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Election of Richmond Democratic Party leaders thrown out following complaints

Election of Richmond Democratic Party leaders thrown out following complaints

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James “J.J.” Minor’s election to a fifth term as the leader of the Richmond arm of the state Democratic Party was thrown out last week after complaints of a flawed process and voter intimidation.

In a memo dated March 15, the state party’s Fourth Congressional District Committee said it was placing the Richmond City Democratic Committee under supervision for one year and will oversee a new election of local officers.

The city committee, which organizes get-out-the-vote efforts and issues coveted endorsements in local races, is barred from meeting until the new election is held. The committee has about 220 members.

“The appeals committee has determined that the Richmond City Democratic Committee’s call to caucus, caucus rules and venue were flawed and inadequate to allow for the process to be adhered to and for the maximum participation of those in attendance,” according to the memo, signed by Fourth Congressional District Committee Chairwoman Lashrecse Aird. The Fourth Congressional District Committee oversees local committees within the state’s Fourth Congressional District.

The ruling followed a complaint filed by 10 members of the city committee, who argued the committee’s members were not properly checked in before the January election. They also cited debate as to whether the vote would occur by ballot or a show of hands, prompting one member to voice concern that a show of hands would lead to attempts at intimidation.

“(Minor) aggressively dismissed her concern and further questioned her perspective by asking, ‘What do you mean you feel intimidated? There’s no intimidation,’” the complaint states.

The complaint also states that the committee’s secretary — who was challenging Minor for chair — was instructed to notify 10 committee members that they were not allowed to cast votes. The instruction resulted in an argument that led to “physical boundaries being broken,” the complaint states.

Minor, who works as a community outreach coordinator in the city’s Department of Economic and Community Development, was declared the winner, fending off the challenge from secretary Jamie Nolan. The committee also re-elected Sandra Antoine, a Minor ally, as its vice chairwoman.

In a brief interview, Minor said the committee had followed the party’s rules.

“Absolutely the integrity of the process was adhered to,” Minor said, adding that the committee intended to file an appeal of the Fourth Congressional District Committee’s decision.

Minor, the son of Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, is a staunch supporter of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and was an ally of Stoney’s predecessor, former Mayor Dwight C. Jones. In addition to the RCDC chairmanship, Minor heads the local branch of the NAACP.

The complaint alleges issues during the January election were “not an isolated incident but rather” are “indicative of a larger pattern of behavior.”

“Over the last few years, various incidents, actions and dynamics have occurred in the Richmond City Democratic Committee that threaten the integrity of the Committee, the (Democratic Party of Virginia) Party Plan and our Democratic values,” alleges the complaint, which is signed by Tavarris Spinks, Tyrone Williams, Gera Williams, Emily Francis, Alex Mejias, Eugene Chigna, Bryan Green, Christie Ann Bieber, Joseph Papa and Jimmie Lee Jarvis.

Spinks, a member of the committee since 2009 who said he signed on because he felt there would be no recourse through the local committee, said he’s satisfied by the decision to hold a new election with the state party’s oversight.

“Leadership doesn’t follow the rules. They write the rules. It’s maddening,” he said. “At least we have a chance for an impartial process now.”

Eric Payne, the past treasurer of the party, said frustration with leadership has been building for years. Minor has been the subject of a number of intraparty controversies. During the 2016 campaign, he faced criticism after he established a political action committee to support a candidate for City Council who was running against the candidate endorsed by the local committee.

“A lot of members want RCDC to be more active and effective in our communities and our campaigns,” Payne said.

He called the committee’s decision to reverse the election surprising.

“I’ve been around the Democratic Party of Virginia for 30 years now,” Payne said. “I can’t recall anything that was this sweeping of an order to redo things.”

Minor said he hadn’t decided whether he would run to retain his chairmanship if the committee’s appeal of the state party’s decision is denied.

A date for a new election hasn’t been set, but the Fourth Congressional District Committee said it must take place no later than April 20.

Of the eight Richmond City Council candidates the RCDC made an endorsement for during the 2016 local election cycle, six won their races. Of the nine Richmond School Board candidates the committee endorsed, eight won their respective contests.

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Twitter: @__MarkRobinson

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