In August of 2018, Nancy Worley was re-elected as chair of the Alabama Democratic Party – an event that was soon overshadowed by a series of formal complaints contesting the legitimacy of her win.
Six months later, on February 14, 2019, the DNC credentials committee upheld the challenge, citing “several irregularities” with the voting process. They also took issue with the party’s bylaws, especially provisions regarding minority representation.
In light of their findings, the committee ordered new elections for chair and vice chair, as well as a rewrite of the bylaws and the creation of a new Diversity Caucus to represent other minority groups currently not recognized by the Minority Caucus.
They gave the party 90 days to act.
At the time, Worley said she welcomed the new elections and was looking forward to putting any questions to rest.
“We welcome that opportunity because we know that everything was done correctly,” she told AL.com in February.
However, at nearly two months past the 90-day deadline, none of the DNC’s directives have been completed – and there’s no indication when the elections will be held.
The lack of action has drawn criticism from many democrats who believe that Worley and Dr. Joe Reed, vice chair of the Minority Caucus, are purposefully obstructing the process to maintain their power within the party.
“Nancy is dragging her feet as much as possible,” said Julia Juarez, SDEC representative for district 46. “I think they’re trying to run out the clock, if they can.”
Juraez said that in order to even have the election, the new bylaws must be approved by the DNC. She says the leadership did manage to submit new bylaws, but that they were “soundly rejected” for not meeting the requirements set forth by the credentials committee.
Ralph Young, a former Obama delegate and the first person to file a complaint against Worley’s re-election, said the current bylaws are “undemocratic” and said they’ve been amended to “re-entrench the incumbents” year after year.
“With each cycle they make the rules more in they favor,” he said. “They’ve cut democracy out of the process.”
Jared Arnold, SDEC representative for district 30, said he too believes the slow progress is deliberate.
“I think that Worley and Reed are both trying to hold on to power as long as they can to try and figure out a way to circumvent the DNC,” he said. “If they could get away with outright ignoring them, I think they would.”
Juarez and Arnold also expressed frustration with the leadership’s lack of communication with the SDEC and other party members throughout this process.
“No one knows what’s going on and they can’t get an answer,” Jurez said. “No one is getting the full picture.”
Tabitha Isner, one of two people challenging Worley for chair, said that even when Worley does communicate, there’s little to no context.
“Everyone’s supposed to be digging for answers instead of being told what’s going on,” she said. “And I think that’s a symbol of the broader issue.”
Though once a dominant political force, the Alabama Democratic Party has ceded most of the state to the Republicans over the last 20 years. Some believe that new leadership is needed if the party hopes to compete again.
Griffith Gray, former Field and Data Director of the Alabama House Democratic Caucus, said the lack of progress and communication is “a continuation of the doomed leadership that has pained democrats in this state for years” and a “prime example of why new leadership is needed.”
“I speak for a lot of people when I say I’m truly worried that if we don’t succeed in replacing Nancy this upcoming election, we may be doomed for many years to come with little chance of being rescued or aided by the national party,” he said.
Arnold echoed a similar sentiment.
“It should be everybody’s goal, to win elections,” he said. “I believe change is needed for that to happen.
It has not yet been determined if any further action can or will be taken in order to move the process along, whether by the DNC or Alabama democrats.
“There’s been a lot of talk about doing something,” Isner said. “We’re still working to figure out what can be done. There are a lot of puzzle pieces.”
Though some may feel anxious, especially with the 2020 elections getting closer, Young recommended patience and said the DNC has reiterated that they’re “committed to long term systemic change” within the Alabama Democratic Party.
“The DNC is being very careful to methodically work through and give them every opportunity to respond,” he said. “They’re not just interested in window dressing. It’s a process.”