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Shelby County Democrats to Revive

Mancini forms group to begin reorganization for defunct local party; Cohen holds town hall.

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Mary Mancini of Nashville, who in late January won reelection as Tennessee Democratic Party chair at a meeting of the state party's executive committee, has, as one of her first priorities, launched an effort to recreate the defunct Shelby County Democratic Party.

Mancini has contacted 13 local Democrats and asked them to serve as an ad hoc committee for the purpose of reforming the Shelby County party. Members of this core group will next agree amongst themselves on a date for an organizational meeting, either late this month or sometime in March.

A series of subsequent public meetings will then be scheduled to allow input from prospective new Democratic Party members, and out of those subsequent meetings a new party machinery will be formed.

When the process is completed at some point down the line, presumably in the spring or early summer, the Shelby County Democratic Party, complete with new officers to be elected during the course of those several public meetings, will be a reality again for the first time since August, when Mancini, backed by the state party committee, formally decertified the local party.

That dramatic act of decertification occurred after a lengthy period of local party dissension ("many years of dysfunction" was Mancini's phrase) and, in particular, during the course of a pitched battle between Shelby County party members over the issue of what to do about party funds allegedly unaccounted for during the tenure of former local chairman Bryan Carson.

At issue also were several fines incurred by the Shelby County party, both during and after the flap over Carson, for incomplete and late financial disclosures to the state Election Registry.

Some of the local Democrats named by Mancini to the ad hoc committee that will attempt to recreate the Shelby County party are David Cocke, Dave Cambron, George Monger, Van Turner, Jeannie Johnson, Jolie-Grace Wareham, Corey Strong, and Deborah Reed.

The local reorganization effort occurs at a time of numerous local demonstrations of resistance to the national administration headed by Republican Donald Trump and calls for a local party organization to function as an opposition force.

• Nowhere was that spirit of resistance more evident than during a weekend "town meeting" held at East High School by 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen, who, coincidentally, has just been named to the House Ethics Committee as one of five Democratic members by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who made the announcement on Tuesday.

Over the course of a grueling three hours on Saturday, Cohen, assisted by Memphis lawyer Brian Faughnan from the Tennessee chapter of the ACLU and Chris Coleman from the Tennessee Justice Center, responded to questions from an audience of nearly 1,000 people.

The questions, on every political subject under the sun, mostly involved attendees' negative responses to actions taken by the Trump administration and featured numerous concerns that Democrats, even out of power, might be able to mount an effective opposition.

Typical was one woman's plea: "We are not fighting back! We need a grass roots growth like the Tea Party. We need a Democratic tea party now!"

Despite the size of the crowd (which necessitated a substantial police security force, just in case) and abundant expressions of anger, there was little internal dissent. Faughnan offered assurances that the ACLU was on the case in resisting both the Trump travel ban nationally and pending legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to limit free expression. Similarly, Coleman provided details of available government services and detailed strategies for defending those services against Republican efforts to abolish or truncate them.

Cohen himself was indefatigable in dealing with specific audience concerns, dealing out wisecracks and dollops of advice and assuring the attendees, mostly Democrats or party sympathizers: "We are going to win in the future!"

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