State Rep. Christopher England, D-Tuscaloosa, is the new chair of the Alabama Democratic Party.
The reform faction of the State Democratic Executive Committee met at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery to elect the new Alabama Democratic Party chair and vice chair Saturday. England defeated former congressional candidate Tabitha Isner and former candidate for lieutenant governor Will Boyd to become chair.
Former State Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, the first openly LGBT person elected to the Legislature in Alabama, defeated Adia Winfrey for vice chair.
England received 104 votes to Isner’s 63 and Boyd’s 4. Todd received 141 votes to 28 for Winfrey.
England told reporters, “Today, the party evolved.”
“It is a new day in Alabama,” England said. “African American turnout has carried this party.”
England is the first black chairman of either major political party in the history of the state.
England said that his first concern would be the finances of the party and building staff, “This is a total rebuild.”
England said that “2010 (the election where the voters gave Republicans supermajorities in both Houses of the legislature) was absolutely the worst day of my life.”
England said that he would, “Let them (Republicans) know that things are going to be different now;” but added “It is going to take both parties working together to solve the problems of the state of Alabama.”
England still has to unite the Democratic Party, as over half of the SDEC were not present on Saturday. Under the new bylaws passed by the reformist faction of the SDEC at their meeting on October 5, it takes just 40 percent of the SDEC to be present for a quorum to be reached so that a meeting can be held.
Reporters were told that the number needed to reach a quorum was just 104 and achieving even that modest number was very much in doubt. Most of the SDEC members present were white. Most Black SDEC members honored the call by Vice Chair for Minority Affairs Joe Reed and boycotted Saturday’s meeting. After 23 minutes the meeting began with just 107 of the original SDEC members present. Neither Chair Nancy Worley or Vice Chair Randy Kelley were present.
Shelby County Democratic Party Chair Carole Marks was elected a Chair Pro Tem.
The SDEC then voted to fill three vacancies on the committee.
The new bylaws require that there be diversity caucuses so the SDEC then filled all of those positions.
The SDEC added 3 Asian and/or Pacific Islanders, two Native Americans, 8 LGBTQ members (5 Black and 3 White, 7 Hispanic members, and 48 youth members to the committee.
Attorney Barry Ragsdale told reporters that 38 of the 48 youth members were Black.
The new SDEC then voted to remove Nancy Worley and Randy Kelley as Chair and Vice Chair. The vote to remove Worley was 172 to 0.
There was a formal moment of celebration over the ouster of Worley.
Ragsdale told the press that the SDEC was not being vindictive by the votes to remove Worley and Kelley; that that was necessary under the rules in order to proceed with the new election.
The three candidates for Chair were: Rep. England, Tabitha Isner, and Rev. Dr. Will Boyd.
England was a late entry into the race for Chair.
“I will be honest with you, I have been campaigning for the office for the last 14 years as the party was collapsing,” Rep. Chris England said. “We have got a lot of people missing in this room. It will be the responsibility of the next chair not only to repair this party; but to repair this state.”
“We need a party that is completely unified and working for the same goals,” Dr. Will Boyd. I have been in this race since February. I ran for Lt. Governor last year and received over 650,000 votes. There has been a lot of disinformation said about me in this campaign. I did not run for President against Barack Obama. “I would have honored to been the doormat that he used to ascend to high office.”
“We now need to focus our energies is to speak to our base and those independent voters who will vote with us on November 3,” Dr. Boyd said. “We have to organize in all 67 counties. On our best day, in our best race, 750,000 people showed up. We are going to need more than that to win in November.”
“There are stalwarts in this party that are not here today,” Isner said. “People I have had words with. I want to be chair of the whole Democratic Party not just half of the Democratic Party.”
Isner said that families have disputes; but they are still family and families can be repaired.”
State Senator Linda-Coleman Madison, D-Birmingham, Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, Rep. Anthony Daniels, and Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, all were in attendance to support England.
England said that “There will be no stone unturned in regards to rebuilding this party.
“We are going to be transparent,” England said. “You are going to know what is happening. We are going to be competitive. We need to stop the competition from being between the far right and the moderate right.”
Isner was nominated for Vice Chair; but refused the nomination.
“I want the Chair to have the Vice-Chair that he wants,” Isner said and then left.
U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, has long been a critic of Worley and Reed’s leadership. It was Jones who asked the DNC to invalidate the 2018 elections of Worley and Kelley. Jones has been the de facto leader of the reformist faction of the SDEC throughout this effort.
“This is a remarkable day, a historic day,” Jones told reporters.
Reporters asked if the election of England would improve his chances for re-election in 2020.
“Its not just about my election,” Jones said. “Its about every down ballot race.”
Jones said that everything that was passed in the last loyalist SDEC meeting was declared “Null and void by the Democratic National Committee.”
“Alabama is more diverse now than ever in it’s history,” Jones said. “And this reflects that.”
“Alabama needs a functioning two party system,” Jones stated. “It has stagnated under one party rule.”
England has represented Tuscaloosa in the Alabama legislature since 2006. He is age 43 and is employed as a city attorney for Tuscaloosa. His father is not judge, John England.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked Ragsdale if the more than half White composition of the SDEC on Saturday violated the terms of the consent decree that the Democratic Party is under guaranteeing that the composition of the SDEC reflect the electorate that voted Democratic in the last election.
“There is no consent decree in federal court,” Ragsdale told APR.
Ragsdale said that the diversity of the body today is reflective of the state of Alabama and is compliant with the new bylaws and the instructions of the Democratic National Committee.
Chair Nancy Worley released a statement in which she said that Saturday’s elections were not valid.
Worley has sought to block this meeting, which she did not call, from even happening. A Montgomery Judge had granted a restraining order late on Friday afternoon; but that was overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court Friday night.
Joe Reed is still the Vice Chair for minority affairs and the other officers, who also were not present, still hold their positions with the party. Only the Chair and the Vice Chair were removed and replaced. The reform faction of the SDEC also added 71 new members to the SDEC so they now constitute a majority of the committee.
APR asked Dr. Boyd is he would be there as a candidate as well.
Worley and her loyalist faction of the Alabama Democratic Party are still expected to proceed with their own officer elections on November 16.
“Yes, anytime the SDEC meets I will be there,” Boyd said. “Realistically, I came in here expecting that Christopher or Tabitha would get it and I expect that Nancy will get eit there.”
In the coming days, Chair England will attempt to block Chair Worley from accessing party funds and will seek control of the Alabama Democratic Party’s finances and headquarter building in Montgomery.
“I expect a long drawn out fight,” Dr. Boyd told APR. “I wanted to unite the party. It is clear from the people not here, that that is still not there.”