Virginia Dems Kill Establishment Power Grab

After TYT revealed a proposed rule's effects, party members voted it down

Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director Shyam Raman and Chair Susan Swecker with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) at a Sept. 29, 2023, party committee meeting in Fredericksburg, VA.


(Uncredited photo/via Twitter)

Virginia Democrats have overwhelmingly rejected a change to state party rules that would have disenfranchised thousands of grassroots party members by changing how the commonwealth’s Democratic National Committee (DNC) delegates are elected.

It’s a major win for Virginia progressives, who called the proposed change an attempted power grab by establishment Democrats. According to an out-of-state Democratic party official and a DNC superdelegate, TYT’s reporting played a role in that outcome.

But the fight is far from over, as there’s a strong possibility the measure will be reconsidered after the 2024 election cycle.

A member of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) Steering Committee told TYT via text that the committee’s 38 members voted unanimously on Friday against recommending the rules change, in the form of a proposed amendment, to the State Central Committee (SCC).

That vote came just two days after TYT reported details about the proposed amendment to the DPVA party plan. The amendment would have stripped the 2000-member State Convention delegation, which progressives consider “extremely diverse,” of the power to elect Virginia’s five DNC members. Control of those DNC slots would have gone to the 307 members of the establishment-aligned SCC.

Some SCC members have speculated that DPVA Executive Director Shyam Raman crafted the amendment on behalf of the party’s chairwoman, Susan Swecker, to ensure she can hand-pick who she wants on the DNC. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Swecker has held several high-profile positions within the DPVA. In 2016 she was a superdelegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention for then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. According to one DPVA member, Swecker was a delegate for Pres. Joe Biden in 2020 and will be again in 2024.

As TYT reported last week, Raman allegedly gave “unsatisfactory” explanations for the proposed change, including the ostensible need for better geographical representation, more responsible DNC members, and ridding the party of “factionalism” to avoid “ideological proxy fights,” according to an SCC member who asked to remain anonymous.

Another SCC member who also asked not to be identified told TYT that Raman allegedly gave “tailored” rationales for the amendment to different committee members.

And Raman allegedly added a new rationale for the amendment following TYT’s report.

According to the SCC source who cited "tailored" rationales, Raman said that because all of the 2024 delegates would be for Pres. Joe Biden, progressives wouldn’t have a voice unless the SCC had the power to elect DNC members – suggesting that somehow the SCC would be more representative of progressive members than the broader State Convention delegation. That explanation, the SCC source said, fell flat among SCC members “because it was obviously absurd.”

The source said, “No one who heard it believed that he or Susan had any intention of securing DNC spots for progressives. Quite the opposite."

Swecker allegedly said the amendment would result in a simpler process, involving fewer people – the way some other state parties select their DNC delegates. But the SCC source said this also fell flat with SCC members. “Why would Democrats ever favor less over more voters?”

At Saturday’s quarterly SCC meeting, the day after the Steering Committee vote, Swecker pulled the amendment from the agenda. She said at the live-streamed meeting that, “we had a robust and substantive discussion last night at the Steering Committee meeting and reached a consensus that there were a lot more things to think through on this party plan amendment.”

But Swecker left the door open for both committees to reconsider the amendment after the 2024 election. “There were points brought up, you know, on both sides of how to do this,” she said, “but it just needed a little more percolating and a little more thought into it.”

According to a DNC superdelegate, TYT’s report on the amendment last week was “widely circulated” and “played a role” in its demise at the hands of the Steering Committee. Remarking on the article’s impact, the superdelegate texted, “Huge!” An out-of-state Democratic official said, "It made a difference!!"

According to the Virginia SCC source, the amendment was indicative of a larger attempt by Democratic Party insiders to consolidate power at the state party level. Progressives, meanwhile, are also working to gain leadership positions in state parties ahead of 2028.

The establishment leadership, the SCC member said, is trying to close loopholes in party plans and bylaws that let progressives gain a foothold. That, in turn, led to then-presidential candidate Sen, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) winning enough votes to elect delegates to the DNC from Virginia and elsewhere.

While the changes in the proposed amendment, if adopted in the future, wouldn’t take effect until 2028, there’s speculation that Swecker may be trying to implement rules changes before a successor steps in, which could be as soon as 2026 when the SCC reorganizes.

TYT Washington Correspondent Candice Cole was previously a correspondent and senior White House producer for the Black News Channel and has worked at a number of local news outlets. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.