Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Across the Aisle: Before the Midterms

Thursday, October 25, 2018

5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

Watch webcast

In a two-part series, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez '83 and former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, will lead a discussion on the midterm elections, partisanship in politics, and what's next in D.C. These public events will be held on October 25 and November 19.


The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tom Perez grew up in Buffalo where he learned the values of a union town: hard work, integrity, service, and perseverance.

After putting himself through college with Pell Grants and working on the back of a garbage truck, Tom passed up offers from white-shoe law firms, instead choosing to start his career as a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting racially motivated hate crimes.

For the past 8 years, Tom had the privilege of serving in President Obama’s administration. First as head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, where he led the charge against police misconduct, voter suppression, anti-LGBT discrimination, and immigrant-bashing sheriffs’ departments. Then as Secretary of Labor, fighting to protect and expand opportunities for America’s working people – from better wages and overtime pay, to retirement security and collective bargaining rights.

But Tom’s strongest roots are in local organizing. In 2002, he became the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council. And as board president of CASA de Maryland, Tom helped grow the organization from a small service provider in the basement of a church to one of the largest immigrant advocacy groups in the mid-Atlantic.


When he was elected Lt. Governor of Maryland in 2003, Michael Steele made history as the first African American elected to statewide office; and again with his subsequent chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 2009.

As chairman of the RNC, Michael Steele was charged with revitalizing the Republican Party. A self-described "Lincoln Republican," under Steele’s leadership the RNC broke fundraising records (over $198 million raised during the 2010 Congressional cycle) and Republicans won 63 House seats, the biggest pickup since 1938. His commitment to grassroots organization and party building at the state and local levels produced 12 governorships and the greatest share of state legislative seats since 1928 (over 600 seats).

As Lt. Governor of Maryland, Mr. Steele’s priorities included reforming the state's Minority Business Enterprise program, improving the quality of Maryland's public education system (he championed the State’s historic Charter School law), expanding economic development in the state and fostering cooperation between government and faith-based organizations to help those in need.

Mr. Steele’s ability as a communicator and commentator has been showcased through his current role as a political analyst for MSNBC. He has appeared on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Comedy Central's The Colbert Reportand The Daily Show. In addition to his work in television, Mr. Steele can be heard each week on his radio program, Steele & Ungaron the POTUS Channel on SiriusXM.

Mr. Steele's writings on law, business and politics have appeared in The Grio.com, The Root.com, BET.com, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Politico.com, Townhall.com, The Journal of International Security Affairs and Catholic University Law Review, among others.

He is the author of Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda, which is a call to arms for grassroots America and co-author of The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.

Born at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Mr. Steele was raised in Washington, DC. Upon graduating Johns Hopkins University (‘81), he entered the Order of St. Augustine where studied for the priesthood. He is a graduate of Georgetown Law Center (’91), an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership and a University of Chicago Institute of Politics Fellow.

Election Series
Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy