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Alabama Democratic Party dispute heads to court

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A dispute over control of the Alabama Democratic Party is headed to court.

Alabama Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley and others filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to stop a faction of the party’s governing committee from meeting this weekend to elect new leaders. The lawsuit contends the scheduled Saturday meeting, where the reform group intends to elect a new chair, is unauthorized and is being held “illegally.”

“Plaintiffs contend that any officers and at-large members purportedly elected on Nov. 2, 2019, will have been improperly elected and may not serve,” the lawsuit states.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin has scheduled a Thursday morning hearing on the request to block the meeting.

The lawsuit is the latest twist in an ongoing struggle that has split the party’s executive committee into two factions. On one side is a reform group whose actions have been approved by the Democratic National Committee. On the other are members aligned with Worley and Joe Reed, the party’s vice chairman of minority affairs. Both sides had predicted the dispute would ultimately end up in court.

The lawsuit names reform group organizers as defendants in the lawsuit.

State Rep. Chris England, a defendant in the lawsuit, said he is comfortable the Nov. 2 meeting has been properly authorized.

“I honestly don’t see how a court has jurisdiction to enjoin a meeting of this sort,” England said.

The DNC directed the Alabama party to hold new elections for chair and vice chair and update bylaws to provide for the representation of more minorities and underrepresented groups in the party including Hispanics, LGBTQ individuals and young voters. State party leaders and the DNC have been engaged in a lingering dispute over those bylaws.

The reform group held an Oct. 5 meeting in which about 78 of the more 200 executive committee members adopted new bylaws and scheduled the Nov. 2 meeting. The DNC has said those bylaws are binding on the party.

The lawsuit argues the meeting was not properly called and the bylaws and the Nov. 2 meeting are invalid. Worley said Wednesday night that they had tried unsuccessfully to compromise with the “breakaway” group.

“We believe the breakaway group has caused enough chaos in the Party; therefore, we hope the Court can take steps to remedy this problem,” Worley said.

The dispute comes as the Nov. 8 deadline approaches for Democratic candidates to file paperwork with the state party to run in the 2020 elections.

Associated Press