Lawsuit filed in Democratic Party leadership battle

Alabama News

Alabama Representative Chris England, House Judiciary Committee member, looks on as Jack Sharman, House Judiciary Committee special council, while he speaks to the Alabama House Judiciary Committee during a hearing on Gov. Robert Bentley’s impeachment Monday, April 10, 2017, in Montgomery, Ala. Alabama lawmakers began impeachment hearings for Bentley as they consider whether to try ousting the governor over accusations he used state resources to hide a relationship with a top aide. (Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP, Pool)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A new federal lawsuit is challenging bylaws changes at the Alabama Democratic Party that led to the installment of new leadership.

Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference — the state’s oldest Black political organization — announced the lawsuit last week.

The lawsuit contends that the changes violated a decades-old consent decree meant to ensure Blacks are represented on the party’s executive committee in numbers that reflect their percentages in the Democratic electorate. The lawsuit contends that the new bylaws which sought to nominate Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ individuals and young people diluted the influence of Black committee members.

“When whites deserted the Alabama Democratic Party, Blacks embraced it and held it together,” Reed wrote in a letter announcing the lawsuit. Reed said the changes sought to “weaken Blacks’ influence and give control of the party to whites.”

The lawsuit filed in federal court is the latest volley in the dispute between battling factions within the state Democratic Party. The bylaws approved in 2019 led to the election of current Chairman Chris England and the removal of Nancy Worley, who was supported by Reed. England is the first Black chairman of the party.

Barry Ragsdale, a lawyer who represented Democrats who supported the new bylaws and changes in the party’s leadership, said the lawsuit is, “nothing more than sour grapes by Joe Reed and his shrinking band of loyalists.”

“These are the same false and unfounded claims that these same folks raised in 2019 and that were thrown out by the Circuit Court and by the Alabama Supreme Court,” Ragsdale said.

Ragsdale noted the changes led to the election of the party’s first Black chairman.

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