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Posted at 04:46 PM ET, 09/30/2011

D.C. Democrats’ battle over committee seat gets messy


(Deborah Royster)
This post has been updated.

An update on Wednesday’s post on Deborah Royster’s departure from the Democratic National Committee: The issue, like so many other matters, has exposed fissures within local Democratic party circles.

To recap, Royster, elected citywide as the District’s national Democratic committeewoman in 2008, missed three consecutive DNC meetings, invoking a bylaw that states that she is “deemed to have resigned.”

Anita Bonds, chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, told me initially that Royster had stepped down voluntarily, in order to devote more time to her day job as deputy general counsel for Pepco. But Royster fired back in an e-mail to Bonds and other local party activists that she had not resigned and that she had only requested a “temporary absence due to the current demands of my employment” and would fight to keep her seat.

In the letter, Royster indicates that the DNC had told her she could reclaim her seat “upon re-certification by the D.C. Democratic State Committee” — in other words, by a vote of the committee. In the meantime, she asked that Estell Mathis-Lloyd, previously elected by the DCDSC as an alternate national committeewoman, take her place temporarily.

Bonds wrote back, stating that the DNC had ousted Royster and that it was immaterial whether she had resigned or not. Furthermore, she wrote, the DNC doesn’t allow temporary appointments to the national committee.

Thus, Bonds wrote, the DCDSC will vote for Royster’s replacement at its Nov. 3 meeting, signing off with this: “Thank you for your service as National Committeewoman. We look forward to your continued service as President of the Ward 4 Democrats.” Bond later e-mailed to add that Royster can, and “likely” will, run against Mathis-Lloyd to get her seat back.

But, wait — there’s more! D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-Ward 5), who also serves as an elected DNC committeeman, chimed in to say that there’s nothing to vote on at the Nov. 3 meeting, because Mathis-Lloyd (who happens to serve as his council chief of staff) was ratified as Royster’s replacement at a meeting last week.

So, long story short, there’s another internecine battle at the Democratic State Committee — one that breaks along familiar lines if you’re a close watcher of the local party.

Royster previously faced off with Bonds and Orange over the party’s messy fundraising for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. An Office of Campaign Finance investigation found the acceptance of excessive contributions and a lack of reporting and levied a $18,000 fine; Bond and Orange wanted to fight the office’s findings, while Royster argued that the committee should return about $37,000 in excess contributions plus the fine — far outstripping the contents of the DCDSC coffers.

In an interview, Royster was not shy about connecting the prior conflict to the current one. “There are a few party insiders who are very angry with me about [the convention fundraising], which I frankly consider to be a badge of honor,” she said.

Royster said she accepts responsibility for missing the DNC meetings, which she said was due to “extraordinary professional demands.” (Pepco, indeed, has had its hands full with regulators lately.)

”It does not, in my opinion, excuse or justify a small group of party insiders of usurping the right and responsibility of voters to choose their elected officials,” she said.

Bonds did not return calls for comment Friday.

UPDATE, 6:40 P.M.: Bonds rejected Royster’s allegations of political payback, noting it was the Democratic National Committee, not the local party, that kicked Royster out of her seat. “She may feel that way because it is convenient, but it’s simply not true,” she said.

By  |  04:46 PM ET, 09/30/2011

 
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