The Latest: Obama congratulates Perez as new DNC leader

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the selection of a new national leader of the Democratic Party (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

Former President Barack Obama has congratulated Tom Perez on his election to lead the Democratic Party and commended his decision to ask runner-up Keith Ellison to be his deputy.

Obama said in a statement that he knows "Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity, and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much."

Perez, who was labor secretary under Obama, won the top party job on the second ballot Saturday at the Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta.

He is the first Latino to hold the post.

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3:35 p.m.

In a show of unity, newly minted Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has picked runner-up Keith Ellison to be deputy chairman.

Perez won the top job on the second ballot Saturday at the DNC meeting in Atlanta. Perez, who was labor secretary under President Barack Obama, immediately asked members to make Ellison the deputy.

In remarks to the gathering, Ellison stressed the need for a unified party despite the divisions between establishment Democrats who backed Perez and the liberal wing that favored Ellison.

The Minnesota congressman spoke of the "earnest work we must do to confront Donald Trump" as well as creating a country where everyone can aspire to a good life.

Ellison said he and all his supporters were going to help Perez as the party tries to get back to its winning ways.

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3:20 p.m.

Democrats have a new national party chairman and it's Tom Perez, who was labor secretary under President Barack Obama.

Perez won over Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman, in the second round of voting Saturday by Democratic National Committee members at their meeting in Atlanta.

Perez gave a speech before the vote, and he said Democrats face "a crisis of confidence" and a "crisis of relevance." He pledged to "take the fight" to Trump and "right-wing Republicans."

The Democrats' power-deficit is stark.

Republicans occupy the White House, run both chambers of Congress and control about two-thirds of U.S. statehouses.

Perez and Ellison each pledged to rebuild state and local parties, including in Republican-dominated states. Both said the party must capitalize on widespread opposition to Trump but also work to reach frustrated working-class voters who felt abandoned Democrats and embraced Trump.

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2:35 p.m.

Several candidates for Democratic Party leader have bowed out — and that's left a showdown between Tom Perez — labor secretary under President Barack Obama — and Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman.

It takes 214.5 votes to win — and Perez has come up just one short in the first round of voting Saturday by members of the Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta. Ellison captured 200 votes.

That's allowed several candidates who won captured a dozen or so votes to step away, heading into the second round of voting.

Sally Boynton Brown, who got 12 votes, exited the race without making an endorsement.

Samuel Ronan praised both candidates as he departed the race.

Jehmu Greene endorsed Perez, and Peter Peckarsky backed Ellison.

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2:20 p.m.

Democrats have held their first round of voting for a new party leader, and there's no winner yet.

Former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez has fallen just short a majority for victory, but not far behind is Keith Ellison a Minnesota congressman.

So members of the Democratic National Committee are set to move ahead with a second round of voting at their meeting in Atlanta.

A group of long-shot candidates captured enough votes to require another round of voting. Perez and Ellison will try to win over their backers to secure a majority.

Perez and Ellison each promise to oppose President Donald Trump and rebuild state and local Democratic organizations.

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1:05 p.m.

The national Democratic chairman's race is narrowing before party activists even cast ballots.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, told Democratic National Committee members Saturday that he did not have the votes and was removing his name from consideration.

That increases the likelihood that former Labor Secretary Tom Perez or Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison could win the job without a marathon voting session.

There still are six candidates, and the winner must win a majority.

Buttigieg had campaigned as an outsider promising "a fresh start." He had hoped neither Ellison nor Perez could reach a majority, opening the door for another option.

Buttigieg urged the party to "look outside Washington" to find its way back.

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12:50 p.m.

A congressman who wants to head the Democratic National Committee says his party is in "this mess because we lost not one election, but a thousand elections" at all levels around the country.

Keith Ellison of Minnesota says he'll turn around the party's fortune if he's elected DNC chairman.

He made his comments before party activists meeting in Atlanta. The vote is expected later Saturday.

Whatever the outcome, Ellison says it's important that the party is unified after the gathering as Democrats work to counter President Donald Trump.

He says: "We've got to come out of here, hand in hand, brothers and sisters, because Trump is right outside of that door, and not just Trump, but Trumpism."

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12:30 p.m.

A leading candidate to be Democratic Party chairman says his party is "suffering from a crisis of confidence, a crisis of relevance" after the election of Donald Trump as president.

Tom Perez is pledging that if he's elected chairman, he'll help "turn this party around and get Democrats winning again."

The former labor secretary under President Barack Obama says "a united Democratic Party is not only our best hope, it is Donald Trump's worst nightmare."

Perez spoke before party activists in Atlanta, as the Democratic National Committee neared a vote on a new leader.

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12 p.m.

The outgoing Democratic Party chief is addressing cybersecurity concerns after internal communications were stolen by hackers and leaked during the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. intelligence officials blame Russian agents.

Donna Brazile tells Democratic National Committee members gathered in Atlanta that the party has worked with high-tech experts to leave the party more secure.

She chides President Donald Trump for his mockery of DNC cybersecurity and his doubts that Russians are at fault.

Brazile is urging Congress to investigate whether Russians hacked the Republican National Committee.

No RNC emails were leaked during the 2016 campaign. Republican officials insist their party communications were not breached.

Brazile suggests that proves Russians wanted to help Trump.

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9:55 a.m.

Democratic officials are in new territory with a competitive election for party chief.

In past races, a leading candidate usually emerged well before actual voting.

This time, there's a high likelihood that will take multiple rounds of voting for former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez or a Minnesota congressman, Keith Ellison, or a dark horse candidate to win a majority.

So, party staff and 442 eligible DNC members have had to dust off complicated rules that usually don't matter.

For example, party officials expect about 70 or 75 members to be absent. Nearly all have designated another member to cast paper proxy ballots on their behalf.

That will add a layer of suspense. Members in the room vote electronically, with quick tallies. But the paper proxies must be counted by hand.

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9:35 a.m.

The Democratic National Committee has resumed its meeting in Atlanta and on the agenda later in the morning is the election of a new chairman to lead the party in the era of Republican President Donald Trump.

The top contenders are Tom Perez, labor secretary under President Barack Obama, and Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman. Other candidates are maintaining long-shot bids.

The election for party chief involves 442 eligible members of the national party committee. The winner must capture a majority of votes cast. The DNC will have as many rounds of voting as it takes for a new chairman to emerge.

Perez, Ellison and other Democrats agree on the need to rebuild the party at the state and local levels. They say those organizations then can capitalize on the widespread opposition to Trump by getting frustrated voters to elect more Democrats.

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9:20 a.m.

Democrats are gathering in Atlanta to pick a new national chairman — and the vote seems to be coming down to Tom Perez, labor secretary under President Barack Obama, and Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman.

Those voting in Saturday's race include hundreds of state party leaders, donors and activists who make up the Democratic National Committee and determine the party's direction.

Perez supporters say he's on the edge of the required majority. Ellison says he's still a viable candidate.

A few other candidates are holding out hope that neither Ellison nor Perez can seal the deal — and that would open up the race for an upset in later rounds of voting.

The election is seen as the start of party rebuilding after Donald Trump's presidential victory.

Feb. 25, 2017 4:30 PM EST

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