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Division in the House: AL Democrats Hold Tense Reorganizational Meeting (W/Video)

Lee Hedgepeth

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By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY – The State Democratic Executive Committee, the governing body of the Alabama Democratic Party, met last Saturday at the Crump Center in Montgomery. With this being the party’s quadrennial reorganizational meeting, many thought change was sure to surface. Not much did, and a vocal minority of the committee’s members had no problem pointing that out.

Beginning at eleven and lasting several hours, the SDEC meeting had what previously-interim party chair Nancy Worley said was the longest agenda since her involvement in the party began. On it: the filling of 56 committee seats left vacant after the Democratic primary on June 3, the election of executive board members, including Chair of the Party, and resolving unfilled candidacies for public office.

Before those items were addressed, though, officer reports were made by executive board members.

ADP Treasurer Ed Gentle reported that since the beginning of 2014, the party has been able to raise $219,000, with expenses at only about $16,000 a month, a feat nearly miraculous given recent historical precedent. In addition, ADP has been able to pay off its debt to one of its more significant creditors.

Dr. Joe Reed, Chair of the Minority Caucus, gave the longest report, speaking at times to different audiences about the direction, vision, and future of the Alabama Democratic Party, but doing so in no uncertain terms.

“We have some Democrats that are anxious and willing to work. and we’ve got to give them every chance to work, whether they are black or white, young or old – we’ve got to give them every chance to work,” Reed began.

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“I don’t care whether you’re an over the mountain Democrat or a down in the valley Democrat. It’s irrelevant if you don’t have some vision, courage, and commitment to build this party. I’m going to pledge to you – all of you – that we’re going to work together to build this party.”

Dr. Reed continued, and his message became even more frank:

“You can have the numbers – and I’m talking to the blacks now – you can have the numbers, but if we don’t have the vision, the work, and the commitment, we have nothing. We have nothing. Like I said this morning [in the minority caucus session] when we elect folks to the executive board, we’ve got to be sure, we’ve got to be certain that whites have their fair share in this party and at the executive level. This is what we’ve got to be doing to build this party.” Video of Reed’s comments can be viewed here.

After this speech, Dr. Reed suggested that he would later move to – and ask for support in – filling only a few, pre-screened committee seats, and carrying over the election of the rest of the 56 vacancies, a move a minority in the room viewed as undemocratic and an effective power grab. This motion was later voted on and approved by a vast majority of the SDEC – a nearly five to one margin.

Much of the most tense moments of the meeting surrounded this vote to delay the nomination of any new committee members, something which typically happens without delay at every organizational meeting.

“I object vociferously, Madame Chair!” One SDEC member shouted at the suggestion of a delayed election.

After a voice vote and a call of “division in the house,” a standing vote was taken and the motion clearly gained passage, delaying committee member elections until at least the SDEC’s next meeting. When the ruling was made, one SDEC member stormed out of the room; another noted verbally, “This meeting continues under protest.” Watch the video of the vote, the walk out, and the call out here.

Some candidates for various public offices across the State addressed the meeting, as well. Democratic candidate for Alabama Attorney General Joe Hubbard, for example, told the crowd he would do more than just think of ways to sue President Obama every day, referring to comments made by current AG Luther Strange. He also told the story of a woman who approached him in the grocery store to tell him “Big” Luther’s leg’s are long so “he can get away from the law.” “No one is above the law,” Hubbard told his fellow Democrats.

Video of Hubbard’s speech can be seen here.

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