The Multnomah County Democratic Party is experiencing some turbulence, thanks to machinations around legislative races.
On Nov. 14, the party held an election to replace former chairman Teddy Keizer, who submitted his resignation in order to run for the House District 42 seat Rep. Jules Bailey (D-Portland) vacated to run for county commission.
At that meeting, dozens of newcomers showed up, seeking to become precinct committee persons. Many of those newcomers came at least in part so they could support the prospective legislative candidacy of Barbara Smith Warner, a longtime political organizer and, more recently, aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Warner is one of the people interested in being appointed to replace former Rep. Michael Dembrow (D-Northeast Portland), who moved up to the Senate earlier this month after the resignation of Sen. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland), who resigned to take a job with Mayor Charlie Hales.
Yes, this is pretty confusing and yes, there are a lot of names involved, but we're almost there. So all the newcomers who came to the Nov. 14 meeting to get into position to support Smith Warner's desire for Dembrow's seat also voted in the chair's race that night.
As it turns out, that vote, which elected Lakeitha Elliott chair, was invalid.
Here's the email (emphasis added) the county party sent out earlier this week:
PCPs: This has been a very tough week. At the central committee meeting last Thursday, we held an election for Chair of the Party, and you may wonder why an official report of the results has not been sent. This is the explanation. We had a large number (36) of new PCPs presented for appointment, some but by no means all of them in anticipation of the possible opportunity to participate in a nominating convention for House District 45. We followed a provision in our bylaws that allowed them to participate immediately, and gave them ballots in the election for Chair. A total of 82 ballots were cast, and we don't have the practice of requiring signed ballots, so there was no way to sort them as to eligibility status. There was grumbling even as the balloting was taking place about this process. But by the next morning there were serious questions being raised about the legality of it. An examination of the State law that applies showed that it was clearly illegal to include the newly appointed PCPs in the election because they had not yet been recorded as PCPs with County Elections, so they were not yet members of the Central Committee. That recording is still in process now. We refrained from officially reporting the results, and obtained legal advice and advice from the Secretary of State's office. Yesterday, the current officers of the Party met to take action on a plan to move forward. Here are the minutes of that meeting, showing our findings and the plan to rectify the situation. If you have questions or concerns, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your patience and understanding. This has been very difficult for everyone.
What now? The party will meet Dec. 12, with another vote on the agenda. Meanwhile, the chair's seat remains empty.
Meanwhile, Jamey Woods, a Democratic former two-term Parkrose School Board member, has officially entered the race for Dembrow's seat, so regardless of who gets the appointment, there should be a contested Democratic primary next year.