On Monday, President Barrack Obama named Montgomery County’s own Tom Perez to be the next U.S. Secretary of Labor. In going over his qualifications, the President spoke glowingly about Tom Perez’s ability as a consensus builder and that he has worked with a wide variety of people including CEOs, labor leaders and at the county, state and federal level. One group that Tom Perez has never worked with: Republicans.
Mr. Perez, who had worked for both Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton during the 1990s, began elected politics as a Montgomery County Councilman where as you may be shocked to learn there was only one Republican, and he didn’t last long. Perez went to run for Attorney General in 2006 but friends of Doug Gansler challenged his standings as being a lawyer long enough per the Maryland Constitution and got him successfully kicked off the ballot. Perez had to then wait around for Governor O’Malley to win, and was then named Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation for Maryland.
As with his time on the County Council, as Maryland DLLR Secretary there was no need to work with Republican legislators on anything. After the election of President Barrack Obama, Perez moved back to the Department of Justice and became the head of the Civil Rights division where he successfully sued states to stop those pesky voter ID laws, and failed to tell the whole truth about the politicization of the Civil Rights division.
Republicans don’t like Tom Perez. He’ll face an uphill battle in DC where Republicans sort of matter, but it won’t be enough to scuttle his nomination. The one case they will continually point to is the dropping of the New Black Panther voter intimidation in Philadelphia. Perez claimed that the political appointees weren’t involved in the decision to drop the case and that the decision was made by career professionals. When later confronted with e-mails in which the career professionals asked the political employees for advice, he said that didn’t constitute being “involved”.
Tom Perez will lead the Department of Labor with a heavy focus on the needs of organized labor. He won his primary to the Montgomery County Council thanks to the help of the AFL-CIO. It’s not that he owes them, it’s that the two of them see eye to eye and that’s why they backed him. This will be no change for the Obama Administration as Hilda Solis was loved by the AFL-CIO as well and was the first Hispanic in Obama’s cabinet.
With this new position for Perez’s political career, he will be a force in future elective politics since he obviously has the desire for that type of work. Whether he would attempt to come back and try to win Attorney General again, open to Lt. Governor, or if we would set him up to become a future Senator for Maryland, I have no doubt that this new position will be a continuation of large career… as long as he shaves that dirty looking goatee.