Former Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, narrowly defeating Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota to take the helm of a still-divided party stunned by President Trump’s victory but hopeful that it can ride the backlash against his presidency to revival.
The balloting, which carried a measure of suspense not seen in the party in decades, revealed that Democrats have yet to heal the wounds from last year’s presidential primary campaign. Mr. Perez, buoyed by activists most loyal to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, won with 235 votes out of 435 cast on the second ballot.
Mr. Ellison, who was lifted primarily by the liberal enthusiasts of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, captured the remaining 200 votes. But that was only after he had pushed the voting to a second round after Mr. Perez fell a single vote short of winning on the first ballot.
After Mr. Perez’s victory was announced, Mr. Ellison’s supporters exploded in anger and drowned out the interim chairwoman, Donna Brazile, with a chant of “Party for the people, not big money!” When Mr. Perez was able to speak, he immediately called for Mr. Ellison to be named deputy chairman, delighting Mr. Ellison’s supporters.
Taking the microphone from Mr. Perez, Mr. Ellison pleaded with his fervent backers: “We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided.”
In his victory speech, Mr. Perez played down what he called “the robust discussions in the Democratic Party.” “We’re all going to continue to be united in our values,” he said, calling the party’s “big tent” an asset.
Mr. Perez, 55, the son of Dominican immigrants, is the first Latino chairman of the Democratic Party. He was reared in Buffalo and has held a series of state and federal government jobs, most recently as Mr. Obama’s labor secretary.
Despite his limited experience in electoral politics, his calls for rebuilding the grass-roots and fostering a party that “makes house calls again” appealed to the party insiders who have watched as the House, the Senate and finally the presidency slipped away.
Addressing reporters with Mr. Ellison after the election, Mr. Perez vowed to shift the committee from its overriding focus on presidential politics.
“We’re no longer simply the committee that helps elect the president; we’re the committee that helps to ensure we’re electing people up and down the Democratic ticket,” he said, switching to Spanish for a time.
Neither of the two, by this point wearing each other’s campaign buttons, laid out Mr. Ellison’s role at the party, but they intimated that they had discussed joining forces before the vote. Directly appealing to his disappointed supporters, Mr. Ellison said, “If they trust me, they need to come on and trust Tom Perez as well.”
Mr. Ellison, who said he would not quit his House seat for the deputy chairman position, added, “The very fate of our nation, I believe, is in the balance right now.”