Archive for the ‘District 54’ Category

Patricia Todd Named Freshman Legislator of the Year for 2008

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

A well-deserved honor:

In presenting the award [from the Democratic Caucus], Rep. Ken Guin, majority leader of the House, spoke of Todd’s “passion for the people she serves — particularly those in poverty — and the issues that face her District.”

Rep. Todd has won bipartisan support and praise for her work in establishing Alabama’s first Poverty Task Force and for her sponsorship of a permanent Alabama Poverty Commission.  Her efforts and leadership in this work has spurred the creation of numerous legislative initiatives including a bill that she will introduce in the coming session that dedicates a State funding source for public transportation and another calling for the creation of the state’s first Affordable Housing Trust Fund…

Rep. Todd blogs here at the Blues during the legislative session, and I’m looking forward to reading her perspective this year.


I Thought Revenge Was a Dish Best Served Cold…

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

…but it didn’t take long for Joe Reed to punish state Democratic Party Vice-Chair Amy Burks for going against him in the dispute over District 54 last summer.  Ms. Burks, who served for 16 years as first vice-chair of the party, was defeated in her bid for re-election on Saturday by Reed-backed candidate Nancy Worley.

Nancy, you’ll recall, is our outgoing — and not lamented — Secretary of State, the one who bought herself a tricked-out SUV at the same time she was laying off employees, the one who used state funds to make “public service announcements” that were clearly campaign ads, the one who told supporters in her Christmas letter that she thought her office was bugged, the one who was such an embarrassment that I suspect most Democrats are glad to see her leave office.  I know I am.  It’s too bad Ed Packard hadn’t a snowball’s chance of defeating her in the primary.  Dan at Between the Links has chronicled the wacky adventures of Nancy if you’d like to read more.

Anyway, Joe Reed, who has been a major power in the state party for decades, didn’t appreciate it when Amy Burks decided to follow the law and the will of the people of District 54.  Joe wanted to overturn the election results because he thinks the district, which is becoming more and more racially diverse, should be represented by a black person.  He says he doesn’t care that the white woman who was elected is also the first out lesbian to serve in the state legislature, although some of the nasty campaign literature disseminated by supporters of his hand-picked candidate would contradict that assertion.

Former Secretary of State Nancy Worley used endorsements from Joe Reed and Paul Hubbert to make a political comeback Saturday in a race where Alabama’s first openly gay legislator became an issue for some.

At a State Democratic Executive Committee meeting in Montgomery, Worley defeated party Vice Chairman Amy Burks 131-106 and immediately moved into the party’s No. 2 position. A third candidate, Pat Edington of Mobile, withdrew.

Burks said her support of state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, was a major issue in her defeat, but Reed said the race turned on who could do the best job of building the party.

Right, Joe.  I totally believe you.  Back in the dark ages when I took Organizational Behavior in grad school, we discussed what can happen when a person (or group) who has been heretofore powerless gets a little power.  You’d think that person (or group) would have empathy for others at the bottom of the ladder, but, unfortunately, the person frequently turns into a martinet, lording his or her authority over any underlings.  Joe Reed may have found himself in this position when he first started building his power base, when he had to scratch and kick to achieve anything for the black citizens of Alabama, but he’s long since moved beyond……or maybe he hasn’t.

Amy Burks says she has voted with Mr. Reed for thirty years, but her one act of rebellion, her realization that the law has to trump the power players, cost her her position.

Hubbert and Reed said they supported Worley because she’s a persuasive speaker who will travel the state to help build the Democratic Party at the county level and because she knows election laws well.

But Reed added, “Amy did not help herself this week when she tried to demonize me. The blacks didn’t like that.”

Oh, please.  Ms. Burks didn’t demonize you, Joe.  She’s no political neophyte; she knows exactly why you threw her under the bus, and I’m glad she was willing to say so in public.

I hope you feel vindicated now, Mr. Reed.  The rest of us who lean toward the Democrats get to look forward to the spectacle of Nancy Worley serving as a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  Thanks ever so.

Sincere thanks to Ms. Burks, who did the right thing when it really mattered, despite knowing she’d face the wrath of Joe.  And shame on every one of the delegates who let themselves be maneuvered, persuaded, or pressured to join him in his little vendetta. 


Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Kyle Whitmire of the Birmingham Weekly has been following the District 54 saga for quite a while.  I’d love to see him in print every day (or maybe he could start a blog), but writing one article or editorial a week does give one the opportunity to do background research and gain the perspective that comes with time and distance.  He’s done an excellent job.  Check out his latest article here and past columns here

“Definite” Write-In Campaign In District 54?

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Danny at Doc’s Political Parlor was kind enough to talk to Frank Matthews about this, so the rest of us wouldn’t have to.  Frank’s the Birmingham talk radio host and perennial candidate who came out of Saturday’s State Democratic Executive Committee meeting hollering about “n*ggers and gays” because the committee actually voted to give the District 54 nomination to Patricia Todd, the person who won the runoff election (and received the majority of votes in the primary).

From Danny’s post:

…”We are absolutely going to have a write-in candidate,” [Matthews] said. He was “85% sure” that Gaynelle Hendricks would be the candidate. She hasn’t agreed to it, but he thinks she will. “That’s the great part about a write-in candidate. They don’t have to agree to it.” But if she is not the candidate, “we will have another strong candidate.”

They are “going to do it right” and are “talking to some people in New Jersey who have won a write-in campaign.” He said he knew they would have to lean on some Republican support. He also knows that only one candidate has ever won a seat in the Alabama legislature as a write-in candidate: Sen. Lowell Barron in 1983.

“I knew that letter [from Joe Reed] was a bad idea because it polarized the district racially. I saw a first draft and knew it was a bad idea.” It allowed Todd to “hide the gay issue in the race issue.”

So then I may say that there will definitely be a write-in campaign?

“Definitely. Absolutely. Get the word out.”

A couple of observations are in order.  One, Frank doesn’t sound completely sure that Gaynell will participate in a write-in campaign.  If she doesn’t, who is he planning to strong-arm, I mean recruit, to run?  I feel quite sure he’d do it himself if he lived in the district.  Two, he’s clearly planning to play the homophobia card, which may further polarize a district that doesn’t need to be divided further.  Third, he says he’ll have to draw on Republican support, but I can’t see much coming from inside District 54.  If Republicans were strong there, they’d have fielded a candidate for the seat.

Now a question: what does Frank Matthews hope to achieve by doing this?

Dan’s also covering the story at Between the Links.

Alvin Holmes, Hero

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Robin DeMonia of the Birmingham News has a good column today about Rep. Alvin Holmes and his impassioned defense of Patricia Todd and the voters who elected her to the state house.  Here are some excerpts, but be sure to read the whole thing.

Alvin Holmes has fought as hard as anyone to open doors for blacks in Alabama.

As the longest-serving black legislator in the state, and one of the most outspoken representatives of any color, Holmes marches headlong into battle more often than most people walk to the mailbox….

…Yet Saturday, Holmes fought just as passionately on behalf of a white candidate.

Holmes urged the Democratic Party to reinstate Patricia Todd, who defeated Gaynell Hendricks in a Jefferson County legislative race but was disqualified (as was Hendricks) for violating a long-ignored party rule.

The problem, Holmes said, wasn’t that Todd didn’t file her campaign finance reports with the party. That rule hasn’t been enforced since 1988. The real problem was Todd is white, and House District 54 is predominantly black….

…”I’ve been arrested 27 times for standing up for people’s rights,” Holmes said. “It’s too late in the evening for me to start standing up and taking people’s rights from them.”…

…Some dismiss Holmes’ antics as good theater. But more often than not, there’s substance and integrity in what Holmes says. As he showed again Saturday, there’s a difference between grandstanding and taking a grand stand.

Rep. Holmes has no problem standing up to the power structure in the state and the party.  He deserves lots of credit for his courage.  “It’s too late in the evening for me to start standing up and taking people’s rights from them.”  Words to live by.


Agape Press: Run for Your Lives, the Queers Are Coming!

Monday, August 28th, 2006

The folks at Agape Press are not happy with Patricia Todd’s victory or with the “pro-homosexual” blogs that helped spread the word about her campaign.  Their alarmist rhetoric is designed to widen the supposed rift between blacks and gays.  How Christian of them…

The Democratic Party has always been a hodge-podge collection of misfit toys, but this is especially true in the Bible Belt. To be a Democrat in the South is the equivalent to being a Republican in Hollywood. For the most part, Southern success and the party of the donkey have not walked hand in hand. [Gosh, really?  Last time I checked, the Alabama legislature had a Democratic majority.]  Because of this political development, Democratic Party politics became more about power than principle — and the number-one question is who will sit at the helm of the Democrats’ southern Titanic?

