2020 election

Time for new Alabama Democratic Party leadership, says Sen. Doug Jones

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama. ((Source: Doug Jones for Senate Committee via Wikimedia Commons)

With pressure mounting from national party leaders and the Democratic National Committee, the state’s highest-ranking Democratic officeholder says the state party needs new leaders.

Sen. Doug Jones told Birmingham Watch on Thursday that he is frustrated with the Alabama Democratic Party’s direction, or lack thereof, and he would like to see Chairwoman Nancy Worley replaced. Jones’ comments came after a student forum held at Miles College in Fairfield.

“Leadership needs to be changed, and I think it’s going to be changed. I think there’s still some things that will have to be done,” Jones said. “We don’t even have a delegate selection plan right now. It’s been rejected. I think once we can get bylaws done, soon we’ll get a new election. We’re going to expand. I believe the membership of the party will include more youth, more diversity and opportunities we haven’t had in a long, long time. I’m very, very optimistic about where we’re going to ultimately go with the party.”

Worley and state Vice Chairman Randy Kelley had their credentials revoked by the DNC in August after missing deadlines to hold new elections for chair and vice chair and to change party bylaws, which concern those elections. A DNC spokesperson told The Associated Press that they no longer recognize Worley and Kelley as the heads of the state party.

The action stems from two complaints filed against the ADP, one of which charged Worley with rigging the election in her and Kelley’s favor, and the other charging the state party with not following racial diversity rules. The DNC ordered new leadership elections in February; those elections have not yet been held.

“There’s Nobody Running Things”

Jones said he hasn’t had much interaction with Worley or other party leaders as of late.

“There’s nobody running things. There’s nothing actually being run down there. I don’t even know if the doors are open down there at this point,” he said. “There’s no one running the party, there’s nothing being done, there’s been no social media feed since May. Literally the only thing that’s been done has been fighting the DNC and calling the DNC racist for challenging the status quo in Alabama. And that’s wrong. It’s been embarrassing.”

When he ran in December 2017 for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, Jones got very little logistical or financial support from the state party, partly because his chances of winning the general election were considered small at the time he won the Democratic primary. Those prospects changed when his Republican opponent, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, was accused of sexual misconduct with younger women in Etowah County while serving as an assistant district attorney. Jones built his campaign apparatus largely from scratch and won a narrow victory over Moore to reclaim a Senate seat that had not been in Democratic hands since 1997, when Howell Heflin left office.

Jones is now gearing up for a campaign to win a full term in that seat, with the official kickoff coming this weekend. So far, the state party hasn’t been much help, but the conflict within its ranks also hasn’t made much difference in his preparations.

“It hasn’t affected (the campaign) yet, but I think it could. I think change is in the air. There’s a lot of things happening and I think you’re going to see those changes coming,” Jones said.

Jones is thus far unopposed in the Democratic primary in March and is expected to move on to the general election in November 2020. Several candidates have lined up for the Republican primary and the chance to take Jones on. That list so far includes Moore (despite protestations from GOP leadership and President Donald Trump), former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.