The Louisiana Democratic Party chair’s policies have led to internal strife among members of the party and a recent lawsuit over the party’s endorsements of candidates.
Katherine Hurst and Aimee Robinson, two Democratic State Central Committee members, sued party chair Katie Bernhardt on June 22 to prevent her from suspending the party’s bylaws to force through the backing of governorship candidate Shawn Wilson.
State party rules only permit endorsements to be taken into consideration within 14 days of the conclusion of the election’s qualifying period, which for this year is August 8–10. Since it would have lost crucial time for campaign funding, none of the party members wanted to hold off on endorsing Wilson for so long.
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Hurst noted that the Democratic National Committee normally holds off on funding a state candidate until after receiving an official endorsement in a phone interview. It was unquestionably impeding Shawn Wilson’s fundraising, according to Hurst. Hurst stated that she supports backing Wilson but disagreed with the method Bernhardt utilized to do this.
According to Hurst, Louisiana party members were aware that the bylaws needed to be changed to support Wilson on time. According to the party’s constitution, the procedure to amend the bylaws calls for a 45-day notification of the proposed modifications to the Rules and Bylaws Committee. That procedure, though, was never carried out.
Instead, Bernhardt requested a “suspension” of the party’s rules on June 24 to support Wilson, disregarding the constitution’s notice obligations in the process. Derrick Shepherd, the party’s parliamentarian, approved the motion and stated that a two-thirds majority vote was required, according to Hurst. After an 89-1 vote, Bernhardt proclaimed the proposal to be successful. Hurst added that following a unanimous 96-0 decision, the group decided to support Shawn Wilson. A quorum of the party must consist of at least 96 members.
Shepherd is not a recognized lawmaker, and she declined a request for comment on this article. He was a former state legislator and attorney who was permanently prohibited after being found guilty of money laundering. A two-thirds majority is required in the Louisiana Senate to suspend some floor processes, but neither the bylaws nor the constitution of the Democratic State Central Committee has a similar clause.