The Democratic National Committee voted yesterday to scrap plans to hold a 1986 midterm convention, heeding the advice of party Chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr., who said the session would waste time, money and energy.
In a harmonious session that saw Kirk firm up his grip on the party's machinery, the DNC also accepted the chairman's nominations to various party committees and to a special commission that will review its rules for selecting a presidential nominee.
Kirk urged killing of the "mini-convention," which the party has held every midterm election year since 1974, because he said it would kick off speculation about presidential contenders when Democrats should be focusing on electing senators, House members and governors.
He said that presidential campaigns start too soon and that the party should not spend the more than $1 million and countless hours of staff time needed to "construct a stage" for presidential hopefuls to show off their wares two years before the nominating convention.
Some mild protest came from the floor. "I would love to showcase our leaders," said Alice Travis, a committeewoman from California, who said she felt that an "out" party needs such a stage. "Yes, it is a risk," she added, referring to the tendency of such conventions to exacerbate divisions within the party, "but we must stand up and say we are alive and well and proud to be Democrats."
Kirk, who last month disparaged midterm conventions as "places for mischief," prevailed overwhelmingly in a voice vote.
His nominations for 25 at-large seats on the DNC and for the leadership of the Fariness Commission, which will review the party's nomination rules, were also approved by a wide margin.
"He is moving very smartly to establish his control over the DNC," said John Perkins, political director of the AFL-CIO, in a comment widely repeated during the day.
Organized labor got 15 of Kirk's 25 nominations to be at-large members of the DNC, the number it controlled under the regime of Kirk's predecessor, Charles T. Manatt.
There were nine blacks on Kirk's slate of 25, but to the dismay of Washington Mayor Marion Barry, none of them is a mayor. "It is political dumbness on his part to ignore the more than 25 million Americans that black mayors represent," Barry, president of the National Conference of Black Mayors, said in a statement released at the meeting.
Terry Michael, DNC spokesman, pointed out that Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson are members of the DNC.
The appointment of Jackson to an at-large DNC slot appeared to have been a consolation prize. Before this week's meeting, former presidential candidate Jesse L. Jackson had been telling party leaders that he won a commitment at last summer's Democratic National Convention in San Francisco to have Maynard Jackson made chairman of the Fairness Commission. Other party leaders deny a deal was struck. Neither Jackson was at the meeting yesterday, and their agents chose not to make an issue of the alleged commitment.
Kirk selected former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Don Fowler to head the 51-person panel, and the DNC went along.
The body is under instructions from Kirk to complete its work by the end of the year, on the theory that Democrats have better things to spend time on than a protracted review of party rules.
The only other Kirk move that sparked mild complaint was the creation of a 100-member Democratic Policy Commission that was not equally divided among men and women. Women had 40 percent of the membership, prompting Michele Aisenberg of New York and other feminists to express concerns about a "retreat" from the party's commitment to equal division among the sexes.