Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez arrived fashionably late to a backyard soiree in Frederick on Thursday night.
He’d been on a call about how the party could help Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) in his race to unseat Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in the Bluegrass State.
“We’ve got 398 days ‘til the weekend,” said Perez, who’s been to Mexico, Nevada, Montana and New York in the past week.
Perez said he’s traveling everywhere because the party has opportunity everywhere, including in places like Frederick, which has become increasingly Democratic in recent years.
Perez was speaking at a fundraiser for the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee.
While Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. won the county handily in 2018, so did Democratic County Executive Jan Gardner.
Democratic registration in the county has been rapidly catching up to Republican registration.
At the 2016 general election, Republican registrations outnumbered registered Democrats by more than 5,000. That figure was cut by more than half in 2018 and, as of Sept. 1, was down to 803.
Deborah Carter, the county’s Democratic Central Committee chairwoman, said Democratic registrations could overtake Republican registrations by the end of this year. The central committee doesn’t get involved in primary elections but plans to come out in force for the party’s presidential nominee in 2020, Carter said.
Asked in an interview what the DNC’s strategy is in purple places like Frederick, Perez said it’s simple.
“It’s a very straightforward message: Who has your back on the issues that matter most?” he said. “It’s Democrats. Our message is very clear in urban, rural, Western Maryland, Eastern Shore: health and education is what it’s all about.”
During remarks from the back porch of hosts Jim and Tracy Racheff, Perez encouraged the crowd to stay involved in the presidential primary race, but also to keep an eye on coming together to defeat President Trump.
“At the end of the day, if we want to govern, we must first win. We cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the very, very good,” Perez said.
He defended the party’s debate process as fair and transparent, and noted that Democratic candidates’ platforms all broadly support the party’s biggest priorities.
“Please make sure that we never conflate unity and unanimity. Our unity of values is our greatest strength,” he said. “…So we’ve got a ton of folks running for president – that’s a good thing. …I’ve never met a coach who said, ‘I don’t like my team, we’ve got too much depth.’”
Perez said he approaches fundraisers like Thursday’s with concern about what he sees as the threat of Trump’s continued presidency, and also optimism about Democratic party mobilization across the country.
“I come to you not only borne out of sobriety due to the fact that we have a lunatic in the White House. But I also come to you with optimism because on the darkest nights you do see the brightest stars. And I’ve had the privilege of a lifetime to travel America and see so many of the brightest stars,” Perez said.
One of them, Perez said, is Congressman Jamie Raskin (D), a Constitutional law professor and House Judiciary Committee member who represents a portion of Frederick County.
“Jamie’s been kicking butt,” Perez said, drawing spirited applause from the crowd. “It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Jamie’s work. He is exposing this abuse of power.”
Perez said he’s worried about the strains on the federal government workforce, where he worked for more than 20 years, about half of it as a career worker.
“Career professionals are the spine of every federal agency. They’re the glue that holds it together. …Career civil servants are taking it on the chin,” Perez said.
And while Perez said it was a courageous act by the whistleblower who filed a complaint against the White House that touched off formal impeachment proceedings, he also worries that person will be publicly revealed and placed at risk.
“Leaders set the tone. And this president sets a horrific tone. And he has blood on his hands. There’s no doubt in my mind about it,” Perez said.
One set of races that could build momentum to take over the White House in 2020 is for the Virginia General Assembly, Perez said.
Perez encouraged attendees to help candidates in the Virginia General Assembly elections, where all 140 seats of the House and Senate will be decided on Nov. 5. In the 2017 elections in that state, the Republican party lost 15 seats in the House, maintaining a narrow 51-49 victory after a tie race and coinflip in the 94th District.
“We need your help across the river,” he said.