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DNC committee rejects effort to remove Biafore

CHARLESTON – Members of a panel put together by the Democratic National Committee unanimously rejected an effort Tuesday by some West Virginia Democratic activists to remove West Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore and other top state leaders from office.

The DNC’s Credentials Committee voted 16-0 to reject a challenge led by Fayette County Democratic activist Selina Vickers to the re-election of Biafore as chairwoman of the West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee, along with Vice Chairman Rod Snyder, and DNC representatives Elaine Harris and Pat Maroney. A successful challenge would have resulted in all four state party members losing their DNC credentials.

Biafore became state party chairwoman after Larry Puccio – the former chief of staff to Gov. Joe Manchin, lobbyist, and political operative — stepped down from the position in 2015. She was elected to the position in 2016 and reelected in 2020.

Biafore, Snyder, Harris, and Maroney were all elected without opposition in a virtual meeting in June 2020. But Vickers argued Tuesday that Biafore did not provide proper notice of the meeting. Vickers challenged the results of the state party election to the DNC.

“If nobody knows about those meetings and you only find out about it with five days’ notice, would any of you run for these high-ranking positions,” Vickers asked the credentials committee. “It is incomprehensible to think that anybody would have a chance at that.”

Biafore said notice of the meeting went out nine days prior to the meeting via paid legal advertisements, press releases, blog posts, the party’s calendar of events, and by email to a list that included 30,000 names. The party elections occur every four years in the summer.

“Even if the 30,000 emails had been sent with the contents of that notice, that notice was still deficient and did not come close to constituting effective notice,” Vickers said. “There is no evidence that press release was sent out to the press organizations.”

Biafore said the state Democratic Executive Committee made a deal with Vickers through a memorandum of understanding. In the MOU, Vickers agreed to rescind her challenge in exchange for the state party reviewing and changing its bylaws to increase openness, transparency, and diversity. Two days after the MOU was signed in July 2020, Vickers filed her challenge anyway, accusing Biafore and state party leadership of violating DNC bylaws.

“This is the ninth challenge (Vickers) has filed against us in two years,” Biafore said. “I understood that to uphold my end of the deal, my party would need to make real efforts to improve our bylaws and ensure we’re implementing programs for a diverse and inclusive West Virginia Democratic Party. We have upheld our end of the bargain … Ms. Vickers did not uphold her end of the bargain.”

Credential committee members used their time to ask questions of both Biafore and Vickers before voting on the motion to reject Vickers’ challenge. The consensus was that Biafore and the state party were in the right.

“All of the arguments presented by both the challenger and the challenged point to the fact that this is the correct course of action,” said member Bel-Leong Hong. “If we were to accept the challenger, that it would cause a precedent-setting action by the DNC to overturn an uncontested unanimous election.”

Tuesday’s DNC Credential Committee meeting comes after the Wood County and Monongalia County Democratic executive committees called for Biafore to resign over the weekend. The Wood County and Monongalia County committees – joined by Greenbrier County – also issued a vote in no confidence in Biafore after her handling of a vote on an affirmative action and outreach plan required by the DNC.

Members are upset that the state party’s Affirmative Action Committee – made up of caucus leaders representing people of color, Latino/latinx, women, LGBTQ, indigenous people, Asian Americans and pacific islanders, seniors, and youth – had no input into the document voted on June 3 by the full committee. Video from the June 3 committee meeting showed several members expressing concern and outrage at the vote.

Biafore said the vote was meant to comply with a DNC deadline and that the plan was still in draft form and could still be amended by the Affirmative Action Committee. The DNC Credentials Committee was aware of the drama within the state party and encouraged the party to do better.

“I’m disappointed in what I’ve heard here today,” said credential committee member Michael Kapp. “I don’t believe the West Virginia Democratic Party has been nearly as transparent and open as they probably should have been, but I’m glad to see that some steps have been taken to ensure that the West Virginia Democratic Party is as accessible as possible.”

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