The 59-year-old attorney and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee will launch his campaign at the Silver Spring Civic Center at 10 a.m.
He will join a growing list of Democratic candidates — all men, so far — in seeking to succeed Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Maryland’s popular and term-limited governor, in the 2022 elections.
Former Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) is expected to speak on Perez’s behalf. The two served on the Montgomery County Council, though not at the same time.
In an interview, Perez said that after speaking with people around the state since February, he concluded that the public is hungry for a leader who brings “a progressive vision” and the ability to solve problems.
“The more I listened and learned, the more motivated I became to run for governor,” he said. “I’ve spent my whole life fighting for jobs and justice. I really think we need a governor who can meet the moment.”
Perez said he would focus on boosting broadband access and off-shore wind production, reforming police agencies and fixing Maryland’s unemployment benefits system.
“We have been falling behind other states on these critical issues,” he said. “I think we can do so much more to make sure that every Marylander has a fair shake.”
He said he would run the state in a more collaborative manner than Hogan, consulting with local leaders regularly, rather than forcing them to learn about policy changes at press conferences.
Perez’s bio is a blur of accomplishment and consequential posts.
After getting a degree from Harvard, Perez clerked for a federal judge in Colorado, worked as a prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, served as deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights under Janet Reno, was Sen. Ted Kennedy’s top advisor on civil rights and criminal justice issues, and steered the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
He’s taught law school in Maryland and D.C., and he served on the Montgomery County Council for one term.
His 2006 bid to become state attorney general was thwarted by a legal challenge from a Republican who argued he hadn’t lived in Maryland for ten years, as required. He was tapped for a Cabinet post — leading the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation — by Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D) the following year.
Perez was President Obama’s pick to become assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, then he became U.S. secretary of labor. In 2017 he was elected chairman of the Democratic Party.
A longtime resident of Takoma Park, Perez is now a partner at a D.C. law firm.
His campaign launch includes a video in which the former president, speaking from the White House press room, lavishes praises on Perez, calling him “one of the best Secretaries of Labor in our history.”
“He is tireless. He is wicked smart. If you look at his body of work on behalf of working people, he has been extraordinary,” Obama says.
The clips could prove valuable in a primary in which several candidates are stressing their connections to the 44th president.
Perez joins an increasingly crowded field of Democratic candidates that includes former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, nonprofit executive Jon Baron, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, former state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, former Obama Administration official Ashwani K. Jain, former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., author and former anti-poverty CEO Wes Moore, and Baltimore tech entrepreneur Michael Rosenbaum.
Perez was the first Latino ever elected to the Montgomery Council, the first to serve as state labor secretary, and the first to run the DNC. If elected next year, he would become Maryland’s first Latino governor.
While he said he is proud of his “firsts,” “the need to help people” is his primary focus.
“I am most motivated by the desire to make sure that we are serving people well, and that everybody is getting access to opportunity.”
He acknowledged that — when it comes to gubernatorial races, where Republicans have won three of the last five races — Maryland is “a purple state.”
His strategy, he said, will be to “organize everywhere.”
“We are leaving no county behind,” he said. “Those strategies of decades past where you focus on just a few jurisdictions is politically stupid and morally bankrupt. I want to be a governor for everyone.”
By Bruce DePuyt