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Alabama Democratic Party dispute goes to court

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Insurgents seeking new leadership for Alabama Democrats argued with the party’s old-line officers in court Thursday over a lawsuit to block a potential revamping of the party in a deeply Republican state.

Circuit Judge Greg Griffin gave lawyers time to submit additional documents, but issued no immediate decision on the suit, filed Wednesday by longtime party chair Nancy Worley and others. Any ruling is sure to be appealed.

The lawsuit seeks to block some members of the party’s governing committee from meeting Saturday to elect new leaders.

The suit contends the meeting would be illegal, a claim that supporters of new party leadership deny.

The legal fight comes as the party’s lone statewide officeholder, Sen. Doug Jones, faces a tough re-election battle.

The Democratic National Committee is siding with the upstart group that’s aligned with Jones rather than Worley and party vice chairman Joe Reed, the longtime head of the black caucus.

During a conference call Thursday with reporters, Jones said he goes “way, way back” with the family of state Rep. Chris England of Tuscaloosa, whom he said would make a “strong chair” of the state party.

England, a defendant in the lawsuit, said the meeting set for Saturday has been properly authorized.

At the courthouse, lawyers for Worley and vice chair Randy Kelly argued that allowing a vote for new officers could split the party and create confusion over finances and next March’s primary, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

“There will be utter chaos,” said attorney Bobby Segall. “The Democratic Party itself will be in trouble.”

Attorneys for the upstart faction said the group was trying to carry out orders from the national party and revise state party bylaws. National Democrats have warned that state delegates may not be seated at next year’s convention without changes.

Barry Ragsdale, representing Worley critics, said she had repeatedly missed or ignored DNC deadlines and blocking the meeting “is beyond the power of this court.”

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