It's No Go for Three Democrats Appealing Ban from Primary Ballot

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M. LaTroy Alexandria-Williams
  • M. LaTroy Alexandria-Williams
Oh-for-three. That’s how things turned out Wednesday Night, April 15th, as a trio of would-be penitents — most notably 13-term State Representative John DeBerry — pleaded in vain for the members of the state Democratic executive committee to restore them to the positions on the August 6th primary election ballot from which they were purged last week.

In the course of a virtual meeting of the state committee that was conducted by telephone and sprawled for nearly four hours, DeBerry's pleas were rejected for reinstatement in the House District 90 race, as were those of Michael Minnis for House District 93, and M. LaTroy Alexandria-Williams for the 9th Congressional District. All the appellants were from Memphis.

Although the cases against DeBerry and Minnis were of a radically different nature — DeBerry’s consisting of alleged anti-Democratic votes and actions, Minnis essentially of not meeting the requirement of having voted in 3 of the last 5 Democratic primaries — the votes against them were remarkably similar — DeBerry’s appeal falling short by a vote of 24 Yes to 40 No, with one abstention, while Minnis’ failed 24 to 39 with two abstentions. Alexandria-Williams went down 8 to 34, with 14 abstaining.

Although DeBerry’s chances for reinstatement on the primary ballot were not regarded as strong (he had been voted off the week before by a vote of 41 to 18 with two abstentions), he probably did not help them much by declining, unlike Minnis and Alexandria-Williams, to take part in a pre-vote Q-and-A with state committee members.

In the five minutes granted him by state party chair Mary Mancini to make a verbal appeal, DeBerry talked about his past chairmanships on legislative committees and his efforts on behalf of civil rights. He asked that committee members look at “my record in toto, my character, the way I carry myself, and my ability to build a consensus when Democrats are a super-minority.”



Among the minority of yes voters were state Senator Raumesh Akbari of Memphis and Representative Mike Stewart, the House minority leader, both of whom said the question of DeBerry’s party bona fides should be settled by the voters in a primary. The nay-voting majority coalesced around complaints about DeBerry’s seconding Republican positions on abortion, vouchers, guns, and much else; his acceptance of support from GOP financial sources; and his participation in the right-wing ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

Committeeman Will Cheek of Nashville said his vote of no was not predicated on matters of party “loyalty” but on Democratic “resemblance.”

Though several members commended Minnis for his involvement with a nonprofit working on behalf of criminal justice, the outcome for him, as indicated, was similar to that for DeBerry.

The debate over the appeal of Alexandria-Williams was both the strangest and the lengthiest. At root the issue with the candidate (formerly known simply as M. LaTroy Williams) was his historical involvement with pre-election sample ballots from the “Shelby County Democratic Club,” a shell organization unaffiliated with any organ of the actual Democratic Party and the occasion of several lawsuits pitting Williams against the Party.

Though, as was attested to in the debate, these “ballots” — many of which have favored the candidacies of Republicans as well as Democrats — bore his name as “coordinator,” Williams persisted in denying any ownership of involvement in them. Unspoken to in the committee’s discussion was the fact that the favored candidates featured on them pay considerable sums to have themselves so listed.

Besides denying his central relationship with the sample ballots, Williams mentioned his alleged past association with the athletes Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and, strangely, conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. “Nobody’s done more for the Democratic Party than I have,” Williams insisted. To no avail.

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