Alabama Democratic Party Information

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Alabama Democratic Party
Chairperson Nancy Worley
House Leader Anthony Daniels
Senate Leader Billy Beasley
Headquarters Montgomery, AL
Ideology Modern liberalism
Political position Centre to centre-left
National affiliation Democratic Party
Colors Blue
Seats in the U.S. Senate
1 / 2
Seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
1 / 7
Statewide Executive Offices
0 / 7
Seats in the Alabama Senate
8 / 35
Seats in the Alabama House of Representatives
28 / 105

The Alabama Democratic Party is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the state of Alabama. It is chaired by Nancy Worley.

Federally, Alabama has not voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter was the nominee in 1976. In Congress, Democrats hold one out of Alabama's seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and hold one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats. The only vice president from Alabama was a Democrat, William Rufus King who ran with Franklin Pierce in 1852. However, King died less than two months into his term.

In the state legislature, it is now the minority party, having lost control in 2010 after 136 years. Democrats are also the minority party in statewide offices. Of 19 statewide appellate court positions, Democrats only maintained the chief justice of the Supreme Court (Sue Bell Cobb) until Cobb's resignation in 2011.

Current elected officials

Members of Congress

U.S. Senate

Democrats have controlled Alabama's Class II seat in the U.S. Senate since 2017:

  • Class II: Doug Jones (Junior Senator)
    Junior Senator Jones

U.S. House of Representatives

Out of the 7 seats Alabama is apportioned in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1 is held by a Democrat:

Statewide offices

  • None

Alabama has not elected any Democratic candidates to statewide office since 2002, when Lucy Baxley and Nancy Worley were elected as Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State, respectively. In 2006, Baxley lost her bid for Governor to Republican incumbent Bob Riley while Worley lost her bid for a second term to Republican challenger Beth Chapman.

State Legislature

History of the party

Creation and antebellum period

Created during the 1830s under the leadership of figures such as William Rufus King, John Gayle and William Lowndes Yancey, the local Democratic Party took to represent the farmers and the merchants living in Northern Alabama, advocating individual rights and opposing growing centralisation, against the Whigs who represented the urban populations, the Black Belt planters and their businesses allies and who advocated a more active government in the domain of internal improvements. [1]

In Alabama, until the Civil War, the main question were the National Bank, the tariffs and the distribution of the former Indian lands, with the preservation of slavery growing more and more in importance.

The Democratic candidates always won the gubernatorial and presidential elections in this state, excepted in 1845 when a dissident was elected governor and in 1860 when John Breckinridge won the state for the Southern Democrats.

Civil War and Reconstruction

The Alabama Democratic Party guided by William Lowndes Yancey and others led Alabama to secede from the Union after Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860. The Civil War effectively ended slavery but still required a "Constitutional" emancipation of the former slaves by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment which the Democrats did not support, and for the next century the Democratic party was segregationist. The bi-racial Republican Party dominated Alabama politics from about 1868–1876 with its uneasy coalition of blacks and whites. This period resulted in major changes in the politics of Alabama, caused by the fact the recently freed slaves voted for the Republican party and elected Republican officials. [1]

To counter this trend, the Democratic leadership appealed to the White supremacist sentiments and racial solidarity among the White population, and used fraud and violence by the hands of the Ku Klux Klan and other paramilitaries. This allowed them to win back the governorship in 1874 with George S. Houston.

With the Republican political collapse in the early 1870s, Democrats reasserted control over the state. While most Alabama campaigns had as their main issues taxation, the railroads, and government reform, racial politics were never very far below and oftentimes brazenly in the open. Occasionally, Democratic voters from the lower classes challenged the Bourbon Democrats Black Belt-Big Mule Coalition inside the Democratic Party. Several unsuccessful attempts to challenge the coalition of planters from the Black Belt and industrialists from the emerging city of Birmingham occurred in the party primaries. By the 1890s, these failures caused many poor whites to joined with the Populists and the Republicans in a biracial coalition. These efforts came close to dislodging the Democrats from power. But the Democratic leadership broke this populist movement through a combination of fraud, intimidation tactics, and deal-making that ultimately resulted in passage of the 1901 Constitution that disenfranchised almost all black voters and even most poor whites.