Ever since Bull Conner turned on the fire hoses in Selma, blacks have answered that question. Blacks were to the Dixie Democrats as sweet tea is to the South; and for almost half a century, blacks in the South enjoyed a hegemonic reign — that is, until the arrival of the homosexuals.

With the rise of gay activists in Democratic politics, it was only a matter of time before gays below the Mason-Dixon Line attempted to flex their political muscle and challenge the prominence of the party’s black leaders. And with primary election of the homosexual lobby’s lesbian lieutenant — Patricia Todd — the Democrats’ Bull Run followed.

My goodness.  How can these intensely straight people be such drama queens?

After days of party in-fighting, the Alabama Democrats voted to keep Todd on the ballot and recognize her win. Nevertheless, this split caught the eye of Howard Dean, who monitored the situation closely. While Democratic National Committee spokesperson Damian Lavera stressed that DNC rules prevented national interference in such matters, pro-homosexual bloggers [that would be me] were giddy with the news that Dean had called eight times during the meeting and been on the phone with Yellowhammer Democrats all week.

Now let’s be sure to stir up fear of the marauding gays who are on a quest to overrun state government.

Understand this — the homosexual lobby is on a quest to raise its rainbow flag over every state house in the Union. Blacks in the South are now learning this lesson, for their party is on the receiving end of a forcible makeover. Make no mistake, Todd was a trophy candidate; a candidate funded by the gay lobby, and her victory signals the Democratic wind is blowing in a new direction. Gays in, blacks out.  [Because we all know that you can't have both.  And I guess the folks at Agape Press don't know that there are black gay people.]

And here’s the call for backlash.  These people must have been talking to Frank Matthews.

…This sneeze will soon give the DNC a terrible cold. Traditionalists must recognize this rift and bring the message of traditional values to the newly dejected black southern Democrat. Traditionalists must offer blacks a new home by using the issues of marriage protection, life, and school choice. Traditionalists must show southern blacks there is an alternative to the Democratic Machine — that it is a reason to break ranks with the likes of the NAACP.

Traditionalists must seize the day today, for tomorrow will be too late. As Alabama has taught us, no state — red or otherwise — can be taken for granted.

Yes, because we all know that traditionalists have always been concerned about civil rights and guaranteeing people of color their place at the table.  Oh, no — wait — they really haven’t.

Pam has some thoughts as well. 

A Couple of Cool Stories from Yesterday’s SDEC Meeting

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

There really is hope for the party based on a couple of things I observed yesterday.

First, there is the saga of selecting a replacement candidate for House District 70.  The local party endorsed Chris England, an assistant Tuscaloosa city attorney who is also the son of county Circuit Judge John England.  Joe Reed doesn’t like John England, so he found his own nominee, Ken King.  Joe Turnham had nothing but praise for both of these young men.  Chris England narrowly edged Mr. King, and after the vote I watched as they shook hands and then hugged, with Ken promising to support Chris.  Later, I walked out to the lobby and saw them, still deep in conversation, and they shook hands again when they parted.  These two look like class acts, people, and I hope they are the future of the party.

Second, when it came time for the committee to discuss and vote on District 54, I sat down by two black women in the spectator section.  After a few minutes, I realized that they had come to observe some other issue before the committee and didn’t know about this particular dispute.  They were listening closely to the speakers, and then they turned to me and began to whisper questions.  Which one was Ms. Todd?  I pointed her out.  Why was there a problem with a report that nobody files?  If Ms. Todd got the most votes, why was there any dispute?  When it was time to vote, one of them said, “We’re praying that you win.”  Afterward, they stopped me in the lobby and asked for some more information about Patricia.

And when I finally had the opportunity to check out, here’s what I saw:


Yep, that would be one of Patricia’s new supporters giving her a hug.

ADDENDUM:  Zach’s post on yesterday’s events is much funnier than mine, but it’s also quite heartwarming.

More On the SDEC Meeting

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

Once again, WE WON!!! 

We’ve been celebrating and rehashing a bit (no alcohol involved — at least not yet — I still have to drive back to Birmingham).  Most of the meeting was just as exciting as you might expect when a bunch of people get together and use parliamentary procedure to communicate.

