The Alabama Democratic Party Executive Committee voted Saturday to elect Randy Kelley, former vice-chairman under Nancy Worley, as the next party chairman replacing outgoing chairman and State Rep. Chris England in a tense and at times combative meeting in Birmingham.
Kelley, the pastor of Hunstville’s Lakeside United Methodist Church, was elected with 104 votes and won without a runoff against Alabama Young Democrats President Josh Coleman, who received 56 votes, and former U.S House candidate Tabitha Isner, who received 42 votes. Isner was later selected as vice chairman after receiving 90 votes in a runoff with Tori Bailey, a Colbert County businesswoman.
“It’s just a great blessing to be a part of the Alabama Democratic Congress,” Kelley said after winning the chairmanship on Saturday. “I personally know we are more in line with what Jesus stood for. He was for the least of these, and our opposition is for the most wealthy of these.”
Kelley also emphasized the need for diversity in the party moving forward.
“If we want to be a revised Democratic Party, we got to be a diverse party.” Kelley said.
The victory for Kelley was in equal parts a victory for Dr. Joe Reed, leader of the Alabama Democratic Conference, who holds significant sway over the party’s ability to decide leadership given the voting strength of the ADC and Reed’s own political maneuvering. Reed played a key role during the in-party power struggles and has since backed lawsuits challenging the party’s amended bylaws that allowed for England’s victory in 2019.
The week of the Democratic Executive Committee meeting, Reed announced his backing of Kelley and all but guaranteeing the candidate’s ascension as the next party leader.
During the hours of deliberations on Saturday, the approval of a slate of at-large party members selected by the youth caucus drew Reed’s objection and threw the meeting into chaos for a time. Under the party’s bylaws, the various caucuses inside the SDEC are allowed to present slates of candidates for approval by the body, as opposed to bringing each up one at a time for individual approval.
“We’re winning today, and what are they doing? They are out there getting votes,” Reed said before threatening to leave the meeting entirely.
“There is no plot; there is no conspiracy,” England said. “We are trying to make sure that we get this right.”
After a recess to allow the youth caucus to recalculate its at-large candidates, the slate of at-large youth caucus was approved, though reduced, from 47 members to 41 by the SDEC.
Reed also proposed new bylaws during the caucus meetings earlier that day, according to the Montgomery Advertiser, and wanted them before the main party. The current iteration of the party’s bylaws maintains that any revisions or overhauls to the bylaws be filed at minimum of 12 hours prior to a scheduled party meeting. As of Saturday, the party has yet to vote on those proposed bylaws from Reed.
Also, on Saturday, the executive committee selected a replacement for Sebrina Martin, a former Democratic judicial candidate for a child court seat in Montgomery’s 15th judicial circuit, after a subcommittee for the party in July found “substantial evidence” that the candidate violated party bylaws, as well as judicial ethics.
APR published a story in June that found that court records showed Martin used excessive corporal punishment on her six children in 2013, which led to her losing custody of those children.
Monica Arrington, a lawyer, and shareholder for the Montgomery-based law firm Arrington & Arrington, was selected as the Democratic nominee for the child court seat in Montgomery’s 15th judicial circuit.