Just days before Democratic activists pick a new party chair, the contest to head the Democratic National Committee remains fluid, as national leaders grapple with how to turn an outpouring of liberal protest against President Donald Trump into political gains. A tight race between former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota marks the first heavily contested battle to run the organization in recent history, a reflection of a newly energized Democratic Party struggling to find the best path forward after years of losses in Congress, governor’s mansions and statehouses. Perez, who was encouraged by Obama administration officials to run for the post, has emerged as the apparent front-runner, but Ellison holds sway with the progressive Bernie Sanders contingent. And a split party, as evidenced last year, holds little chance for success. The candidates participated in a televised national debate Wednesday night.