News Column

Obama to Nominate Thomas Perez to Lead Labor Dept.

March 18, 2013

John Fritze

Thomas Perez

UPDATE: The White House has confirmed Thomas Perez's nomination as secretary of Labor, sources are reporting Monday morning.


President Barack Obama will nominate Thomas E. Perez to lead the U.S. Department of Labor today, the first step in what is shaping up to be a contentious confirmation battle for the Justice Department official, civil rights attorney and longtime Marylander.

Perez, an assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, was the first Latino to win a seat on the Montgomery County Council, briefly ran for Maryland Attorney General in 2006 and was appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley to serve as the state's labor secretary from 2007 until 2009. The 51-year-old lives in Takoma Park.

Related: Thomas Perez Nomination Is Official: White House

News of his appointment leaked more than a week ago, prompting many Democrats and labor leaders in Maryland and elsewhere to praise the choice. But the nomination has also already been criticized by Republicans who are raising questions about some litigation brought by the Justice Department's civil rights division.

Perez could not be reached for comment Sunday.

If confirmed, Perez will almost certainly play a role in immigration reform, a priority for Obama's second term. Some Republicans have sought a temporary worker program for immigrants, which may be overseen by the Labor Department.

Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, previously served as a board president of CASA de Maryland.

O'Malley tapped Perez as state labor secretary in 2007, a position the Harvard-educated lawyer used to implement regulations to stem the foreclosure crisis. He also pushed to shift oversight of adult education programs to his agency, a move that led to a turf battle with state education officials.

Raised in Buffalo, N.Y., Perez served as an attorney in the civil rights division of the Justice Department in the late 1980s, prosecuting several high-profile cases. He also worked for Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democratic senator who died in 2009.

Perez left the federal government when President George W. Bush, a Republican, took office in 2001. He taught law at the University of Maryland law school for six years and was elected to the Montgomery County Council in 2002. He served as the body's president in 2005.

Source: (c) 2013 The Baltimore Sun. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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