for the future of party, particularly with the current divide between traditional and progressive factions.
Former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned after the scandal over hacked email accounts within the party, which appeared to show committee officials rigging the primaries in favor of Clinton. Many name the email scandal – which also revealed Clinton's private emails while Secretary of State – as a major factor in Clinton's election loss to Donald Trump.
In the first two voting rounds, if no candidate can secure a majority, the candidate with the least amount of votes will be eliminated in the following rounds until one candidate wins a majority.
Prior to Perez's election, members voted to reject a measure that would have restored a ban on corporate lobbyists donating to the party. A number of speakers were present at the vote, urging the party to unify.