The Alabama Democratic Party stands out among its peers, Republican and Democrat. And it’s not good. And not surprising.
CQ Roll Call listed “The 7 Most Dysfunctional State Parties” and Alabama Democrats were on the list.
No one should be surprised. For years, people in the state have criticized the operation of the Alabama Democratic Party. The party carried large amounts of debt that was not paid off or paid down, the party did not raise much money, and party officials relied heavily on special interest groups to carry the load in funding and assisting Democratic candidates. And everyone knew the power with the party rested with a handful of powerful people – if that many. The party has carried about $500,000 in debt, including debt dating back to then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s campaign for a state lottery.But the dysfunction only got worse.
Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mark Kennedy stepped down as party chairman in April after a bitter fight with party bosses over several issues, including the termination of a party employee, the party’s debt and the party’s budget.
Kennedy formed the Alabama Democratic Majority, which he said was intended to raise money and organize and help Democrats win targeted seats, and took party staff with him.
Acting Chairwoman Nancy Worley took over the helm and announced that the party faced eviction at party headquarters, that utility companies were threatening to shut off utilities, said there were other bills unpaid and that items were missing from party headquarters.
Party officials have yet to find a successor for Kennedy, even though he stepped down in April, and will likely not select a chairman until this fall.
Worley, who agreed to a “best interest” plea last year for a misdemeanor charge of improperly soliciting campaign support from her staff while she was secretary of state, and party vice chairman Joe Reed have attacked Kennedy for the party’s finances. But they presided over the party during much of the time that the debt dating back to 1999 went unpaid and while the party incurred other debts. And they were there when the party often leaned on the Alabama Education Association, trial lawyers and organized labor to help Democratic candidates. So, the disarray at the Alabama Democratic Party dates back for years.
But the party officials did not seem too worried about some of those issues until they got into the tiff with Kennedy. Then, they felt the need to start demanding financial accountability from him.
And it does not look good, even though Worley and her attorney said at the time that she admitted no wrong and agreed to the “best interest plea” to end the case after five years, to have a top party official with a misdemeanor related to her time as the state’s chief election official. They alleged the case opened by Republican Attorney General Troy King was political. She also paid just $100 to settle the case after facing years of prosecution by the attorney general’s office.
Political observers in Alabama have long considered the Alabama Democratic Party to be irrelevant and some do not expect that to change for some time.
But, before the leadership of Chairman Mike Hubbard, the Alabama Republican Party was in debt and considered irrelevant. Then Hubbard worked with party officials to pay off debts, worked with state Republicans to save millions for the 2010 election, and assembled a plan to win targeted seats and win the majority in the Alabama Legislature in 2010. And, with the help of party staff, Republican donors, and top Republicans including Gov. Bob Riley and Sen. Del Marsh, Hubbard succeeded.
So, with the right leadership, the future could be different for Alabama Democrats. But history and political trends in the Southeast are not on their side. The South has been moving right for years. And Alabama Democrats were not making proactive moves to help curb that trend.
However, Alabama Republicans have not been without dysfunction. There was infighting over a so-called audit that current Chairman Bill Armistead conducted after Hubbard moved on. Hubbard, Gov. Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and other top Republicans supported another candidate in a failed coup to oust Armistead in his bid for a second term, but Armistead won. The last election for chairman indicted a rift in the party between party officials and the top elected Republicans in the state.
CQ Roll Call looked at the possible effect on national politics because of the dysfunction of state parties. While other parties on the list, including the Alaska Republican Party, the Iowa Republican Party, and the Minnesota Republican Party, could have an impact on national elections in 2014, Alabama will not be a player in national politics next year. There are not any competitive races here for the U.S. Senate or U.S. House.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen