The State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) met in an organizational meeting on Saturday in Birmingham and voted to elect former party Vice Chair Pastor Randy Kelley as the new chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party (ADP). The victory is a vindication for Kelley, who was removed as Vice Chair in 2019.
Kelley takes over a party that has been badly wounded from five years of factional in-fighting, is approaching near irrelevance in state politics and has lost the confidence of in-state Democratic donors.
Kelley is the senior pastor of Lakeside United Methodist Church in Huntsville.
"I personally know that we're more in line with what Jesus stood for," Kelley said. "He was for the least of these. And our opposition is for the most wealthy of these."
Kelley received 104 of the 202 votes cast. City of Birmingham LGBTQ+ Liaison Josh Coleman received 56 votes, and Tabitha Isner finished third with 42 votes. Chairman State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) did not run for another term.
Isner was elected ADP Senior Vice Chair. Senior Vice Chair former State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) also did not seek a second term.
Coleman received just 27.7% of the SDEC vote, despite receiving the endorsements of Vice Chair former State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), the Alabama High School Democrats, State Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham), Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, the Alabama College Democrats, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois), New South Coalition President Chris Christie, former Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington and Former Congressman Earl Hilliard (D-AL07).
Coleman and Kelley represent Alabama on the Democratic National Committee, where Kelley Chairs the DNC Black Caucus.
Kelley had the full backing of Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) Chair Joe Reed and his son, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed.
Saturday's election of Kelley was a big win for Reed and the ADC after a decade of Democratic Party factional infighting.
In 2010, the Alabama Democratic Party lost control of both houses of the Alabama Legislature and every statewide elected office on the ballot. The ALGOP took two congressional seats from the Democrats. The ADP was deeply in debt.
In 2011, ADP Chairman Joe Turnham stepped down, and he was replaced by former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mark Kennedy. Reed was the Senior Vice Chair for Minority Affairs.
In 2013, citing the growing rift with Reed, Kennedy resigned as ADP Chair and formed his own competing Democratic organization. Senior Vice Chair former Secretary of State Nancy Worley was elevated to become the first woman Chair in ADP history. Worley was elected to the role later that year.
In 2014, the Alabama Republican Party won every statewide race on the ballot and grew their supermajorities in the legislature.
In 2017, Mountain Brook attorney Doug Jones was elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election due to decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct by Republican nominee former Chief Justice Roy Moore. Jones' win is the only victory for a Democratic candidate running statewide since 2008.
In 2018, Worley and Kelley were elected ADP Chair and Vice Chair over Jones's objections, who wanted new ADP leadership. Republicans won every statewide race on the ballot and grew their supermajorities in the legislature.
In 2019, Jones and Isner led a progressive revolt in the ADP. The DNC invalidated Worley and Kelley's election. England and Todd were elected in an SDEC meeting that Worley, Reed, and Kelley boycotted. Worley and Reed filed a lawsuit. Jones loyalist Wade Perry was hired as ADP executive director.
In 2020, Jones was defeated by former Auburn football Coach Tommy Tuberville.
In 2021, Worley died. She was age 70.
In 2022, Perry resigned. England called for an organizational meeting, and he and Todd announced their departures. Saturday, Kelley and Isner were elected Chair and vice chair of the Alabama Democratic Party.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.
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