Alabama Democrats elect new chair, but infighting still going
Published 9:16 pm Saturday, November 2, 2019
An Alabama state representative was elected chair of the Alabama Democratic Party on Saturday after months of in-house bickering about the party’s leadership.
But the election may not settle the ongoing battle between two factions of the party over governance and leadership, as the previously elected chair said she would not step down.
Rep. Christopher England, of Tuscaloosa, received 104 of 171 ballots cast at the meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee, the state party’s governing body, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.
“Elected officials had to stand in the gap and create the platform the party did not have,” England said before the vote. “You’ve seen me stand for the issues that matter to us.”
The vote came after the approximately 175 members of the SDEC voted 172 to 0 to remove Chair Nancy Worley and Vice-Chair Randy Kelley.
After the vote, Worley said she was reelected in 2018 and she intends to continue leading the party.
“The true SDEC members did not elect two new officers in our places today,” Worley said in a statement. “Randy and I look forward to continuing our leadership roles.”
But the meeting represented a win for a group of Democrats opposed to Worley, who has chaired the state Democratic Party since 2013, and the Democratic National Committee, which ordered the state party in February to hold new elections and revise its bylaws to provide greater diversity on the SDEC.
England, 43, a city attorney for Tuscaloosa, has served in the Alabama Legislature since 2006. He has been at the forefront of attempts to change the leadership and direction of the party and pledged before the vote to work to “leave no stone unturned” in rebuilding the party. He promised to rebuild local county organizations and staff up the state party.
“As we kick the old folks out, the new folks are coming in,” he said. “We want to seize on that energy. We’re going to raise money, money like you’ve never seen.”
Former Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, was elected vice-chair.
Worley has previously accused the DNC of sending contradictory instructions and of trying to dilute the strength of African American voters in the party. The DNC said Worley missed deadlines and was nonresponsive to instructions.
Without the orders implemented, the DNC refused to ratify the state’s delegate selection plan and warned that inaction by the state party could prevent Alabama from being seated at next year’s Democratic National Convention. That would effectively invalidate votes cast in next March’s Democratic presidential primary.
A group of SDEC members, backed by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, drafted a new set of bylaws that were approved by the DNC in September. The members then got a majority of the SDEC to vote to hold a meeting to ratify those bylaws on Oct. 5. At that meeting, the members set leadership elections for Nov. 2.
Worley proceeded with her own meeting on Oct. 12, which ratified a second set of bylaws — not approved by the DNC — and set elections for Nov. 16. On Wednesday, Worley and Kelly sued to stop the meeting of the Democrats.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin blocked the meeting in a decision late Friday, ruling that it would cause “chaos and confusion.” But the Alabama Supreme Court stayed the order about two hours later, allowing the gathering to proceed.
The new party bylaws preserve the Minority Caucus to nominate African Americans to the SDEC. But they also create new caucuses to nominate Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ individuals, youth and those with disabilities. Approximately 68 people were seated from the youth, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander caucuses on Saturday.