DNC chair on Iowa caucus debacle: ‘We’re going to talk about reforms’

Tom Perez after the first debate in Detroit | Andrew Roth

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez on Friday said that his organization will continue to discuss ways to minimize problems during the presidential nominating process. 

The Advance asked him if caucuses should be done away with after myriad problems in Iowa.

“We’re going to be talking about it,” Perez said after his appearance before about 50 Democrats in Northwest Detroit. “We’re going to be talking about reforms. We’ve already moved from 14 caucus states to seven caucus states in this cycle and we’re going to continue the conversation.”

DNC Char Tom Perez | Ken Coleman

Party members across the nation have expressed deep concern about the Iowa Caucus after a software glitch and a multi-layered vote counting process resulted in final tallies taking several days to become official. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, earlier this month questioned the caucus process.

“And so, I do think that the system is ripe for change,” Whitmer said on Feb. 7. 

Perez said during the Detroit visit that he doesn’t have process concerns with the upcoming Michigan primary, which will be held on March 10.

“We’re going to have a great primary here,” Perez said.

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Detroit meeting attendees included party organizers and precinct delegates, as well as Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes. Wayne County Executive Warren Evans; Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware; Jonathan Kinloch, 13th Democratic Congressional District chair; and Rick Blocker, 14th Democratic Congressional District chair, also attended. 

Attendees asked a wide range of questions, including the DNC’s commitment to engaging returning citizens, fully supporting U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) if he becomes the party’s nominee and respecting the African-American vote.

In 2016, now-President Donald Trump pulled out an upset in Michigan, after some Democrats believed the party took the state for granted.

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Virgie Rollins, Democratic National Committee Black Caucus chair and a Detroit resident, pointed out that it is rare to see a national party chair visit Michigan this early in a presidential election year.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for coming in, and it’s not even October,” Rollins said.

Keith Williams, a Detroit resident and chair of the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus, added: “It was a good thing for [Perez] to be here. He needs to hear us, and we need to come together to beat [President Donald] Trump.” 

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.