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Opinion | A new dawn for Democrats in Alabama

Joey Kennedy

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The Alabama Democratic Party isn’t much. Recently, a new party executive committee and chair were elected. The days of do-nothing Nancy Worley and do-nothing-but-harm Joe Reed are numbered, thankfully.

Still, Alabama Democrats have a long way to go before they’re really functioning again.

The Democrats put up probably its best slate of candidates ever in 2018. That slate got slaughtered, mainly for two reasons:

1. The state Democratic Party was absent. It pretty much told the candidates they were on their own, and they were.

2. Straight-ticket voting. More than 60 percent of Republicans voted lazily, but effectively. They just bubbled-in that “R” oval and went home, and in doing so elected some really good people and, true, some really awful people.

So we’re starting to see a resurgence in the state Democratic Party. New chair state Rep. Christopher England (D-Tuscaloosa) and vice-chair former state Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) are going to make sure the party better reflects Alabama’s citizenry than it ever has previously.

As soon as they officially take their positions, along with a much more diverse and representative executive committee, we’ll start seeing a new Alabama Democratic Party.

As the party remakes itself into, well, an actual functioning entity, it’s important not to overlook other positives for Democrats in Alabama.

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In December, the Young Democrats of Alabama will host a national meeting of the Young Democrats of America. It’s the first time the group has met in Alabama, a state not known as Democratic Party friendly, for the most part.

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Josh Coleman, LGBTQ+ liaison for the city of Birmingham and Mayor Randall Woodfin, also leads the Young Democrats of Alabama as president. He and Terri Chapman, executive vice president of the Alabama group, are running the Fall National Conference, along with a steering committee.

This is a big deal, both in terms of prestige and economic impact. The Dec. 6-8 meeting at the Sheraton Birmingham will attract 300 to 400 young Democrats. The Young Democrats of America meet three or four times a year, but usually in cities like New York, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles,and other big cities.

“A lot of these folks have never been to Alabama,” said Coleman. “We want to highlight the legacy of Birmingham and the history of Birmingham. This is ground zero for Republican control.”

Alabama, of course, is ground zero, but not Birmingham, a solidly Democratic city. Still, the conference wasn’t just given to Birmingham.

Coleman, Chapman, and the host committee had to bid for the right to host the Democrats. They had to show they could pay for the event, that the city would be friendly, and provide at least two letters of support.

Coleman said 15 letters of support were sent to the group, including letters from U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, and Mayor Woodfin.

The three-day conference is a chance for Democrats from all over the nation to socialize, network, and attend training sessions. Also, the Democratic candidates running for president have been invited.

The final conference agenda will be released soon.

“Birmingham is not like the rest of Alabama,” Coleman said. No doubt if it were, the city wouldn’t have won the bid to host the meeting.

And the Young Democrats of Alabama are likely to stay in the national spotlight even after the young Democrats have gone home. Chapman not only is executive vice president of the state group, but she’s also one of the national vice presidents.

After the recent ouster of Nancy Worley, as chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, the meeting will also give national young Democrats an opportunity to see that the state party is no longer infighting.

“I think we’ve moved on passed that,” Coleman said. “People are ready to move forward. The entire goal of the Young Democrats is to get young people involved in the political process.”

Now with new leadership at the state party, Coleman believes Democrats will finally be truly organized and able to attract larger numbers.

Hosting a national conference for Young Democrats is sure tohelp.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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