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W.Va.’s Democratic Party Leadership to Face DNC Credentials Committee

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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
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The West Virginia state capitol in Charleston.

The West Virginia Democratic Party recently held a virtual executive committee meeting to discuss the implementation of an affirmative action plan––a plan that aims to “increase opportunity and diversity in the party.”

But, during the June 3 meeting, many members in attendance brought up one problem with the plan.

I don't think it's wise to have a draft affirmative action plan without any minorities that actually wrote it for the state of West Virginia. I just think that’s a bad idea,” said Susan Miley, a Democrat from Harrison County.

She pointed out that the West Virginia Democratic Party’s bylaws require its affirmative action plan to be drafted by the group’s affirmative action committee. But, out of concern that this newly formed committee wouldn’t be able to come up with the plan by a June 4 deadline, the party’s leadership drafted a version of the plan instead.

Since 1974, the Democratic National Committee has required state-level democratic parties to have “affirmative action programs” to include young people, women and people from ethnically diverse backgrounds at all levels of the party.

In the meeting, Miley continued, “Why are white people drafting a plan for Hispanics and Black people?”

Hollis Lewis, who co-chairs the affirmative action committee, followed Miley’s comments. “We had no input on this plan and weren't asked our opinion. You can't draft something on behalf of us.”

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Hollis Lewis is co-chair of the state Democratic Party's affirmative action committee

Lewis can be heard at the end of the meeting saying the state democratic parties' decision to go forward with this plan without his committee was a slap in the face to him as a Black West Virginian.

“In that particular moment, I think what I felt was just like, you know, I don't believe that any other demographic has been as loyal to the Democratic Party, not only, you know, here in West Virginia, but just nationally as Black people,” Lewis told West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Lewis added that he took exception with the plan being rushed, considering its been required by the DNC since 1974.

“Forty-six years you waited to do this,” he added. “Now, we want to rush everything through and, and we all of a sudden don't have time to make sure that the people who that affirmative action plan is affecting, you know, like, again, contribute to it?”

Harold M. Ickes, who served as President Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, has served on the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee since the 1980s. “As far as we can tell, the West Virginia State Democratic Party has never adopted an affirmative action plan that applies to the state party,” Ickes said.

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Harold Ickes served on the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee.

“A number of state parties, particularly in the South, but elsewhere as well, resisted the national rules,” Ickes said, when asked if other states have been found not to have affirmative action plans. “But, virtually every state party for many years has had affirmative action committees and affirmative action plans. It came as a complete surprise to me that West Virginia has never had an affirmative action committee or affirmative action plans.

West Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore said in an interview with WVPB that the DNC bylaws don’t specifically require a written affirmative action plan. Biafore added that the state party has always had a plan. However, when asked for agendas or documents supporting such a plan, none were provided.

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West Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore.

The DNC’s Credentials Committee will hold a meeting on June 15 to hear challenges raised by members of the West Virginia Democratic Party, who claim the party’s leadership was improperly elected as there wasn't an affirmative action plan in place at the time of the election. If the DNC committee determines that elections were improperly run, all four members who currently make up the WVDP leadership team would have their DNC memberships revoked and new elections would be held.


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