Challenges by Del Gill (back to camera) to SCDP chair Randa Spears were a recurrent fact of life during a stormy year for the local party.
Yes, Virginia, there are functional, thriving Democratic Party organizations in Shelby County. There are the Germantown Democrats, whose monthly meetings at Coletta’s on Highway 64 are well-attended events attracting a variety of speakers on political and social issues. There are the Democratic Women of Shelby County, who include a cadre of committed activists. There are the Young Democrats, who are attracting new blood into the party and who are constantly interfacing with local elected officials to disperse useful information about governmental processes.
Nor is this a complete list, notes Dave Cambron, president of the Germantown club. The aforementioned organizations and several others, he notes, continue to conduct useful meetings, assist with political campaigns, and serve as organizational nuclei for interested Democrats, in and out of election years.
So yes, Democratic Party organizations are live and well in Shelby County.
It’s just that the Democratic Party of Shelby County, the official organization which in theory is the party’s flagship, may not be one of them. Cambron, a former SCDP vice chair who served a brief term as acting chairman last year during a difficult moment for the local party, declined to comment on what is shaping up as another period of crisis.
As of earlier this month, the party lacks a chairperson, former chair Randa Spears having resigned for reasons that may have something to do with her desire to focus more on the duties of her job at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital but may also have to do with what various Democrats describe as a kind of chaos that has descended upon the Party’s affairs.
These Democrats say that Spears, who was elected chair of the party in March of 2015 in the wake of a financial scandal involving previous chair Bryan Carson, has had to contend with persistent tension at party meetings involving Del Gill, her runner-up in the chairmanship election who, at meeting after meeting, has employed an unrelenting variety of parliamentary maneuvers to challenge the chair’s control.
Gill, of course, does not see himself as the problem. Rather, he appears to regard himself as a long-term, committed party member who has so far been unfairly frustrated from realizing his own leadership ambitions. He sees himself as a Democratic purist who has mastered both Roberts’ Rules of Order and the party’s own regulations, while his foes see him as pedantic to a fault, disruptive by nature, and egregiously self-absorbed.
In any case, he has to be regarded as a leading candidate for the local party’s chairmanship, which will be up for grabs again in June at a meeting presided over by Sheriff’s Department Lt. Michael Pope, a former party vice chair now serving as acting chairman. Several members of the party’s executive committee say privately they intend to resign if Gill is elected.
The leadership vacuum is just one of the party’s problems, of course. Another is that, for the second year in a row, the local party has failed to meet deadlines for filing financial reports with the state Registry of Election Finance and faces the prospect of stiff financial penalties as a result.
Then chairman Carson, Spears’ predecessor, was forced to resign in early 2015 when it was found that the party had not only missed the state Registry’s deadlines but that, as was revealed in an audit conducted by party member Diane Cambron, Carson could not account for some $6,000 in party fund expenditures.
It was then that David Cambron, Diane Cambron’s husband, became acting chair. He served in that role until the election of Spears in March, 2015.