BIRMINGHAM — Former Alabama Democratic Party chairman Mark Kennedy, who abruptly announced his resignation of the position on Friday, re-emerged Monday afternoon to announce the creation of a new organization devoted to electing Democrats in 2014.
In front of a crowd of over 100 people in the Harbert Center in Birmingham, Kennedy said his organization, called Alabama Democratic Majority, would work toward defeating the Republican supermajority in the state Legislature. The group would also support candidates dedicated to protecting public education and expanding health care and opportunities for working class families.
“I ask you to be better, not bitter,” Kennedy told the crowd, flanked by his son and his wife, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, the daughter of former Govs. George and Lurleen Wallace. “Stand your ground. Reach for a higher star.”
Kennedy’s move followed months of blistering infighting with Democratic Party vice-chairman Joe Reed over the direction of the organization, and adds a new, if uncertain, element to the state political scene as the 2014 elections approach. At the announcement — which bore a strong resemblance to the start of a political campaign — Kennedy announced Alabama Democratic Majority would carry out a number of measures Reed and members of the Democratic Party’s executive board had blocked, including the reopening of a field office in Birmingham and the rehiring of two new field operatives.
The organization also will include many individuals who, until Friday, worked for the Alabama Democratic Party, including former executive director Bradley Davidson, who will run the day-to-day operations of Alabama Democratic Majority. Kennedy appealed for aid from all Alabamians, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or physical appearance.
“We have brown hair, we have blond hair, we have black hair and we have no hair,” joked Kennedy, who is bald.
In a statement, Alabama Republican Party chairman Bill Armistead said Kennedy’s move “highlights the disarray of the Democratic Party in Alabama.”
“Alabamians are not concerned with who the leader of the Alabama Democrat Party is,” the statement said. “They are concerned with the issues that are facing our state and the Democrats in the Legislature have abdicated their role to work together with Republicans to find solutions in building a stronger and more vibrant economy in Alabama.”
Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, one of a few elected black Democratic officials at the announcement, said he does not foresee Kennedy’s move creating a rift in the party. He believes Kennedy is “doing the very best he can to support Democrats in Alabama” and said Kennedy is “trying to broaden the net.”
Kennedy said after the announcement he hoped Alabama Democratic Majority would bring white voters back under the Democratic Party banner, saying the party had been slow to change.
“The Democratic Party of 10 years ago is not the Democratic Party of today,” he said. “We don’t control everything.”
The new organization, Kennedy said, was not a political party, and would work with the Alabama Democratic Party to elect candidates to office, and “defeat the country club mentality in Montgomery that protects corporations and lays our state to waste.”
“I stand before you as an Alabama Democrat who stands for Democratic values, and who stands for an improved Alabama Democratic Party,” he said.
The new organization, said Kennedy, had “significant committments for financial support. Alabama Democratic Majority plans to open field offices around the state and build a grass-roots voter operation to get out the vote; grass-roots organizing was a key part of Kennedy’s strategy as Democratic Party chairman.
Reed did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday. Nancy Worley, a former Secretary of State and vice-chair of the party, succeeded Kennedy as chair when his resignation became effective at noon.
Worley said in a phone interview Monday it was unfortunate that Kennedy decided to resign and “take his toys and go home,” but she feels that people will return to the Alabama Democratic Party as they see the policies of the Republican supermajority in the Legislature “taking care of the rich” and how those decisions affect them.
“We’re looking at a golden opportunity in the upcoming election in 2014, because quite frankly the Republicans have so many negative situations they have created for the state that I think people are going to feel the pinch in their pocketbook and they’re going to vote Democratic, like they once did,” she said.
Lawmakers at the event included Scott; Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham and Reps. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre and Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay. Former first lady Marsha Folsom, who introduced Kennedy at the event, said that the new organization gave Democrats a better chance to expand their voting base in Alabama in 2014. The current structure of the party, she said, prevented that.
“It’s inherent in the structure, with the by-laws and the various other things that have taken place throughout the structuring of the party over the years. We’re in the the 21st Century. We have to wake up and realize we can’t do it the way it’s always been done, because we won’t get good results.”
– posted by Brian Lyman