LUMBERTON — Robeson County Democrats hope to save their floundering party by reorganizing and choosing new leadership.
A re-do of precinct organizational meetings and another county convention have been scheduled for later this month, said Brooke Clark, acting chair of the county party. The North Carolina Democratic Party ordered county party restructuring after it found that local Democrats did not follow party procedure when they elected their chairman and executive committee members during the April 8 county convention.
The local party still exists, but no business can be conducted until officers are elected at the county convention, said Clark, who was appointed temporary Robeson County chairman by state party Chairman Wayne Goodman.
The county convention is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 26 in Room 2A of the Robeson County Courthouse, located at 500 N. Elm St. in Lumberton. Registration will take place at 9 a.m.
“There will be some state Democratic Party personnel present at the convention,” Clark said. “They will be responsible for ballots and tallying votes.”
Precincts that are not organized must do so in accordance with the N.C. Democratic Party’s Plan of Organization on Aug. 12 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., Clark said. Precincts will be allowed to send voting delegates to the county convention only if they organize on Aug. 12.
Only 13 of the county’s 39 precincts are organized, Clark said. Although anyone can attend the convention, only delegates from organized precincts are eligible to vote for party leaders.
People are needed to help organize the precincts.
“I hope that people will be interested and participate,” Clark said. “I’ve already talked to some people who have helped in the past.”
Clark, who has been a precinct chairman and county vice chair, said she has no interest in serving as the county party chairman except in the interim.
“I was asked to serve as the acting county chair and I accepted,” she said. “I want to see the party get on the right track and progress.”
Anyone with questions can contact Clark by phone at 910-674-3650 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The state party’s 13-member Review Committee ruled on July 1 that a new convention must be held after holding a hearing in response to a petition filed by several county Democrats charging that the process used to elect local party officers at the April 8 county convention violated the state party’s Plan of Organization.
After several hours of testimony, the 11 members of the Review Committee present at the hearing in Raleigh voted 10-1 to uphold the charge that rules were violated when Robeson County Democrats other than elected convention delegates were permitted to vote for party leaders. Approximately 50 Democrats at the April 8 convention voted for party leaders, rather than only delegates from the 10 of about 39 precincts that were organized when the convention was held. The result was Ed Henderson, a Red Springs town commissioner who is black, was not re-elected to another two-year term as chairman. He was defeated by Pearlean Revels, an American Indian.
The county Democratic Party for the past 46 years has operated under a “gentleman’s agreement” that the party chairmanship would rotate by race to guarantee equal representation among the county’s white, black and American Indian communities, said John McNeill, a former Robeson County Democratic Party chairman and the current mayor of Red Springs. The agreement stipulates that a member from each race can serve a two-year term as chairman and another two-year term as chairman if they choose to seek re-election. At the April convention, Henderson, who had just finished his first two-year term and sought another term, was voted out of office.
The petition challenging the convention results was filed by several black elected officials from Red Springs, Maxton and Fairmont.
Revels said Wednesday that she is not sure if she will seek the party’s chairmanship during the upcoming convention.
McNeill said organizing the precincts and holding another convention is the way to correct the errors made during the April convention. However, not all of the precincts will be organized by the day of the convention, he said.
“I don’t think more than 20 precincts will be organized,” he said. “It’s hard to organize some of the smaller, rural precincts.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-4165.