LUMBERTON — Robeson County Democrats left their party convention Saturday united, organized, enthusiastic and claiming they are ready to win back seats lost to Republicans in 2016.
Ed Henderson, a Red Springs commissioner, was re-elected to another two-year term as Democratic Party chairman, with Pearlean Revels, a former director of the Robeson County Board of Elections being elected the first vice chairman. Both Henderson and Revels were the only candidates nominated for their respective offices and were elected by acclamation.
A re-do of Democratic precinct organizational meetings and the holding of another county convention were ordered in early July by the North Carolina Democratic Party after it was determined that local Democrats did not follow party procedure when they elected their chairman and executive committee members during the April 8 county convention.
Robeson County has 39 precincts, but only 25 are organized. Only delegates from organized precincts could cast votes or be recognized to speak during the convention.
“It’s amazing to see the standing-room only capacity here,” said Cynthia Wallace, chairman of the Democratic Party’s 9th Congressional District, an eight-county district that stretches from southeast Mecklenburg County all the way to Cumberland County. “There’s energy in this room and lots of people wanting to get out and work for the party.”
Until Saturday’s convention, the local party could not conduct any business because there were no elected officers. The state party’s 13-member Review Committee ruled on July 1 that a new convention must be held after holding a hearing in response to a petition filed by several county Democrats charging that the process used to elect local party officers at the April 8 county convention violated the state party’s Plan of Organization.
Approximately 50 Democrats at the April 8 convention voted for party leaders, rather than only delegates from the 10 of 39 precincts that were organized when the convention was held. The result was that Henderson was defeated by Revels and denied another two-year term as chairman.
Brooke Clark, an attorney from Lumberton and former county vice chairman, was tapped by Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the state Democratic Party, to serve as interim party chairman and the overseer of the re-do precinct reorganizations and re-do convention.
“We hear a lot of criticism of Democrats on the local, state and national levels,” Clark said. “But we believe in equal opportunities for everyone … . We need to work closely together and be unified. We need to be enthusiastic.”
Goodwin, the state party chairman, welcomed convention participants by way of a video.
“The good news is that Robeson County has more organized precincts than it has had in years,” he said. “… Across the state there are 243 newly organized precincts … People are excited, mad and upset.”
State Rep. Charles Graham, whose District 47 is in Robeson County, urged those delegates and others at the convention to work in harmony to defeat Republicans who control both chambers of the state General Assembly.
“You are the leaders in the Democratic communities. Work with elected officials to get our message out to the citizens,” said Graham. “… My hope is that we leave here today united.”
In addition to Henderson and Revels, elected officers include: Chris Howard, second vice chairman; Alaina Malcolm, third vice chairman; Jan Gane, secretary; and Les Noble, treasurer.
The eight elected members to the state executive committee include: Brooke Clark, Ghee Johnson, Valerie Abernathy and Jane Smith. Also, Ed Henderson, Les Noble, Johnson Britt and Jim Hunt.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.