By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
Last Saturday, February 1st, the State Democratic Executive Committee – the governing body of the Alabama Democratic Party – met in Montgomery at the Renaissance Hotel for their regularly scheduled organizational meeting.
The meeting, presided over by recently-confirmed chairwoman Nancy Worley, had been anticipated as a possible resolution point of widespread intraparty conflict that has occurred in the ADP in past years.
Last year, then-party chairman Mark Kennedy and other key employees resigned from their positions, leaving to form the Alabama Democratic Majority, a group whose stated goal is to break the GOP legislative supermajority in the 2014. At the time, Worley – who was then interim chair – complained about ADM’s staff taking items and information that belonged to the Democratic Party, not to them, such as login information for software accounts, paper supplies, and even allegedly their website, to which Worley says ADP no longer has access.
Many have characterized the strife as racial, with some pointing to Dr. Joe Reed as the culprit. Dr. Reed, who has long been a top politico in State affairs, has opposed every diversity amendment that has thus far come before the body. Dr. Reed is the minority chair of the party, and is also the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, an activist group whose endorsement can mean more than half of the African American vote in many districts around the Yellowhammer state.
While Dr. Reed claims that his objections are mostly technical – including the fact that women are included when they already comprise half the body – some say that his opposition is only an effort to prevent African American influence in the SDEC from being diluted, even if at the expense of other guaranteed minority representation in the body.
Proponents of the diversity amendment to the bylaws have started a petition online asking the SDEC to make the changes. It has gained several hundred signatures, and can be seen here.
At Saturday’s meeting, it did not take long for the tension to become apparent. After routine business was attended to, such as ratifying a previous mail vote on the qualifying deadline, talk of the amendment began.
The proposal was submitted by Dr. Amy Shadoin, an SDEC delegate from Huntsville, twelve days before this weekend’s meeting, sending it via email to the Democratic Party and to Nancy Worley, and faxing it to the party’s main office.
Although Worley acknowledged the proposal “did meet the ten day requirement,” she at one point threatened to reverse her ruling when Dr. Shadoin asked that the date on the promulgated amendment be changed to accurately reflect her submission date.
“Go forward or you’re going to lose it period,” Worley said, to the sound of gasps and laughter, “I’m going to declare it not acceptable if you don’t go on.”
The proposal was put on the floor, but was then tabled without either debate or an up or down vote on final passage.
Some objected even to the tabling of the proposal, claiming – correctly – that Robert’s Rules of Order prohibit the use of a tabling motion to prevent discussion and debate when there is no other matter before the body.
Worley responded that tabling an amendment would be a way to “kill it nicely,” not a parliamentary violation.
At one point toward the end of the meeting, State Senate Minority Leader Vivian Figures got the attention of Worley and proceeded to the micophone:
“I wanted to ask – is this meeting being recorded? I just wanted to make sure, because there were several instances where the chair heard one thing when something else had been said, and it was just confusion, so I just wanted to make sure that we have it on record.”
The Alabama Political Reporter recorded the proceeding, highlights of which can be viewed here.
“The goal of the amendment is to bring representation of Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Youth and others onto the State Executive Committee,” the amendment’s sponsor said. “My amendment was designed to help engage all Alabamians in our party, and to ensure everyone a voice.”
Currently, the term ‘minority is not defined in the SDEC’s bylaws as it is in the Democratic National Committee’s. When appointing delegates, therefore, Dr. Reed is under no actual obligation to appoint members of varying minorities.
Members of the State Democratic Executive Committee are elected during the Democrat primaries of presidential election years. Qualifying for this year’s election ends this Friday, February 7th.