Alabama Supreme Court allows Saturday meeting of state Democratic officials
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An insurgent wing of the Alabama Democratic Party will meet this Saturday to elect new party leaders after the Alabama Supreme Court paved the way late Friday.
Justices on Friday stayed a temporary restraining order from a Montgomery judge that had blocked the meeting scheduled for Saturday morning in Montgomery. Current Chair Nancy Worley and other party leaders had filed a lawsuit attempting to block the meeting they argued was not authorized.
“Let’s get this thing done,” U.S. Sen Doug Jones’ campaign tweeted , announcing that justices were allowing the meeting to proceed.
The two factions of the state’s beleaguered Democratic Party are at odds over the governance of the party and ratified two different sets of bylaws in successive Saturday meetings early in October.
Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, had backed the meeting planned for Saturday, saying it complies with rules approved by the DNC.
The political battle evolved into a legal one with a flurry of last-minute court filings.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin at 5 p.m. Friday issued a restraining order to block the meeting. Griffin wrote that “the court is satisfied plaintiffs have at least a reasonable chance of prevailing upon, at a minimum, the key question of which set of bylaws constitute the current and valid bylaws,” the Montgomery Advertiser reported .
About two hours later, the Supreme Court stayed the restraining order, paving the way for the meeting to proceed. The stay will remain in place while the merits of the lawsuit are decided.
“Obviously, I think the Supreme Court made a bad decision,” Worley wrote in a text message Friday. “But they’re all Republicans, who want chaos and bickering in the Democratic Party.”
The Democratic National Committee in February ordered the state party to hold new elections and revise bylaws to diversify the membership of the SDEC.
The anti-Worley faction on Oct. 5 ratified bylaws approved by the DNC and moved to hold new elections. But Worley said she will not recognize their actions, and ratified a second set of bylaws at an Oct. 12 meeting.
Griffin wrote in his order that having two different groups at work would cause “chaos and confusion,” echoing arguments made by Bobby Segall, an attorney for the current state party leadership, in a hearing Thursday.
Upstarts have adopted rules backed by national leaders to increase diversity in the state party, in which black caucus chairman Joe Reed, a vice chairman who serves with Worley, has been a major player for decades. The new bylaws set up diversity caucuses to nominate Hispanics, LGBTQ individuals, young voters and others to the governing board known as the State Democratic Executive Committee.
Blacks under the age of 35 make up more than a third of the party’s electorate but are effectively shut out of leadership since they make up only 3% of the state executive committee, Perez said.