A rump group of state Democratic Executive Committee members led by Vice-Chair Barbara Blackmon, who is black, held a special meeting on March 21 with a goal of ousting several previously-chosen white leaders of the state party- a move that had classic signs of driving white Democrats out.
Removal of state Democratic Chairman Jamie Franks was in the air, but the group decided only to sack their other target, state party director Sam Hall, and replace him with Blackmon’s hair dresser. Both Franks and Hall are white.
In a further insult, the rump group voted to restore controversial Ike Brown to the executive committee, despite a federal court finding that Brown violated the Voting Rights Act by intimidating white voters as a Noxubee County party official.
Franks immediately disavowed the rump meeting and its actions. Then, a week later he convened a session of the administrative committee to formally put Hall back on the payroll as the state party director. At the same time the committee hired Christopher Smith, who is black, as the party’s field man. Smith gained creds last year working in the successful campaign of 1st District Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers.
Franks attributed the rump session to a “small faction” on the committee that, for whatever reason, “didn’t want Sam Hall, or me for that matter.” Later, Franks said, “we hope we’ve gotten the party straightened out.” Still, he announced that a meeting of the full 80-member executive committee will be held April 4.
Though the 1976 racial alliance has been tenuous at times over the years, it has held together. That’s why rumblings of a revolt by the Blackmon faction against Jamie Franks’ leadership of the party bears ominous signs of a new, self-destructive party split. Incredibly, it comes at a time when Republicans are leaderless at the national level and are quarreling over the voter I.D. issue on the state level.
Not only would it be senseless for black Democrats to threaten a new party split at a time when Democrats have the best opportunity ever to finally build a viable state party organization, but renewal of fratricidal warfare within the party could endanger rural white Democrats holding on to their critical seats in the Legislature.