Bernie Sanders, DNC chair Perez to rally in Maine after rough 2016

Posted April 07, 2017, at 11:32 a.m.
Last modified April 07, 2017, at 11:51 a.m.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will rally this month in Maine and at least four other states where Democrats were knocked back in 2016, just weeks after Perez defeated Sanders’s preferred candidate to run the DNC.

“We’ll be traveling — and Tom will be traveling with me — to traditionally conservative states,” Sanders, an independent progressive from Vermont, said. “It’s absolutely absurd that the Democratic Party has turned its back on working people in literally half the country.”

“We’ve talked a lot about the need to compete everywhere, and when we talked about a 57-state-and-territory strategy, we meant it,” Perez said.

The duo will rally in Maine on April 17. The location and venue haven’t been released. Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Cara Scozzafava said details will come by Monday.

Sanders won Maine’s Democratic presidential caucuses easily over Hillary Clinton. She won the nomination but lost the general election to President Donald Trump. Clinton won Maine, but Trump won the rural 2nd Congressional District in a historic split of the state’s electors.

After the Maine stop, Sanders and Perez will wind through the South and Southwest until April 22, hitting Kentucky, Florida, Arizona and Nevada. More stops and more DNC investments are possible in Nebraska, where Democrats hope to win back the mayoralty of Omaha, and in Montana, where a Sanders-backed House candidate has begun to attract attention ahead of a special election.

“This is part of our effort to revitalize the Democratic Party, to turn it into a grass-roots party — to tell people that Donald Trump’s agenda is not what he promised them,” Sanders said. “On issue after issue, he’s turned his back on working people and sided with the millionaire class.”

Sanders was an early and vital backer of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, Perez’s chief rival for the DNC job; he pointedly criticized Democrats for urging Perez into the race.

“Running for chair, Tom said that his views were not substantially different than Keith Ellison’s, who I strongly supported,” Sanders said. “I’m sorry he did not win. But during that campaign, Tom said that the Democratic Party had to be refocused, had to be rebuilt, and I trust that he will keep those promises. The fact that he’s prepared to travel with me around the country and pick up half the cost of this is a positive sign.”

Perez said he and Sanders had met several times, most recently on Wednesday at his office near the Capitol. The weeklong trip resembled shorter trips Perez and Ellison had taken together — the newsiest taking them to New Jersey, where Perez happily courted controversy by saying Republicans did “not give a s—t about people.”

An outstanding issue of whether Sanders would let the DNC use the email list he built during his 2016 presidential bid had not been resolved.

“We haven’t had that discussion,” Perez said.

BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

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