Former labor secretary Tom Perez, a candidate for Democratic National Committee chairman, speaks during a DNC forum last week in Baltimore. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“We need a turnaround specialist because the Democratic Party needs to transform itself. It needs dramatic culture change.”

And Tom Perez thinks he is the person to do it. The former labor secretary under President Obama is now a leading contender in the crowded field to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The election is set for the weekend of Feb. 24 in Atlanta.

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“The first dimension of culture change … is we have to redefine our mission. It’s not simply the election of the president. It is the election of candidates from the school board to the Senate,” Perez said in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” He said that the best way to accomplish this is to make sure the endeavor is “a 12-month enterprise, not just a three-month enterprise before the election.”

President Trump’s successful campaign against Hillary Clinton and its message to voters also inform Perez’s thinking. “What voters heard was ‘he’s feeling my pain, he’s feeling my anxiety,’ ” said the strong campaign surrogate for Clinton. “And what they heard all too frequently from the Clinton campaign was, ‘Vote for me because he’s crazy.’ I will stipulate to the accuracy of that statement, but that’s not an affirmative message.”


Former labor secretary Tom Perez discusses his candidacy for chair of the Democratic National Committee on the “Cape Up” podcast at The Washington Post on Monday. (Carol Alderman/The Washington Post)

Listen to the podcast to hear what Perez thinks about the post-election concern for the white working class and whether he thinks it’s possible for a Democratic Party that plays well in California to also play well in Missouri. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), another leading candidate for DNC chair, will have his say in next week’s episode.

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever else you listen to podcasts.