As part of the "Solid South"

Adoption of The 1901 State Constitution was intended to permanently end any challenge to their one-party Democrat rule and restore white supremacy in government. The Alabama Democratic party's leadership successfully disenfranchised most of the Black and poor Whites in the state, by implementation of a poll tax, literacy tests and a grandfather clause; other dispositions they used in order to reduce the challenges to the Democratic party from other parties and independents were a sore-loser law and a loyalty pledge binding any participent to the Democratic primary to the Democratic candidates in the general election. This strategy was highly effective for the next 70 plus years.

Thereafter, in Alabama, until the 1960s, the main election was consequently the Democratic Party primary, since winning them was tantamount to election. Sometimes Democratic leaders opposed the conservative wing of the party, led by the Black Belt-Big Mule coalition, and other times also held the liberal wing in check that wanted a more activist government. This was usually achieved by the use of overt racial politics in state elections. However, at the same time the party would sent to Washington, senators and Congressmen who regularly voted for liberal Democratic economic policies as long as it didn't interfere with maintaining segregation back in Alabama.

On 1904, the Alabama Democratic Party adopted a logo featuring a rooster and the words "White supremacy" that would appear on ballots.

Since the end of Reconstruction, the Democratic presidential candidate always won the state although, in 1928, Al Smith won by a far more close margin because of his Catholicism, his links with Tammany Hall, and his support for the repeal of Prohibition. These factors caused some party leaders to even say they would vote for the Republican presidential nominee, Hoover.

Civil Rights Movement

The Great Migration of Blacks from the Deep South to states such as New York or Ohio, where they would exercise the franchise and where they were an electoral bloc, along with a switch of public opinion meant the National Democratic Party had to act against Jim Crow. However, all the Democrat controlled southern states resisted for years.

In 1948, after the inclusion of a civil rights plank in the national Democratic Party platform and President Truman's earlier decision to integrate the Armed Forces, several Southern delegates to the Democratic National Convention fought back. Almost half of Alabama's delegation walked out of the National Convention in protest. The delegates from Alabama along with others from surrounding states then regathered in Birmingham, Alabama and formed the States' Rights Democratic Party commonly called " Dixiecrats." Leading the walkout of Alabama's delegation was then Democrat Lt. Governor, Handy Ellis. The segregationist Dixiecrats held their National Convention at the city's Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham. The Dixiecrats would nominate then Democrat governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for president and Mississippi governor Fielding Wright for vice president. They faced incumbent Democrat president Harry Truman and the Republican nominee Thomas Dewey and his running mate Governor Earl Warren of California. However, in Alabama, Thurmond was the local Democratic Party's presidential candidate instead of President Harry Truman, who was not even able to secure a ballot position in Alabama due to hostility from pro-segregationist Alabama Democrats.

With the growing pressure from the national Democratic party against segregation, and the state party's continued support for "white supremacy" and the popularity of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 and 1956 elections support for the Democratic party among white Alabamians began to wane at the Presidential level. In this period, Alabama continued to elect pro-segregation Governors with the exception of "Big Jim" Folsom, who was considered to be a "liberal" for his time. During Folsom's second term, the U.S. Congress passed a modest Civil Rights Act of 1957, with strong bi-partisan support but Alabama's all-Democratic delegation voted against it including somewhat liberal Congressman Carl Elliott. Among other things this bill established the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

During the United States presidential election of 1960, as a protest against the civil rights platforms of both national parties, the Alabama Democratic Party ran a slate of five Kennedy-committed Presidential Electors and six unpledged electors, who voted for segregationist U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia.

