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Lee Auman calls for new leadership in Alabama Democratic Party

Saturday, the Alabama Democratic Executive Committee voted to keep Nancy Worley in place as Chair Woman. Lee Auman, who is running for Congress in the 4th Congressional District, released a statement strongly disagreeing with the decision to retain the party’s veteran leadership in place.

“The outcome of today’s State Democratic Executive Committee meeting is disappointing, but I am encouraged by the leaders and committee members who challenged the status quo,” Auman said. “Discussion and change in the Party are healthy and should be embraced—not feared.”

U.S. Senator Doug Jones, the only Democrat to win a statewide race since 2008, supported Alvin L. “Peck” Fox for Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. Sen. Jones and other elected officials reportedly asked Fox to run for the chairmanship.

“A change in leadership is badly needed in the Alabama Democratic Party,” Auman continued. “I am proud to stand with Senator Doug Jones and Representative Chris England in calling for a strong, forward-looking Party. We must stand together to demand accountability, transparency, and growth. It’s time for a generation of leaders who are not afraid of a new way forward.”

Worley bested Peck’s challenge in a 101 to 89 vote (53 percent to 47 percent) of the Democratic executive committee on Saturday.

Joe Turnham was Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party from 2005 to 2011. In 2010 the Alabama Republican Party won every statewide office on the ballot, six of the seven Congressional seats, and control of both Houses of the legislature for the first time in 135 years.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mark Kennedy was elected Chairman in 2011 with Nancy Worley the Vice Chair. In 2012 Mitt Romney (R) easily carried Alabama and Democrats again lost every statewide race and failed to field credible congressional campaigns outside of the majority minority Seventh Congressional District.

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On April 22, 2013 Kennedy resigned the position in a power struggle with Joe Reed. Reed is the Alabama Democratic Party Vice-Chair for Minority Affairs and heads the powerful Alabama Democratic Conference. The ADC is the caucus for Alabama’s Black Democrats. Blacks have historically been discriminated against within the Alabama Democratic Party (most Alabama Blacks voted Republican when they were allowed to vote, through 1960). Working with the Alabama Education Association, which Reed co-ran with Paul Hubbard (now deceased), over time the ADC has grown very powerful in the Alabama Democratic Party and now controls a large number of seats on the Democratic Executive Committee by rule. Reed and Kennedy clashed publicly. Mark Kennedy left his position as Chairman to form his own parallel organization, Empower Alabama, to elect Democratic candidates.

Worley, with Reed’s support, was elevated to Chair and then formally elected Chair by the Alabama Democratic Party Executive Committee in October 2013. Worley is the first woman to be Chair of the Alabama Democratic Party.

In the 2014 election the two competing Democratic organizations were badly outclassed by the more unified, better funded, perhaps better led, Alabama Republican Party. The GOP not only defended its super majorities in both Houses of the legislature, they grew them. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was easily reelected to a second term and no Democratic statewide candidate was even competitive. 2016 was even worse, with Donald J. Trump (R) running away with the state. Democrats were not competitive anywhere on the ballot, and no serious observer of Alabama politics even thought they would be. Doug Jones narrowly defeated former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) in a special election on December 12, a sign to some that Democrats fortunes in Alabama have improved.

Worley survived Peck Fox’s challenge largely due to support from Joe Reed and the Black Democrats.

Some have privately suggested that the hostility to Reed and Worley’s leadership have come primarily from White men eager to regain control of the Alabama Democratic party; even though Blacks and women are overwhelmingly the majority of Democratic voters in the state of Alabama. Critics however argue that Reed is an old man with a death grip on power and that he and Nancy Worley’s leadership have driven the Alabama Democratic Party in to a state of near irrelevance.

Worley is an educator, a former AEA President, and was Alabama Secretary of State from 2003 to 2007.

Auman is running against incumbent Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, in the Fourth Congressional District. Aderholt has served the Fourth District since 1997. Aderholt is 53. He was preceded by Rep. Tom Bevill, D-Jasper, who served 30 years in office.

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The General Election will be November 6.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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