Former Montgomery County Councilman Tapped as U.S. Labor Secretary
Takoma Park’s Thomas Perez is Obama’s pick to succeed Solis.
President Barack Obama nominated Takoma Park resident and former Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez as U.S. Secretary of Labor on Monday, CBS News reported.
Perez served as secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation under Gov. Martin O’Malley from 2007 until his confirmation in October 2009 as an assistant attorney general heading the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Perez “knows what it's like to climb the ladder of opportunity,” Obama said in a video of Monday’s announcement posted on CBSNews.com. “He's the son of Dominican immigrants. He helped pay his way through college as a garbage collector and working at a warehouse. He went on to become the first lawyer in his family. So his story reminds us of this country's promise, that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is, you can make it if you try.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Perez would succeed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who resigned in January.
Republican reaction Monday showed Perez may not get a smooth ride to confirmation.
Sen. David Vitter (R) of Louisiana, who voted against Perez’s confirmation to his Justice Department post, pledged to block Perez’s latest nomination, The Washington Times reported.
Vitter called Perez’ work at the Justice Department to enforce the National Voter Registration Act “spotty” and “partisan,” The Times reported.
Perez became the first Latino elected to the County Council in 2002, serving District 5—which includes Burtonsville, Silver Spring, and Takoma Park, for one term. He was council president in 2005.
A 2006 bid for Maryland Attorney General was blocked by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which said Perez did not meet the prerequisite for the office of having practiced law in Maryland for at least 10 years. (Perez contended that his years as a federal prosecutor qualified him. The state’s highest court ruled it did not. Read more about the ruling from The Gazette.)
Words of praise for Perez poured in from around the state on Monday, including a bit of bipartisan backing from two former chiefs of opposing parties.
“Montgomery County and Maryland, Republicans and Democrats, and non-affiliated individuals can be proud of this nomination,” said a joint statement by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and John Kane, CEO of the Kane Company and a former Maryland Republican Party chairman. “We wholeheartedly support Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor. He has the experience and the passion, the values, and the intellect to really make a positive difference for our great nation.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who was on hand at the White House for the formal nomination announcement, said in a statement that Perez “worked diligently to find innovative ways to protect our State’s workforce in the toughest of times. From foreclosure prevention to living wage implementation to workforce development and skills training, Tom established an aggressive portfolio that helped Marylanders weather a changing new economy.”
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Pikesville said Perez would “bring to the position the depth of experience and management skills needed to continue to revive a beleaguered American work force during such a fragile time for our economy.”
Perez “has demonstrated that he is committed to addressing the challenges that confront hard-working men and women and the businesses that employ them,” U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington said in a statement. “I hope that my colleagues in the Senate quickly confirm his nomination so that he and the Administration can continue their efforts to put Americans back to work and boost economic growth.”