“Shameful” comments about gays could prompt Philly Dems to expel their district leader

For the first time in 25 years, the authorities of the Municipal Democratic Party are considering removing the district chairman, citing offensive comments he made about gays and gender reassignment surgery.

Separately, they are also considering whether to reinstate several district committee members who were removed for supporting Labor candidates in last year’s elections.

Party Chairman Bob Brady does condemned the comments by the district leader, the Reverend Lewis Nash, as “utterly disgraceful.” After Tuesday’s hearing with Nash and party officials, Brady said no decision had yet been made on whether to sanction him.

“We have to figure out what to do with him,” Brady said.

As leader of the 47th Ward near Temple University, Nash oversees his district committee and serves on the influential Democratic Town Committee, which endorses candidates and organizes voter drives. He is also running for a House seat against Republican Malcolm Kenyatta, who is gay.

Nash declined to comment as he left the hearing at the party’s Spring Garden Street headquarters.

The activist who reported Nash was reinstated

The party last ousted a district leader in 1999. John Sabatina Sr. was ousted as 56th District Democratic leader after he endorsed Republican Sam Katz for mayor over incumbent John Street. Sabatina’s wife took over the unit, and then he he became its leader again– the Inquirer reported.

Nash’s troubles stem from comments he made during a 47th District commission meeting last August. He told committee members that they should consider voting for the Republican Party candidate for mayor, that some elected officials encourage children to undergo gender reassignment surgery, and that members should not “vote for a president who intends to [support] mutilating children,” reports the Inquirer.

He expressed concern about teachers telling children “they have two moms” and said elected officials should not tell his child he “can have an abortion without my consent,” according to the newspaper.

His comments were received national attention With LGBTQ publications after they were reported last month. Nash responded that he supports President Joe Biden and does not discriminate against LGBTQ people, and also accused Kenyatta of participating in publicizing the comments. Kenyatta condemned Nash’s remarks but stated that he played no role in their release.

District leader Robert Dellavella, who chaired yesterday’s hearings, later said the Organizing Committee had had a “long discussion” about Nash and expected the party to take some action in response.

The committee also heard from Dan Laufer, 47th District Clerk, who recorded Nash’s remarks and provided them to the Inquirer. Nash fired him from the district committee, but Laufer appealed and was reinstated at yesterday’s meeting.

“They said I was still on the committee,” Laufer said after the hearing. He said he took party officials’ comments during the hearing as a “good sign” that they might remove Nash from office.

The councilor insisted on expulsion

After Nash and Laufer’s hearing, three committee members from Northwest Philadelphia had what they described as a heated discussion with officials who make up the party’s Organizing Committee.

The three are among about 16 elected committee members, most of them from the 22nd Ward, who were removed from their positions in January because they supported two Labor candidates for City Council ahead of the November election.

The hearing ended without a resolution to their appeals. Brady said the full Democratic City Committee will make a decision at a later date.

However, the discussion provided some clarity about Councilmember Cindy Bass’ role in the expulsions.

Bass is the leader of the 22nd District, and several of the expelled members are longtime critics of hers who supported her challenger in the Democratic primary for City Council last May. Bass previously declined to describe her role in the expulsions and left yesterday’s meeting without speaking to the press.

Brady noted that most of the more than 100 citywide precinct committee members who supported WFP candidates were not expelled because their precinct leaders were joyful to back off and ultimately work to elect officially party-endorsed Democratic candidates. He said he deferred to Bass the decision to expel 22nd District committee members.

“District leaders will make the decision,” he said. “I’m reviewing district leaders.”

Hostile exchange of words

The three 22nd District commission members who filed an appeal of expulsion yesterday were Cynthia Albrecht, Nate Holt and Alex Reusing.

They were among a number of rank-and-file Democratic activists from across the city who endorsed two candidates from the progressive Working Families Party, incumbent council members Kendra Brooks and Nicholas O’Rourke, for two at-large City Council seats reserved for non-members of the city council. majority parties.

Albrecht and Holt are also members of the 22nd Ward Open Caucus, an independent group that has endorsed WFP candidates and which he fought with Bass for years. For a time, Bass excluded club members from district meetings until they filed a lawsuit and a court ordered her to allow them to attend.

Because each voter could only choose five of nine total candidates in the November polls, the WFP could theoretically win enough votes for the lagging Democratic candidate to lose to the Republican. But that was virtually impossible given the Democratic Party’s 7-1 voter registration advantage in the city.

Committee members who supported WFP therefore argued that they should not be punished for supporting non-Democrats, despite party rules prohibiting such support. By enforcing this rule, Brady has essentially favored Republicans over Labor candidates who he claims are close Democratic allies.

The Democratic City Committee “would rather hit the volunteer turnout organizers than accept what voters and Democratic leaders know – that WFP’s presence on the council is better for the Democratic agenda than Republican’s,” said Holt, who said he has been chairman of the committee for six years. years of summer.

Albrecht, Holt and Reusing described their joint hearing as a hostile exchange in which Bass and other party officials disparaged open districts — in which endorsements are decided by committee members, not the district chairman himself — and accused them of disloyalty to the party.

“The room was full of power brokers and district leaders,” Holt said. “They shouted at us and insulted us personally. They abused us.”

He and Reusing described the dispute as part of an ongoing battle between the party’s ancient guard and newer, more progressive members.

Reusing said one committee member told them, “The problem with the Democratic Party is that people like you talk to people about choices and issues. And if you just told people to vote Democrat, vote Democrat, vote Democrat, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

“People don’t like it,” Holt added. “I don’t think any voters do that and my voters definitely don’t like it.”

“We can’t let this happen.”

Brady said the party has tolerated Democratic activists supporting Labor candidates for years, but crossed the line when some independent groups told people to vote for only three of the five total Democratic candidates, in addition to Brooks and O’Rourke.

Some Democrats “paniced” over the possibility of two sidelined, party-endorsed candidates losing their races – incumbent Jim Harrity and newcomer Nina Ahmad – and demanded action, he said.

Committee members “handed out literature, sent e-mails, and so on. They gave the names,” he said. “Most of them said, vote for these two [WFP candidates] first and vote for [any] three Democrats, but then [some] he also said cut out Jimmy Harrity and cut out Nina Ahmad. What should I do? Just let it happen? We simply cannot allow this to happen. This is not right.”

Both Harrity and Ahmed won and currently serve on the City Council.

Albrecht, Holt and Reusing also complained about the lack of an adequate expulsion appeals procedure. For example, they said they were never officially notified of the hearing date and only found out about it by accident because Reusing contacted a state Democratic Party official who works in the Spring Garden Street office.

Some other expelled committee members did not attend the meeting last night, perhaps because they were unaware of what was happening.

Brady and Dellavella said they believe everyone has been properly notified, but they will recontact the missing committee members and schedule another hearing date.

Among those absent was David Rodriguez, a committee member who previously chaired the committee Pennsylvania Latino Democratic Club. He faces expulsion vocally supporting Republican mayoral candidate David Oh, rather than Democratic-backed candidate Cherelle Parker, and for his membership in a group called Democrats for David Oh.

Corrected the spelling of Cynthia Albrecht’s name.

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