Some concerns about Andrei Cherny candidacy for ADP Chair

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Andrei Cherny has announced that he is running for the chairmanship of the Arizona Democratic Party. This is a partisan position with a partisan political party. The primary duty of the chairman is the election of Democrats to political offices in Arizona.

So imagine my surprise when Andrei Cherny recently trumpeted his role as a leader of the "No Labels" organization. He was the Arizona delegate to the roll out of No Labels on December 13, 2010 and he is the communications person for its social media "meet ups." No Labels: What happens next? – National Common Ground | Examiner.com:

The local district Meet-Ups, according to communications specialist Andrei Cherny, will be central to what the organizaton does. No Labels is using the Meet-Up social networking site to organize the district groups, with local proponents stepping forward to initiate the process. Monthly Meet-Ups are to be scheduled the 13th of each month.

The organization, and Cherny specifically, will be providing organizers with talking points and background on what is currently happening in Congress. In the Meet-Ups, he said, members will be "getting together, and showing to all these doubters, whether they're in the partisan press or TV or talk radio or even in politics, that we really can start having these kind of discussions."

The group intends to monitor all members of Congress to identify "who's really trying to solve problems and move forward, who are the people trying to put up the roadblocks." Everyone signed up will also receive a weekly email update on what happens each week.

Andrei Cherny recenly published an opinion in the Arizona Republic on December 27, 2010 entitled Principles should be ahead of partisanship (best link I could find) that many of you may have missed over the holidays:

On Dec. 13, more than 1,000 citizens from all 50 states gathered in New York City to a launch a movement to reclaim our country's politics from the partisan extremes. The movement is No Labels and its goal is to get politicians to put their party's interests aside to start working for the common good.

* * *

Here in Arizona…Every idea that has been put forward has fallen victim to partisan trench warfare that puts protecting political turf first and real results for Arizonans last.

This has to change, and that's what this new movement is about. Here's what we aren't: No Labels is not a new political party. Many of us remain passionate about being Democrats, Republicans or none of the above, and we will continue to speak out forcefully for our parties' ideals and philosophies. But we need to start telling our leaders that when they act in ways that put the next election ahead of the next generation, we'll be watching, and we're going to hold them accountable.

I was honored to lead our Arizona delegation to this launch event and hope that citizens from the left, right and center will join us at events we'll be holding throughout the state in the months to come.

* * *

I must admit that I was disappointed in the number of Arizonans I met campaigning at county fairs or ballgames whose only concern was whether I was a Democrat or Republican. Many, from both parties, were visibly angered that I didn't blare my affiliation on every piece of literature I passed out.

We have to stop looking for an elephant or donkey stamped on our candidates' foreheads and start asking them some tough questions about their experience and ideas in these very difficult times. Party labels matter, but they shouldn't matter most. We need to expect more from our politicians — and ourselves.

Well, that kind of idealism is all well and good, but it seems ill-suited for a partisan position with a partisan political party. Once again, the primary duty of the chairman of the Arizona Democatic Party is the election of Democrats to political offices in Arizona. It appears to be a conflict of interest for the partisan chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party to be moonligting as the communications person for the allegedly nonpartisan No Labels organization.

I have also been asked about the dispute over Andrei Cherny not being an elected precinct committeeperson and thus not eligible to be an elected state committeeperson qualified to vote and to run for a state party officer position at the biennial statutory reorganization meeting of the Arizona Democratic Party. I understand that Cherny has been appointed to an open precinct committeeperson position and appointed to a state committeeperson position by the Maricopa County Democratic Party.

The Arizona Democratic Party bylaws, Article II, Section 1, provides in pertinent part that:

"Only precinct committeepersons elected at the preceding primary election shall be eligible for membership on the State Committee at the statutory organizational meeting. Elections to the State Committee shall be held at the biennial meeting of each county committee. In the case of Maricopa and Pima Counties, these members shall be elected at the biennial district meetings as provided in the respective County bylaws… Following the statutory organizational meeting, vacancies may be filled by any precinct committeeperson pursuant to statutory procedure."

The bylaws are clear and unambiguous that a precinct committeeperson must be elected at the primary election and a state committeeperson must be elected at the county reorganization meeting. Appointments to a state committeeperson position cannot occur until after the statutory reorganization meeting of the state party.

Now I have reviewed the legal opinion by Rhonda Barnes which you can read it in its entirety here (pdf). Barnes cites Ariz. Op. Atty. Gen. Op. I85-003 (1985) (concluding that an "appointed committeeman may hold a county committee office notwithstanding the fact that he cannot vote at the organizing meeting," but not addressing the state committees.) Barnes argues by analogy that "a non-elected PC cannot vote at the state committee organizing meeting but is not prohibited by state law from holding elected office in the state committee." Um. sorry, but no.

Article II, Section 1 of the bylaws is clear and unambiguous: one must be an elected committeeperson. And this Attorney General opinion admittedly does not specifically address the state party statutory reorganization meeting. (There have been several changes to the Arizona Democratic Party bylaws since 1985 which may also further weaken this analagous argument).

Barnes next interprets the bylaws, Article II, Section 1 above, "Following the statutory organization meeting, vacancies may be filled by any precinct committeeperson pursuant to statutory procedure," to refer to the county reorganization meeting rather than the state reorganization meeting.

I believe this interpretation is not supported by the language of Article II, Section 1, which expressly applies to membership eligibility for the biennial statutory reorganization meeting of the state party, or the language in other provisions of the bylaws. Barnes' interpretation would eviscerate the requirement for election; one could simply be appointed (as in this case). This disregards a basic rule of statutory construction to give words their natural meaning. "Elected" means elected.

Other provisions of the bylaws help to clarify this point. Download a PDF of the Arizona Democratic Party’s bylaws. Article II, Section 5 pertains to vacancies occurring in state committeeperson positions after the biennial statutory organization meeting; Article III, Section 2 pertains to elections of officers occurring after the biennial statutory organization meeting ("any duly elected or appointed state committeeperson may be eligible"); and Article III, Section 6 pertains to elections to fill officer vacancies occurring after the biennial statutory organization meeting. That's why these provisions are in separate sections following the biennial reorganization meeting addressed in Article II, Section 1.

Article II, Section 1 is clear and unambiguous that appointments of state committeepersons cannot be made until after the biennial statutory organization meeting of the state party.

I like Andrei Cherny. I voted for him. But the ADP bylaws are clear and unambiguous, despite Barnes' flawed opinion, and Cherny's involvement with the No Labels organization strikes me as a conflict of interest for the position he seeks.

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