House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is backing former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez in his bid to become Maryland’s next governor, a high-profile endorsement that could provide a significant boost in the crowded Democratic primary.
She said Perez stood up for voting rights and fought for civil rights when he served at the U.S. Department of Justice, and pushed for workers’ rights and increased wages as labor secretary during the Obama administration. She credited Perez’s leadership at the Democratic National Committee for helping Democrats take control of Congress and the election of Joe Biden.
“Maryland has an opportunity to flip from red to blue, and the most qualified person to do just that is my friend Tom Perez,” Pelosi said in a video endorsement.
“Speaker Pelosi is a transformational leader who has spent her entire career in fierce pursuit of justice for America’s children and families,” Perez said in a statement. “I could not be more proud to receive her endorsement.”
While the endorsement is not entirely unexpected, given Perez’s national profile in the Obama administration and as former chairman of the DNC, it could give him an edge in a race where no candidate has emerged as a clear front-runner for the nomination.
“One of the big things facing all of the candidates is name recognition, and … there are a handful of national figures that an average primary voter could identify, and having such a high-profile endorsement like that certainly does help to generate attention on the race,” said Mileah Kromer, an associate political science professor and director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College. “What will be most significant is not just the endorsement itself: It’s whether the endorsement comes with additional resources, if she helps drive up his fundraising efforts, if she appears alongside him here in the state.”
Perez is competing against former Prince George’s County executive Rushern L. Baker III, former nonprofit executive Jon Baron, state Comptroller Peter Franchot, former Maryland attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, former Montgomery County Council candidate Ashwani Jain, former U.S. education secretary John B. King Jr., and author and former nonprofit executive Wes Moore. Former businessman Mike Rosenbaum, who was expected to self-finance, dropped out of the race last month.
Pelosi’s endorsement is the most prominent in the Democratic primary so far. Last month, former president Donald Trump announced he was backing Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick) in his bid for the Republican nomination.
According to his campaign website, Perez has received endorsements from his former opponent for leadership of the DNC, Keith Ellison, now Minnesota’s attorney general; several labor unions, including AFSCME Council 3, which represents most state workers; former Maryland Democratic Party chairwoman Kathleen Matthews; and a few state lawmakers, including Sen. Cory V. McCray and Del. Luke H. Clippinger, both of Baltimore.
Pelosi mentions in her video endorsement that Maryland is a state that she “deeply cares about.” The California congresswoman’s roots are in Maryland. She grew up in Baltimore, and her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., served in the Maryland congressional delegation and later as Baltimore City mayor. Her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III, also served as mayor of the city.