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Tom Perez: 2017 wins are a start, but every ZIP code counts

What led to Democrats’ election success on Tuesday? Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez joins Judy Woodruff to take stock of the energy coming out of the 2017 victories.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to our top story: the Democratic Party's big victories last night and the message voters sent to Washington.

    I spoke with Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, about this earlier today and what led to the party's success.

  • Tom Perez:

    I think we're making real progress, Judy.

    We had a very good night last night. We put our game plan into action. Our game plan is organizing, organizing, organizing, make sure we come together with our unity. We saw that in Virginia, where you had a spirited Democratic primary, where everyone took the high road. We had great turnout in the primary.

    And that was a bellwether of a general election with record turnout. And the same thing in New Jersey, Phil Murphy.

    And when we lead with our values and we put those values into action, whether it's health care for all — that was a big issue in Virginia and New Jersey — talking about education reform. That was another big issue in those areas. When we're leading with our values and when we're out there talking to everyone, and when we're running people up and down the ballot.

    That was critically important. In Virginia, they — Democrats have not won as many seats as they won last night, the last time that happened was in the 19th century. That's a real bellwether of the wave that occurred last night in Virginia.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's true, all true, but you still have Republicans in the majority of governor seats, control of the House, the Senate and the White House. Democrats still have a big hill to climb.

  • Tom Perez:

    Oh, I couldn't agree more.

    Last night was a really remarkable start, but it's a start. We're no where near the summit of the mountain. But what we know is what works. We had to get back to basics, organizing, organizing everywhere, recruiting good candidates up and down the ticket.

    The new mission of the DNC is to help elect Democrats up and down the tickets, from the school board to the Oval Office. We were too focused on simply electing a new president every four years. We have changed that mission, and we're making sure we are invested everywhere.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask about your message, because some are saying still the Democratic message is too much anti-Donald Trump and not enough something positive.

  • Tom Perez:

    Well, I will tell you, the candidates that were running yesterday were talking about the issues that people cared about the most.

    Ralph Northam is a healer, the governor-elect in Virginia. He was talking about health care as a right for all and not a privilege for a few. And, as it turned out, the number one issue for voters in Virginia was health care. They understand that Ralph Northam is going to help them expand Medicaid and not take away their access to health care.

    Same thing in New Jersey, real concerns on that area.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What is your advice, Tom Perez, though, for Democrats running next year? because we know right now, for example, you have got Democrats in the Senate who are talking to President Trump — there was a meeting just yesterday — and his people about tax reform.

    Should Democrats, especially Democrats in red states, states that Donald Trump won, should they try to work with this president to get things done, or should they oppose him at every step?

  • Tom Perez:

    Well, listen, if we can work in a bipartisan fashion, we have always been for that.

    The Affordable Care Act is a great example. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander right now are working on a bipartisan bill to stabilize the markets. What the Republicans have been trying to do is just repeal with nothing else. We need to amend Obamacare, not end it.

    And the voters in Virginia especially sent a very clear message to the Republicans that, when you try to take away our health care, we're going to vote against you. And so, when we can find common ground, we try.

    But the current tax bill that has been put forth is not reform. It's a massive giveaway to very, very wealthy people and corporations, at the expense of middle-class families and working people. And it's not a good bill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, are you saying Democrats shouldn't work with the administration to try to shape that at all, or what?

  • Tom Perez:

    Well, we have a — no, Judy, I'm saying quite the contrary.

    We have a vision for helping to bring about tax fairness. This is not tax reform, though. The challenge that we have, Judy, is the Republicans don't want to work with us. This bill is a disaster for so many millions of Americans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me…

  • Tom Perez:

    And they're just trying to ram it through before people can actually see the fine print.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me finally ask you, what is the Democratic Party's message to voters in red states, voters who voted for Donald Trump?

    Are you — I assume you're going to say you're not writing them off. What is your message to them to get them…

  • Tom Perez:

    Judy, our motto of the new DNC is every zip code counts. We can win everywhere. We won three special elections in Oklahoma earlier this year in the state legislature.

    And how did we do that? We had great candidates. We delivered a clear message. In Oklahoma, the message was education. Education is the equalizer. And in Oklahoma, they're engaged in radical right-wing engineering to make public education a shell of what it needs to be.

    And then boots on the ground. We're competing everywhere, because I believe that the message of health care as a right for all, and not a privilege for a few, it resonates in rural America, it resonates in urban America, it resonates in Kentucky, it resonates in New York City.

    And when we lead with those values, we're fighting for economic opportunity for everyone. We believe in shared prosperity for everyone, not simply prosperity for a few at the top. And we believe in the bold possibilities of this nation.

    And we want to make sure everybody has the tools to realize their highest and best dreams. We want an America that people can be proud of. Right now, people aren't proud of what they see this president do day in and day out. He's a divider. He's not a uniter.

    And I think the voters spoke very loudly and clearly about that yesterday. We want uniters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic Party, thank you very much.

  • Tom Perez:

    Pleasure to be with you, Judy.

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