Friday, August 25, 2006
Democratic Party Committee in Alabama Subverts Will of the People
In an unbelievable ruling yesterday in Montgomery, a Democratic Party committee hearing the challenge of Patricia Todd's House District 54 primary runoff win disqualifies the winner and the loser because of an obscure Alabama Democratic Party bylaw. Todd, attempting to become that state's first openly gay legislator, won the primary runoff by 59 votes.
Todd's opponent, Gaynell Hendricks, contested election results based on the fact that Todd failed to file a financial disclosure report with the party chairman. Alabama's party's bylaws include a requirement that all candidates should file a financial disclosure with the party chairman 5 days before an election. Todd filed her normal report with the Secretary of State's office, but failed to file one with the party chair.
But here's the kicker: Hendricks didn't either. And according to a party official, no Democratic candidate has followed this little known rule since 1988. Hendricks' attorney argued that the committee should disqualify Todd, but not his client, because the complaint is filed against Todd and not Hendricks. He then played the homophobe card and argued that Todd did not want people to see that Victory Fund, a gay PAC, contributed $25,000 to her campaign.
The committee put aside common sense and took the easy way out. They disqualified both candidates and elected to select a nominee to appear on the general election ballot. But the decision must be approved by the party executive committee.
From the Montgomery Advertiser:
State Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham was "very surprised" by the decision Thursday, said Zac McCrary, a party spokesman. Turnham believes the party's executive committee might change the decision based on an "archaic bylaw," McCrary said.
Attorney Bobby Segall told the committee earlier Thursday that if the party disqualified Todd for not filing a financial disclosure form with the party chairman it would also have to disqualify the party's nominee for governor, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, and for lieutenant governor, former Gov. Jim Folsom Jr.
"Lucy Baxley is out of here. Just let the Republicans take over the state Senate and the House. Jim Folsom is out of here," Segall said in an emotional presentation to the committee. Committee members announced their decision about two hours after the hearing ended.
Lets hope that Mr. Segall is right and the executive committee overturns this ruling. The people of the 54th district have spoken. And they selected Patricia Todd as their representative. Overturning the will of the people on a technicality that has been violated by every Democratic candidate for the last 18 years is very un-democratic.
Hat tip to Birmingham Blues.
*Joe in Alabama has emailed me this response to the committee's ruling from the Alabama Democratic Party Chair, Joe Turnham.