Nancy Worley and Randy Kelley are still chair and vice-chair of the Alabama Democratic Party.
But if, as expected, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) votes on Saturday to strip their national credentials, as a committee recommended on Thursday, it will make it impossible for them to participate in national Democratic Party activities — and possibly cut the party off from national resources.
It also leaves several issues — from minority representation on the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) to the future leadership of the party to the party’s delegate selection plan — unresolved. And as of Friday afternoon, there was no timetable for a resolution.
“If the party’s bylaws are not sort of consistent with the DNC charter, then the DNC finds the party out of compliance,” said Richard Rouco, an attorney representing one of the parties challenging the current leadership. “The thing about that is, as a practical matter, it only affects the selection of delegates to the national convention, which is really what the DNC is organized around.”
The Alabama Democratic Party and the DNC have been in a fight for months over the governance of the state party. Responding to a complaint about Worley’s election as chair in August 2018, the DNC in February ordered new leadership elections to take place. The DNC also directed the state party to revise bylaws to ensure that Hispanic, Asian, youth, disabled and LGBTQ members had representation on the SDEC.
But little headway has been made on either of those directives. DNC officials with the credentials committee on Thursday complained that Worley had been essentially nonresponsive to their requests for meetings and directions for changes. DNC officials have targeted a part of the bylaws that allow the vice-chair for minority affairs — in Alabama, Joe Reed — to effectively select and seat a certain number of delegates on the SDEC to reflect the African American percentage of the Democratic electorate in Alabama.
Earlier this month, the DNC signaled that bylaw changes should require the full SDEC to vote to approve the seating of delegates.
Reed said in a phone interview Friday afternoon he had yet to see the order but said the party was complying with DNC directives. But he added he would fight to keep the current system in place. Representatives for the Alabama Democratic Party argue that other state parties have caucuses that can directly name people to a central executive committee, and have suggested the Alabama Democratic Party was being singled out.
“The bottom line is whatever we have to comply that is reasonable, we will do whatever we have to do, as long as we’re not called upon to do what other states are not called upon to do,” Reed said.
Attempts to reach Worley on Friday were not immediately successful. Worley argued that she has received contradictory instructions from the DNC on remedying the situation. But Worley, who is white, also lashed out at opponents who she claimed were trying to reduce African American power in the party, suggesting that anyone who did so would find themselves in “a special circle of hell as hot as it can be.”
Reed claimed Friday “there are folks who want to diminish our representation on the party.”
DNC Credentials Committee co-chair Patrice Taylor flatly rejected that argument from Worley on Thursday. Members of the credentials committee cited a long timeline of delays and missed phone calls, suggesting party leadership was dragging its feet.
The DNC and state party will also have to come up with a delegate selection plan for next March when primaries are held. The plan is under challenge, but the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws committee on Thursday postponed consideration of the plan and held the challenge in abeyance, directing DNC staff to work with the party to address issues.
“It’s clear there’s (an) urgency to it,” Rouco said. “I suspect we will have this process completed within the next 45 days. That would put us mid-October.”
In the meantime, the Alabama Democratic Party still has to address new bylaws and hold new elections. There is currently no timeline for that. Rouco said he expected the DNC to take a wait-and-see attitude, at least for now.
“If we’re three months down the road and nothing’s really changed, or six months down the road, and nothing’s really changed, I think they will explore taking much more proactive efforts to intervene directly in the party’s affairs and conduct an election, rewrite bylaws, things of that nature,” he said. “But we’re not at that step.”
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