Of course, Patricia’s dispute was last on the agenda.  Amy Burks, chair of the subcommittee that recommended disqualifying both Patricia and Gaynell Hendricks, read the recommendation.  Chair Joe Turnham explained that a vote to uphold the recommendation would result in the disqualification of both candidates and a vacancy in District 54, while a vote to overturn it would end the contest and make Patricia the nominee.

Then Raymond Johnson spoke, supposedly on behalf of Gaynell, but primarily to insist that the committee hold Patricia to a standard no one else had to meet.

Bobby Segall was just as eloquent and impassioned on Patricia’s behalf today as he was on Thursday, and he dropped a minor bombshell — he had an affidavit from a former Democratic party chair stating that the portion of the bylaws used against both candidates had been repealed and replaced with a rule in line with the 1988 Fair Campaign Practices Act.  He also continued to point out that no Democratic candidate had filed financial disclosure forms with the party this year, and that disqualifying Patricia on that basis would open the entire slate to challenge.  In fact, he said that Gerald Dial (D-not really) was already planning to sue if the subcommittee decision was upheld.  He said that real Democrats don’t discriminate against each other, they don’t selectively apply the rules, and they don’t consider elections to be preference polls for leaders to approve or disapprove.

Then we endured quite a few “points of order” that were primarily opportunities for individual committee members to express their opinions.

Finally, the chair called for a vote.  He asked those who supported upholding the subcommittee’s recommendation to stand.  They did, and at that point, I began to hope.  Joe Reed prowled the aisles, glaring at those who remained seated, and succeeded in coercing a few more votes.  Joe Turnham had to ask everyone to stand again because Reed’s machinations had screwed up the count.  Then those opposed to the resolution stood.  The counters counted, we sweated, my hands started shaking, and finally Joe Turnham announced the count:

87 votes to uphold the recommendation, 95 to overturn it.  Those of us in the back of the room started cheering, and I ran for the lobby — and a wireless signal — so I could spread the word.

The meeting adjourned right after the vote, and I’m afraid there were some unhappy people leaving the room.  One very angry black man came out yelling, “N*ggers and gays, n*ggers and gays, that’s all this party has.”  He kept ranting about the Republicans winning in November until someone reminded him that Patricia is unopposed.  Then he started carrying on about a write-in race.  Unfortunately, the TV cameras were right there, and the reporters gave him a format to spew.  Then he walked out, telling the Todd supporters that they’d better not touch him.  I guess he was assuming that all her supporters are gay and that he might catch it.  I could have reassured him that no one there had any desire to touch him.

Patricia was all smiles, and her supporters were ecstatic.  I walked out with party Executive Director Jim Spearman, who told me that Howard Dean had called eight times during the meeting to find out what happened.  He said he’d been on the phone with Dean all week, and that the DNC was frantic because of all the negative feedback.  People were ticked off, and no funds were coming in.

So thanks to all of you who contacted the DNC, the Alabama Democratic Party, your local committee members, and anyone else who would listen to insist that justice be done.

Democracy prevailed today, folks.  We have reason to be proud.

UPDATE:  Here’s the Victory Fund statement.  And the angry black man was apparently local radio talk show host and perennial candidate Frank Matthews.  What a kook.

UPDATE 2:  As Lisa pointed out in the comments, Rep. Alvin Holmes deserves thanks for standing up to defend Patricia against the kind of tactics that have been used against black candidates in the past.  I also heard Glenn Allen, one of the subcommittee members, telling Patricia that he was very glad to have been overruled. 

Doing the Right Thing

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

WE WON!!!!!

Semi-Live Blogging the SDEC Meeting

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

The wireless signal works in the lobby but not in the meeting room, which is packed with Todd supporters.  We’re just about ready for the appeal of Patricia’s disqualification.  I think it will be 30 to 45 minutes.  They have to finish the Greene County sheriff’s race appeal first.

I had a tip from Kyle Whitmire of the Birmingham Weekly that the committee is “throwing Gaynell [Hendricks] under the bus”.  It appears they are planning to nominate George Perdue, who currently holds the District 54 seat but was planning to retire at the end of his term.  If that happens, I guess the next stop is court.

Joe Reed managed to get Gaynell’s attorney elected to the SDEC this morning, so that’s one more vote in her favor.  Chris Englund was elected to be the nominee in District 70 (?) Tuscaloosa, a loss for Joe Reed who doesn’t like Chris’s dad.

More as it happens.