There's trouble brewing in Alabama for Patricia Todd -- and it's getting uglier by the day. Todd, who won her primary race on July 18th in a runoff for a state legislative seat, should be the first openly-gay candidate to win a legislative race in that state.
But, there's a problem. The vice chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, Joe Reed, wants to overturn the election results. His candidate lost, so he's trying to use a Democratic Party panel to overrule the choice of the voters.
The race is generating much local attention. An op-ed in Sunday's Birmingham News summed up the situation:
Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference and vice chairman of the Democratic Party, not only tried to influence the voting in a Birmingham legislative race, but also he is making sure that a challenge to the voters' choice stays alive.There's a very important fact to understand here: this effort to overturn an election victory is all happening within the confines of the Democratic Party. As the editorial notes, Mr. Reed is a major player in the Alabama state party. And, it's a Democratic Party committee that will hear the challenge to the election. This isn't a case of a Republican court deciding to steal an election -- it's all in the Democratic party.
Patricia Todd defeated Gaynell Hendricks in the July 18 primary runoff election by 59 votes. The people have spoken. There is no reason to believe the outcome is anything but an honest expression of the preference of voters who went to the polls. It is time to move on.
However, Hendricks and her supporters are contesting the election, trying to find some technical loophole that might allow them to win before a party committee the victory they were unable to win in the field.
Hendricks says she is paying for the contest. However, Reed did deliver a check to the Democratic Party to pay for the contest if Hendricks' check did not arrive on time, Jerome Gray, field director for the ADC, told a News reporter. The hearing on Hendricks' challenge was delayed when members of the panel failed to show up.
Close elections court contests. Candidates who believe that elections were not carried out according to the rules have a right to have the vote reviewed. The intervention of a party heavyweight, though, appears once again to pit the party hierarchy against the voters.
Democrats have made it a mantra to say that Democratic primary voters matter. That's what major national Democrats are all saying about the Lamont/Lieberman race. In Alabama, the opposite could be happening. Some Democrats there think Democratic primary voters don't matter. That is the wrong message.
In Patricia Todd's race, the voters in the Democratic primary made a choice. She won. It's a stain on the Democratic Party -- from the DNC on down to the Alabama State party -- if one powerbroker can use the Democratic party process to overturn election results he doesn't like. That's not democracy and it's not the Democratic Party.
Birmingham Blues has been providing excellent local coverage on this race. There may be another hearing this week. We'll continue to monitor the shenanigans.
UPDATES: Kathy from Birmingham Blues reports that the next Democratic Party hearing on the race is scheduled for Thursday, August 24th at 2 PM.
Also, Andy at TowleRoad ("a blog with homosexual tendencies" that we love) has written a number of posts on this race -- including another one today.