Party leaders react to changes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2006

After learning the Alabama Democratic Party would take control of the Hale County division, several local party members, including two who represent the county in the state legislature, had differing reactions to the changes.

Some felt the changes would improve the party’s credibility within the state. But, others felt the changes were undermining the authority of local committee members.

Alabama State Senator and Hale County Democrat Bobby Singleton said he didn’t feel state headquarters was giving the local leaders a fair shake. But, he said, they would comply with the changes.

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“I don’t think the Democratic Party has respected the local executive committee,” Singleton said. “But, we are going to follow the rules and accept whatever comes down.”

On the other hand, Alabama State Representative Ralph Howard, whose district includes Hale County, said it was time for the Hale County Democratic Party to get back on track.

“I think the local party should adhere to the rules,” Howard said. “It is pretty simple. When you have a democratic process like we are supposed to have, I think it is important that all the people legally supported to be involved should be involved.”

The changes are not something local members approved of, Singleton said, but they also didn’t want to do anything to create problems.

“We don’t agree with it,” Singleton said. “But, we are going to follow the rules. We are just going to do our part to work with them and be good Democrats.”

Though help from the state was not popular with some local members, Howard said, it could be just what they need to get the local branch back on track.

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” Howard said. “I think this will help us with some of the issues we are facing such as absentee ballots. We have to clean up Hale County.”

Hale County’s chairman, the Rev. Robert Shepherd, said he would like to discuss the issue with their attorney before making a statement.

“I just got the letter Saturday morning, so I haven’t had a chance to go through it with our attorney,” Shepherd said.

The state party headquarters chose to step in after a high volume of complaints from Hale Countians regarding difficulties qualifying and other issues within the group.

Under the new system, the Hale County Democratic Party is considered a partial trustee of the state party for the purposes of qualifying and certification of nominees, challenges, contests and other matters.

In a statement from party headquarters, they said the ruling would stay in effect until the executive board feels the local committee is in compliance with the party’s standards.

The Hale County Committee may continue to conduct business and may qualify candidates, but will do so under the direct oversight of a three-person committee from the Executive Board of the SDEC appointed by Chairman Joe Turnham.