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With Perez In Charge, Buckley Expects DNC to Renew Focus on Supporting State Parties

Casey McDermott, NHPR

The race for the new leader of the Democratic National Committee didn’t turn out quite how New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley had hoped. Even so, Buckley's optimistic about new DNC Chairman Tom Perez's plans for the party and for state outreach, in particular.

Buckley initially threw his hat into the ring for chair but bowed out of the race to back Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison — who, as reported by POLITICO, vowed to put Buckley in charge of a "a new and innovative" effort to rebuild state parties.

It's unclear what kind of role Buckley might have in the DNC under Perez's tenure — he says he plans to stay put in New Hampshire for now, seeking another term as state party chairman. But Buckley also said he has faith Perez will repair the national party's fractured relationship with its grassroots members.

“Hillary Clinton lost because of the way the decisions were made within the DNC,” Buckley told reporters at state party headquarters Tuesday. “If we had had vibrant local committees in Wisconsin, and in Pennsylvania, and in Michigan, and potentially in Ohio and some of the other states, she would be President of the United States right now — no matter what other, anything else that was going on.”

Based on conversations with Perez and other observations throughout the race, Buckley said the new DNC chairman's commitment to supporting state parties is "significant."

"I think it will be a radically different DNC when it comes to interacting with state parties, reporting to state parties and building the grassroots," Buckley said.

Under Perez, Buckley expects the DNC to hearken back to the “50-state strategy” it once used under the leadership of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean — with money and staff spread across the board.

Specifically, Buckley said he also expects the DNC to bolster state parties with more training opportunities and more party surrogates to speak at local conventions. (In recent years, Buckley says, “a lot of state parties, for one reason or another, sometimes their calls were not even returned when they were trying to ask for somebody major to come to their events.”)

As for the future of the Granite State’s “first-in-the-nation” status in the Perez era, Buckley was similarly confident about what’s ahead: “There is zero doubt in my mind that not only the chair but the leadership of the DNC is supportive of the New Hampshire primary.”

Casey McDermott is a senior news editor at New Hampshire Public Radio. Throughout her time as an NHPR reporter and editor, she has worked with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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