In 1964, Congress passed by large bi-partisan majorities, a very strong Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, once again, Alabama's all-Democratic delegation voted against it, including Senators John Sparkman and Lister Hill who both supported a 54-day long filibuster against the legislation.

Also, in 1964, Barry Goldwater was the first Republican to carry the state since Grant on 1872; Again, the Alabama Democratic Party denied its own President Lyndon B. Johnson ballot access under the Democratic party banner. Since Johnson was not even present on the ballots eleven unpledged electors ran on the Democratic ticket. [2] [3]

Faced with growing numbers of new Black voters given the franchise thanks to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the state Democratic leadership tried to attract these new voters by measures such as forming the Alabama Democratic Conference and replacing the "White supremacy" with "Democrats" on their logo; [4] [5] nevertheless, the party remained deeply divided on both racial politics and the inside battle between Loyalists, liberals or moderates "loyal" to the national Democratic party, and segregationists Regulars, and on the outside with the National Democratic Party of Alabama, a mainly Black and liberal party. [6] [7]

In 1968, former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace ran for president as the nominee of the American Independent Party, except that in Alabama he was the "Democrat" nominee for president. Once again, the state party failed to support its pro Civil Rights nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. By this time, the National Party then recognized a black-majority replacement party under the direction of African-American John L. Cashin, Jr. and seated his delegation at the 1968 convention under the name of the National Democratic Party of Alabama. Two years later, Cashin would unsuccessfully challenge Wallace election to a second term as governor.

After the 1970 Federal Census and Voting Rights legal challenges, the Alabama Legislature reapportioned itself for the first time in several decades. Part of the result was the creation of two black-majority House districts. These were the first minority-majority seats since black Republicans served in the legislature during Reconstruction (1868–1878). Democrats Thomas J. Reed and Fred Gray were elected as the first minority members in almost one hundred years.

The Wallace era

The personality and racial politics of Democratic governor George Wallace, dominated Alabama throughout the 1960s, 1970's, and until his retirement from elective office in 1986. He campaigned on shifting grounds as the circumstances warranted. Initially, he promised "segregation forever" to a white-dominated electorate in the 1962 campaign for governor. He engaged in and won a bitter Democratic primary against Governor Albert P. Brewer in 1970 that was dominated by race politics. He then temporarily retired at the end of his third term in 1979. He returned to politics for one final campaign for governor in 1982 defeating the liberal Lt. Governor George McMillan in part by appealing to the very black voters he had so often mistreated even singing "We Shall Overcome" inside black churches and apologizing for his previous stands. As a result, he received more than 25% of the black vote in the Democratic primary. He defeated Republican Emory Folmar in the general election. His chameleon-like political re-inventions of himself effectively kept Alabama under nominal Democratic party control. This strategy worked long beyond what it did in many other southern states that had figured out how to accommodate their more racially inclusive electorates without blatant appeals to racism. However, one-party Democratic dominance ended in 1986 as the Alabama Republican Party won the Governorship.

Earlier, the three warring factions of the state Democratic party eventually reunited in the main party in 1972, and the regulars were returned to control of the delegation at the Democratic National Convention to which George Wallace spoke just weeks after he was gunned down by a would-be assassin. [8]

The Post-Wallace era

Alabama Democratic Party State Headquarters in Montgomery in 2018

The final retirement of George Wallace in 1986 opened a bitter struggle for succeeding him between several major figures in the Democratic Party. It included Lt. Governor Bill Baxley then serving under Wallace fourth term. He had also served as attorney general under Wallace's second and third terms. He had been a politically nimble figure who was considered to be both a "new south" southern liberal (he prosecuted the Sixteenth Street Church Bomber) and, yet, was also considered to be a friend and loyalist to Wallace. He also enjoyed the support of organized labor. The other major candidate was then retiring Attorney General Charles Graddick who before being elected as a statewide-Democrat, had previously been in the Republican Party. He was considered to represent the more conservative and business oriented wing of the Democratic party.

