An auxiliary group of the Scotland County Democratic Party was told on Friday that the county “does not technically” have a local Democratic Party organization.
The Scotland County Democratic Women heard the news from Kenton Spencer, who has lead the local party for the past two years.
Spencer said because of a lack of organization at the precinct level, the county Democratic Party failed to hold its 2013 convention to elect new officers or delegates to the state convention.
Without that meeting, the local organization has no standing with the state party. Technically, the group also has no president since Spencer’s term has expired.
Many of the Democrats at Friday’s meeting expressed concern at the development.
“It is sad day in Scotland County,” said former state Sen. Bill Purcell. “We are a blue county and we have no official Democratic Party recognized in Raleigh because we are not organized. I think it is bad that we let it get to this point. We’ve never had this happen.”
Purcell and former state Rep. Doug Yongue each said that they were first appointed to the General Assembly by Democratic Party organizations, including the one in Scotland County.
“If that were to happen today, Scotland County would have no say so,” Purcell said.
Scotland County Commissioner Carol McCall said the party organization would also be called on to select any replacement on the county board.
“On a local level it is even more important,” McCall said. “Because if we had a vacancy on the county commissioners for whatever reason, then that appointment would be made by a recommendation from the Scotland County Democratic Party, but we have no Scotland County Democratic Party to make a recommendation.”
Purcell asked Spencer what happened to the party at the local level.
“Well, we didn’t have the precinct meetings,” Spencer said.
“Whose responsibility is that?” Purcell asked.
“If you want to put that responsibility on me, I’ll take that responsibility to go and hold every meeting,” Spencer said, “but as I stated, we didn’t have those meetings because we didn’t have precinct captains.”
Spencer said he was uncomfortable approving precinct meetings that did not meet Party requirements. Precinct meeting are not supposed to be held without precinct captains and the county convention requires precinct meetings to be held first.
“I had a list of names of party officials, but there were people unaware that they were even on the list,” Spencer said. “I will not put a name on a report just to fulfill an obligation … I can’t live with that and I will not stand for that.”
Rather than a traditional convention, Spencer said that the party will have “cluster meetings and executive meetings” in mid May or early June to prepare the party for the upcoming year.
“The precincts have to get organized,” Spencer said, adding that a number of party members have moved out of the county since last year, contributing to the challenge of holding a convention.
Carol Whitehead told the group that the burden for improving the party is on all Scotland Democrats. As it stands now, only a handful of party faithful do most of the work, Whitehead said.
“There is an elephant in the room,” she said. “We are a divided county. We have to have a few committed people, but you need cheerleaders and people who are really on target with what we believe as Democrats. You can sit around and talk all you want.”
Former county Party Chairman Jan Schmidt said she hoped the group would not lose sight of the important issues facing North Carolina.
“We’re spending all our time today talking about organization, but we need to also be working on issues that have been so detrimental to the citizens of our state and the people of this county.”
Before Friday’s meeting, Spencer said that he does not plan to seek the chairmanship again.
“My focus is on the city of Laurinburg and the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport and spending more time with my family,” said Spencer, who also serves on the Laurinburg City Council.
“There are plenty of gifted people in the party. We just need more young people to join,” Spencer said.
Staff reporter Johnny Woodard contributed to this story