Former NAACP head and North Carolina native Ben Chavis has offered his services to the North Carolina Democratic Party. Randy Voller, Chairman of the Democratic Party, confirmed this in a telephone conversation this morning. Voller said Chavis “is from North Carolina and wants to bring a Democratic revival to the state.” Voller also said that the dismissal of Robert Dempsey was within the scope of his authority as Chairman of the Party. Dempsey is the former executive director of the NCDP and was terminated by Chairman Voller on Sunday. In his place, Casey Mann—State Director—has taken the interim role as executive director until another individual can be named and approved by the executive council.
Some Democratic leaders, however, argue that Voller did not have the authority or the approval to make such a decision.
Last night, Micah Beasley—Communications Director of the NCDP resigned in an email to Chairman Voller. Voller confirmed the email and Beasley’s resignation, but declined to comment further citing that personnel matters are confidential.
Having obtained documentation that relates to the North Carolina Democratic Party’s Plan Of Organization (POO);
Section 4.10 of the Plan states: “A full-time executive director shall be selected by the state chair with the approval of the state executive council to serve at the pleasure of the state chair.”
So, it would seem Voller’s power to terminate an executive director may very well be within his scope of authority. The POO goes on to state that the selection of the executive director by the chair must be approved by the executive council. So, again it would seem based on the reading of Section 4.10, that the consideration of Ben Chavis isn’t necessarily a done deal until the executive council approves the decision.
Ben Chavis is a former civil rights leader and former head of the NAACP, but he doesn’t come without controversy.
From the News & Observer:
Chavis is a longtime civil rights advocate who was jailed for four years in 1970s as a member of the Wilmington 10, a group convicted but later cleared in a fire bombing that spurred a race riot in the city.
He became leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1993 but served less than 17 months after being ousted for striking a secret deal to pay an employee $332,400 to settle her sexual harassment claim.
Chavis, an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, later converted to Islam, taking the name Benjamin Muhammad. In 1997, he became second-in-command to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, leading the organization’s East Coast ministry, according to reports at the time. Click for N&O article
Top Democratic lawmakers have remained mostly silent over the recent Party shakeup and Chavis appointment. However, a press conference is scheduled for Wednesday, February 12 by the NCDP presumably to make some sort of Chavis announcement.
Privately, some Democratic lawmakers regret these decisions and the timing of these actions which coincide with the first week of candidacy filings with the local State Board of Elections.
Randy Voller as Chairman, is no stranger to controversy since his election. Voller was misquoted by a local reporter over the use of the word rape when referring to the NC GOP led state legislature suppression laws. The quote resulted in unwanted national attention and sparked the comical wrath of Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.
That misstep hasn’t stopped Voller from public comment. He is a regular weekly guest on the The Social Spitball Show with Bram Sarkowski. Disclosure: I also host this radio show from time to time and I have interviewed Chairman Voller about various political topics.
The question now facing decision makers within the NC Democratic Party is how to spin the Chavis matter, the recent firings and the reputation of the Party as a whole. Will this have a negative effect on Democratic incumbents already embattled by the ultra conservative Tea Party?