A meeting last week of the Clark County Democratic Party descended into chaos amid charges that party chair Donna West had engaged in “racist” behavior.
This summer, Democrats elected Erika Washington, an African-American woman, to the CCDP’s No. 2 spot. One of her jobs was to fill the party’s Political Organizing Committee, which works on voter outreach and mobilization. Washington selected three African-American women to serve. That wasn’t acceptable to West, a white woman, because she felt it would put too many black women on the 13-member committee.
“Also per the bylaws, the Political Action shall reflect the diversity of the Democratic Party constituency (Article V, Section 4 (a)). As you know, you and the Commission reps are on this committee. We have 5 African-American women on it already which is wonderful, but we cannot add any more,” wrote West to Washington. The RJ obtained a screenshot of the message, and Washington confirmed its authenticity.
“Yes, I do,” said Washington when asked if she thought racism played a role in the episode. “When you’re told to replace [African-American women] with (people who check) other boxes, because they check other boxes, I find that offensive.”
Washington says she chose her candidates based on their abilities and experience. They had all previously worked full-time as political organizers.
That’s a great argument against affirmative action, but Washington had a more pressing problem to deal with. Last week, West kicked Washington out of her position entirely. West claimed Washington was never eligible to run because she hadn’t attended enough meetings the previous year. If that were true, Washington questioned why she was allowed to run in the first place.
“I am disappointed in our Democratic Party leaders,” wrote Kyle Chamberlain, a long-shot Democratic candidate for governor, in an open letter to the CCDP. “In 2017, we are still encouraging systematic racism and oppressing (sic). Racism is never okay. This was blatantly racist. I stand by Erika Washington and her appointments of well-qualified community members.”
It wasn’t just Chamberlain who was upset. The tension boiled over at last week’s CCDP’s Central Committee meeting. A secretly recorded Facebook video shows audience members engaged in shouting matches.
“You are discriminating against black women,” screamed an unidentified woman on the tape.
“I want answers,” screamed another woman. “You can’t say things are behind closed doors and then say we can’t get answers.”
Chants of “Shame, shame” rang out as the meeting momentarily disintegrated into chaos. “I even got pushed around at the end,” Chamberlain said. “The sergeant of arms called me a mother f—– and threatened to crush me for defending a woman who had the mic.”
There may be two sides to this story, but West refused to share hers. She didn’t return repeated calls for comment, even though she had three days to respond. Nevada State Democratic Party chair and Assemblyman William McCurdy II also didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Despite her removal, Washington remains gracious. She called West a “good person” and chuckled at how “privileged” the whole situation is. Washington is being generous.
A white Democrat told a black Democrat she was putting too many African-American women on a Democratic Party committee. Then the white Democrat kicked the black Democrat out of the office she had won in an election.
Little wonder that disgruntled Democrats have been raising questions of racism within the CCDP.