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2 with Decatur ties seek Dems' post
Burks, Worley candidates in 3-person race for party vice chair; gay legislator's election an issue

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A three-way race for vice chairman of the state Democratic Party includes Decatur resident Amy Burks and former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, a former Decatur teacher.

Worley is trying to make a political comeback, and Alabama's first openly gay legislator is becoming an issue in the contest.

State Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, said Joe Reed, leader of the party's black wing, is trying to oust Burks, the party's longtime vice chairman. The reason, Todd said, is that Burks supported her when Reed tried unsuccessfully to deny her the Democratic Party's nomination last year.

Reed disputes her claim, saying he hasn't even decided whom he will support when the State Democratic Executive Committee meets Saturday to elect officers for the next four years. But Burks, the party's No. 2 official for 16 years, said the fight over her spot stems from her support for Todd.

"It's interesting that one vote in a whole career should cause such a dump-Amy frenzy," she said in an interview.

The Alabama Democratic Party has several vice chairmanships, but Burks holds the top one. The office automatically comes with a seat on the Democratic National Committee, where Burks has used her seniority to become the Southern region representative on the DNC's Executive Committee and serve as vice president of the Association of State Democratic Chairs.

The hotly contested race for vice chairman is much different than the race for chairman, where incumbent Joe Turnham of Auburn has no announced opposition.

Burks is drawing opposition from Worley and from longtime party activist Pat Edington of Mobile.

It's almost a family fight. Edington served as vice chairman for 12 years before giving up the post in 1991 for an unsuccessful race for chairman. Burks, who succeeded Edington, is a retired employee of the Alabama Education Association from Decatur. Worley is a former teacher in Decatur and a two-time president of AEA. Reed is the associate executive secretary of AEA.

Worley, who was defeated for re-election as secretary of state in November, said she's been encouraged by several members of the State Democratic Executive Committee to run, and Reed told her Tuesday that he would support her.

But she said she doesn't consider it a personal race over Todd. "It comes down to who is going to work the hardest for the party," she said.

Edington said the vote over Todd was not the reason she entered the race, "but it is an issue with a lot of people."

Since leaving the vice chairmanship in 1991, she has remained very active in Democratic politics, including serving on the board of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Program.

Edington said she has a proven record as a campaign fundraiser and has the ability to heal divisions in the party.

The party experienced a big division after Todd, who is white, won the Democratic runoff in a predominantly black legislative district in Jefferson County by 59 votes.

An election challenge followed, and a Democratic Party subcommittee, headed by Burks, voted to disqualify Todd and her black opponent for not following party rules. The subcommittee planned for the party to name a new nominee.

But the State Democratic Executive Committee voted 95-87 to reinstate Todd as the nominee. The vote broke largely along racial lines and was considered a defeat for Reed, who opposed Todd's election and wanted to keep black representation for the district.

On that key party vote, Burks switched sides and supported Todd. Burks said that when the party rejected the subcommittee's recommendation, she decided that supporting Todd was "the right decision morally."

Todd said the vote "put a chink in Reed's armor" and now he wants retribution against Burks.

Reed, who downplays any conflict, said he will gather with the minority members of the State Democratic Executive Committee just before Saturday's meeting and decide who to support.

Paul Hubbert, AEA's executive secretary and a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, said he's not getting involved in the race, but he expects to vote for Worley.

Todd, who's a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, doesn't plan to attend Saturday's meeting because she will be recovering from surgery, but she made a prediction: "Amy will win hands down."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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