RIP for the Shelby County Democratic Party 

State Democratic chair Mancini rings down the curtain, at least temporarily, on the SCDP.

Young Democrats at Monday’s press conference

Jackson Baker

Young Democrats at Monday’s press conference

For what it's worth — and that is a very open question — the Shelby County Democratic Party has ceased to exist, having been formally decertified last Friday by state Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini of Nashville. 

Mancini's letter of decertification, dispatched to the latest person to chair the SCDP, Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Michael Pope, cited as the basis for her action "Article III Section 2(f) and Article VII Section 1(a)(3) of the Tennessee Democratic Party Bylaws," which, she said, made it "the responsibility of the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee to establish 'the procedures and rules for organizing and functioning of County Democratic Executive Committees and maintaining close relationships with such committees' and to develop and monitor a minimum set of requirements that must be observed by a state sanctioned certified County Democratic Party."

That description left unaddressed two important components of the matter: 1) whether and to what extent the state committee took part in her decision; and 2) specific reasons for her action.

Those are arguably related issues, in that one of the known factors in forcing Mancini's hand, and likely the precipitating one, has been the Shelby County party's months-long impasse over what to do about the case of former local party chair Bryan Carson, who resigned last year after an audit turned up evidence of unexplained shortages in the party treasury.

Ever since, through the brief tenure of one successor to Carson as chair, Randa Spears, who also resigned, pleading a need to give full attention to her administrative job at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, and into the election of Pope as her successor, the local party organization has been riven into two factions. 

One faction was willing to accept a compromise proposal, letting Carson effect partial repayment of the unaccounted-for funds at the level of $6,000, through monthly installment payments of $100. The other, contending that a second audit showed Carson's liability to be at $25,000 or higher, sought prosecution of some sort and prevailed in a vote of the committee at its June meeting.

Nothing came of that vote, however. Meanwhile Mancini, expressing displeasure that the imbroglio was getting in the way of the party's ability to focus on electing the party's candidates this year, prevailed upon Pope to execute an agreement with Carson on behalf of the $6,000 compromise.

That led to a vote at the SCDP committee's July meeting at which a tie vote failed to ratify the agreement, and to a vote at the committee's August meeting, two weeks ago, renouncing Carson's bona fides as a Democrat.

Carson continues to be a member of the state Democratic executive committee, however, a fact that his critics, and Mancini's as well, find questionable under the circumstances.

In any case, Mancini could with some justice cite as additional reasons for her decertification what she termed (in something of an understatement) the SCDP's "many years of dysfunction," typified by nonstop personal feuds, many of them involving self-appointed party gadfly Del Gill, and the fact that, in both Carson's tenure and Spears', the SCDP failed to meet deadlines for financial disclosures to the state Election Registry, thereby incurring fines rivaling in size the amounts alleged to have gone missing under Carson.

In the meantime, Alvin Crook, president of the Shelby County Young Democrats, and London Lamar, president of the state YD organization, held a press conference on Monday, at which the YD officers promised, in Lamar's words, to continue to "represent the views of the Democratic Party," as the only remaining "chartered Democratic organization in this county."

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