The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday in favor of a motion revoking the credentials of Alabama Democratic Chairwoman Nancy Worley and Vice-Chair Randy Kelley.
The two leaders of the Alabama Democratic Party were denied their seats on the committee, but retain their positions with the ADP.
This is an almost unprecedented rebuke of the Alabama Democratic leaders by the DNC.
In February, at the urging of U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, the DNC voted to invalidate the 2018 election of Worley as Chair over concerns with how the state Democratic Executive Committee is selected. The national Democratic Party wants more seats set aside for minorities other than Blacks and changes to the party’s bylaws, as well as new elections for chair and vice chair.
A deadline was set of May 17 for all of this to get accomplished. None of that ever happened and there has been no meeting of the SDEC, even though that was required and even though the SDEC customarily meet every summer. A second deadline giving Worley another sixty days to accomplish all of this has since passed and still there is no date set for new elections or for a meeting of the SDEC, which reporters and SDEC members alike have been expecting would happen at any point since April 1.
A key sticking point is how members of the SDEC are chosen. Joe Reed’s Alabama Democratic Conference has a consent decree that the SDEC will reflect the racial composition of the Democratic voting electorate of the state. Generally, over 90 percent of Black Alabamians, 27 percent of the state’s population, vote Democratic. In recent elections, well over 70 percent of White Alabamians vote Republican. The Democratic voters of each county elect their representatives on the SDEC. That group of elected SDEC members is majority White, even though the majority of Democratic voters in the state are majority Black. Under the consent decree, the SDEC is balanced with more Black minority voters….and Joe Reed picks which Blacks are used to balance the SDEC giving the ADC and Reed a mammoth sized block of voters on the SDEC. The national Democrats claim that other minorities: gays, Asians, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, are underrepresented on the Alabama SDEC and has ordered seats set aside for these groups as well, a change the ADP has not yet consented to.
Saturday’s power move by national Democrats is just the latest move in a power struggle between U.S. Senator Doug Jones and Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed for control of the struggling ADP that arguably has been going on for years. Jones is the only Democratic party candidate to win any statewide race in Alabama since the late Lucy Baxley narrowly defeated Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh (R) in 2008 for Public Service Commission President.
According to Worley, before becoming U.S. Senator, Jones had sought to be ADP Chair; but was denied. Worley blames that simmering resentment for his staunch opposition to her ongoing leadership. Worley was elevated to Chair after then Chair Mark Kennedy resigned due to a feud with Reed. Worley has since been elected and re-elected.
Jones narrowly defeated former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) in a special election in December 2017, a victory many Alabama political operatives thought impossible. Jones shocking upset of Moore did nothing to ease the growing rift between Jones with the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party.
In 2018, with full support from Jones, Montgomery attorney and Democratic strategist Peck Fox challenged Worley for Chair; but Worley with the support of Reed beat back that challenge.
Reed said afterwards, “George Wallace tried the same thing.”
Reed was referring to a long feud between then Alabama Democratic Party Chair Robert Vance and the segregationist Governor George C. Wallace (D). Wallace tried to stack the Alabama delegation to the Democratic National Convention with his supporters and Vance fought back against that. At one point there were two competing groups of ADP delegates to the convention both claiming they were the delegation from Alabama. The much more liberal (by that day’s standards) Vance was victorious. A klansman later killed then federal judge Vance with a package bomb mailed to his Mountain Brook home.
Jones followed that up with personally appealing to the national Democratic Party to intervene and invalidate the 2018 election for party chair.
Following that summer of discontent, Democratic candidates were completely annihilated in Alabama’s November general election, even though nationally Democrats did well, even taking backing control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Alabama Republicans were victorious all over the state, outside of majority minority districts where Reed’s ADC is still enormously. The Alabama Democratic Party did not win a single majority White district in the Alabama legislature in 2018 and has not won a majority White congressional district race since 2008.
Many 2018 Democratic candidates blamed Worley and Reed for their election day defeats, saying that the ADP left $500 thousand dollars on the sidelines and did little to help, while demanding that campaigns pay Reed’s ADC for get out the vote efforts in their races.
Joe Reed’s son, Montgomery County Probate Judge Stephen Reed (D), is reportedly leading in the polls in the Montgomery Mayor’s race which is on Tuesday.
After the 2018 chair elections were invalidated, Tabitha Isner, a 2018 congressional candidate in the Second District, and Dr. Will Boyd, the 2018 ADP nominee for Lt. Governor, both announced that they were challenging Worley.
When that new election will happen and who exactly will be on the SDEC at that time remain open questions.
Jones faces a strongly contested re-election effort in November of 2019. For Democrats to have any realistic hopes of taking control of the U.S. Senate from Republicans they need to hold on to Jones’s seat.