Chism had been one of several Democrats who were formally censured recently by the party’s executive committee for violation of “existing protocols for bona fides, loyalty and political behavior.” In the case of Chism, a Shelby County Commissioner and former Teamster leader who served an interim term in the state Senate, the offense was that of allegedly trying to keep Sheriff Bill Oldham, a Republican, from having to deal with a Democratic opponent.
Bennie Cobb, who has filed as a Democrat to oppose Oldham’s reelection, testified to the party committee that Chism had implored him on multiple occasions not to run against Oldham.
After being censured, Chism responded by suggesting the party was “dysfunctional” and by stating for the record his conviction that Oldham was “the best candidate: for Sheriff.
At that point, at the request of Gill, an ex officio (i.e., non-elected) member who had brought the censure resolution, Carson had scheduled a special called meeting of the party executive committee for Thursday night of this week, expressly for the purpose of determining whether to declare Chism “non bona fides” as a Democrat. Such action would have precluded Chism’s running for office again as a Democrat or using the party label in any other overt way.
But in the meantime Carson scheduled a lunch with Chism for last Friday. Afterward, Chism dispatched the following letter of apology to Carson:
I am a life-long Democrat and I will always support the Democratic Party. I am under attack from a fragment of the membership who I feel are following the lead of a man with personal motives and as I have said before that is unfortunate. This ordeal has caused me to say words that I wish I hadn't said. But in the heat of being attacked, I simply got angry and called the SCDP dis-functional and for that I humbly apologize.
Bryan, I will support the Democratic Party always and pray God's blessings on us all.
Carson released the letter on Monday and said he regarded the apology as resolving the matter and formally called off the schedled Thursday night meeting.
Gill, however, remained unsatisfied. He sent a letter to party secretary Rose Ann Bradley, indicating he would persist in efforts to decertify Chism as a Democrat. The letter said in part:
"...Point of Order: There is no provision in our Bylaws that allows the 'un-calling' of a duly called meeting of the SCDP Executive Committee.
But since it is obvious that Chair Carson does not plan to be in session on Thursday, May 27, 2014 - WE should ALL plan for the next REGULARLY scheduled meeting on April 3, 2014."
The other matter dealt with by Carson was a previous letter sent out by Gill, onje advising Democratic candidates to avoid joint appearances with Republicans. The letter — signed “Del Gill, SCDP” — noted the fact of Sunday’s NAACP forum for county mayoral and Commission candidates and said in part:
"…Our invited candidates should be further cautioned their participation in any such non-partisan forums with cross party participation prior to the conclusion of our PARTISAN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY on May 6th prematurely elevates potential Republican incumbents to being “honorary Democrats” prior to the GENERAL ELECTION contests scheduled for August 7th.
"Our Party‘s Strategic Position to our CANDIDATES is: during the primary, limit your debates to DEMOCRATS only; let the Republicans and Independents wait on our Nominees per position until the General Election season which commences the day after our May 6th Primary….."
Carson said he disagreed with that position, expressed concern to Gill that he had appeared to speak on behalf of the Democratic Party without authorization, and made his feelings known to other Democrats. “I have always been a supporter of the NAACP,” the chairman said.
In any case, the auditorium at First Baptist Church Broad St. was filled to capacity for the forum on Sunday, almost exclusively with Democrats, candidates as well as rank and file sorts. One Republican, incumbent County Commissioner Steve Basar, spoke at the forum, along with his Democratic opponent in District 13, Manoj Jain.
Carson was on hand, and so, for that matter, was Gill.