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Opinion | With losses and infighting, Alabama Democrats should be frustrated

Not one Democrat was competitive in statewide races, Republicans held their supermajorities, and Democratic party leaders are publicly feuding.

Randy Kelley, left, and Tabitha Isner, right, were elected as chair and vice chair of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Last Wednesday morning was supposed to be different. A modest, but notable difference signaling the beginning of something new.

A new era for Alabama Democrats. A post-midterm era with a handful of victories, just enough to give an infusion of hope.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, we witnessed a stark reminder of Politics 101. Successful campaigns need more than just good, willing candidates. They need money for signs, advertising, staffing and transportation. They need resources to create events and get out the vote. They need a network of support.

Which means they need a functional, statewide party. And the Alabama Democratic Party is anything but that.

People who follow party politics have known this for a while. They know about the 2018 fracas between two factions that led to the Democratic National Committee removing chairwoman Nancy Worley and her vice-chair Randy Kelley and staging a new election.

Fast-forward four years and Kelley is back, this time as chair. His vice-chair is Tabitha Isner, a party activist who has sought to lead the party previously.

Kelley and Isner don’t get along. Insiders have known this for a while. But Kelley left no doubt when he sent a letter to Democratic leaders on Monday, which basically means to anyone and everyone in this digital era.

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Isner, according to Kelley, “won’t accept” that she wasn’t elected to be the chair of the party. He accused her of “doing everything at her command to frustrate, undermine, interfere, and prevent” the party from moving forward. Kelley also maintained that she is challenging his leadership.

“Please let this letter serve as notice that the vice chair has no authority and has not been given any authority to contact you individually or collectively,” Kelley wrote. Finally, he requested Democrats “ignore, disregard, and reject any communication she sends out purporting to represent” the party.

If you looked up “hot mess” on the Urban Dictionary website, surely you’d see a copy of this letter. Because that’s what this is.

Committed Democrats should be frustrated by this airing of family business – and by the sorry state of the family itself. Especially after the shellacking they got on Tuesday.

Not one Democrat was competitive in the statewide races. All lost by more than 35 percentage points, even in the races where Libertarians were on the ballot.

In North Alabama where I live, Democrats did much better – several garnered more than 40 percent of the votes – but none of them won. Even the ones with high profiles and substantial resources couldn’t quite pull it off.

I blame the “hot mess,” because right on the front page of its website is this slogan: “Helping Democrats win from the State House to the White House.” I called it a slogan, but it’s more like a goal or expressed purpose.

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Ostensibly, it’s the reason for the party to ask supporters for money and other resources. It’s supposed to be so Democratic candidates can be competitive. Instead, all this party currently has to offer its candidates and voters is a “hot mess.”

When my first wife and I divorced, the court mandated that we go to a parenting class for the process to be finalized. This was about 20 years ago, so I remember next to nothing about the class.

Except this: The presenter told all of us parents that it was no longer about us and our past or current disputes. Time to put all of that “mess” aside.

He said it was now about our children. Everything we did or said, from then on, needed to be filtered through one sentiment: How will this affect our child?

Right now, Kelley and Isner should have one priority. Not being right. Nor who’s wrong or done what to whom.

Their one priority should be the well-being of the party and its potential candidates. That’s why they were elected by Alabama’s Democrats.

Doesn’t matter how they get there. They just need to get there.

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And if they can’t handle that, then they both need to go.

David Person is a media personality and consultant who has been working in the Huntsville market since 1986 as a talk show host, columnist, and director/producer. David co-hosts the podcast Alabama Politics This Week.

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