“We’re not organized tonight, but you don’t belong to an organized party, do you?” said Sheila Gilbert, chairman of the Calhoun County Democrats at the group’s meeting Thursday night, alluding to the old Will Rogers quotation. “I guess you can say we’re Democrats.”
Gilbert was apologizing to the audience of about 50 at the Western Sizzlin restaurant in Oxford for the lateness of the night’s guest speaker, Mark Kennedy, the former chairman of the state Democratic Party, and no stranger himself to recent party organization problems.
Last month Kennedy left his position as chairman to form his own group, the Alabama Democratic Majority. Kennedy said his decision to step down as chairman came from disagreements with the party’s executive board, and that his new group was a chance to reorganize, and re-invigorate a party that’s lost much of its power in Montgomery.
“But don’t let anyone tell you I’m trying to destroy the Democratic Party or that I’m not a Democrat,” Kennedy said to the audience. “I’m not trying to say who we are, but what we can do together for the state of Alabama.”
Kennedy said his decision to form his own organization before the state party announced last week it was broke has led some to think the Democratic Party, which already lost much of its power in state politics in the last election cycle, was splitting apart at the seams. But Kennedy said while he had issues with the structure of the Alabama Democratic Party, it’s more important now than ever before for Democrats in the state to work together towards winning elections in 2014.
“I hope that Chairman (Nancy) Worley and Joe Reed are able to sort out their organizational problems and we can work together,” he said about the state’s party. “But every day we point fingers at each other is a day we aren’t focused on breaking up the super majority.”
Attempts on Thursday to reach Worley and Reed at the Alabama Democratic Party were unsuccessful.
Most of Kennedy’s speech focused on getting grassroots organizations throughout the state to work toward electing more Democrats to the Alabama Senate and House in the next election cycle.
“What do we have to do from now until election day?” Kennedy said. “Out-organize, outmaneuver and out-trick the Republican party.”
Kennedy’s speech drew big applause from the audience, and elected officials in attendance said they were cautiously optimistic about the party’s future in the state.
“There’s been some splits and difference of opinions, and we’ve seen that here in Anniston,” said City Councilman Sayram Salase. “Even though there has been some splits and some differences I’m interested in seeing how he hopes to bring us together and how to make us a force in the state of Alabama the way we used to be.”
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.