Charles Graddick defeated Bill Baxley in the Democratic runoff by about 8,000 votes. Baxley appealed his primary loss to the State Democratic Executive Committee on the basis that Graddick had called Republicans to "cross over" and "illegally" participate in the runoff after having voted in the Republican primary several weeks earlier. Despite no real evidence to support this conclusion, the Party leaders agreed and disqualified Graddick as the nominee. This forced the leadership to either hold another runoff or chose Baxley as the candidate for the Alabama gubernatorial election of 1986.

The controversial decision from the party leadership to run Baxley was deemed undemocratic by the electorate, leading to the landslide election of Guy Hunt, the first Republican to win the governor's race since Reconstruction. Including that election, Democrats have lost 8 of the last 9 Governor's races with the only win being in 1998 by Don Siegelman.

Since 1986, Democrats have lost more and more ground to the Republicans, finally, in 2010, losing control of the Alabama Legislature.


In 1904 the Alabama Democratic Party chose, as the logo to put on its ballots, a rooster with the motto "White supremacy - For the right." Some objected to the rooster, such as segregationist Senator J. Thomas Heflin, who found it "[failing] to impress the people with the dignity of the Democratic Party," preferring to use a woman holding the Constitution in scrolls upon which was marked "Here We Rest" without objecting to the motto itself. [9]

The presence of "White Supremacy" on the Democratic logo and, as extension, on the ballots themselves, was used as a symbol of the Black disenfranchisement in the South [10] and for the 1952 United States Presidential Election used against the Stevenson- Sparkman ticket by Thomas Dewey. [11]

On January 1966, over the objections of George Wallace and the Regulars, who feared the loss of White voters, the leadership decided, on a proposition from the Loyalists, helped by Charles W. McKay, the author of the "Nullification Declaration" against the Brown decision, who wanted to attract Black voters recently enfranchised by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to replace "White supremacy" with "Democrats." [4] [5]

Thirty years later, on 1996, the party finally dropped the rooster, citing racist and white supremacist connotations linked with the symbol. [12]

Chronology of leadership

Chronology of Chairs

Chronology of Executive Directors

  • 197?-1983: Louise Lindblom
  • 198?-1997: Al LaPierre
  • 1998-2000: Giles Perkins
  • 2000: Wade Perry
  • 2000-2001: Phillip Kinney
  • 2001-2003: Marsha Folsom
  • 2003-2004: Mike Kanarick
  • 2004-2011: Jim Spearman
  • 2011-2013: Bradley Davidson

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Cotter, Patrick R. "Democratic Party in Alabama". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  2. ^ "Alabama Expected To Choose Electors Backed by Wallace". The New York Times. 1964-05-03. ISSN  0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  3. ^ Denton, Herbert H. (October 21, 1964). "Flowers Attacks Wallace Democrats". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  4. ^ a b "Alabama Democratic Party Strikes 'White Supremacy' From Its Motto". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. January 23, 1966. p. 1. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Ingram, Bob (January 21, 1966). "Loyalist Faction Wins; 'White Supremacy' Goes". Birmingham News. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  6. ^ Wieck, Paul R. (August 3, 1968). "Southern Democrats: Not What They Used To Be". New Republic. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  7. ^ Edmonds, Matthew C. "National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA)". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  8. ^ Mjagkij, Nina (2013-05-13). Organizing Black America. Routledge. p. 393. ISBN  1135581231.
  9. ^ "FACT CHECK: Did a State Democratic Party Logo Once Feature the Slogan 'White Supremacy'?". 2017-09-25. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  10. ^ Sears Henning, Arthur (November 29, 1940). "Alabama Ballot Boasts of White Supremacy". Chicago Tribune.
  11. ^ "Demos Run Under 'White Supremacy Tag in South". Dixon Evening Telegraph. October 9, 1952. p. 13. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  12. ^ "Bad symbol removed". Times Daily. March 14, 1996. p. 7B. Retrieved July 22, 2017.

See also

External links