What appeared to be an effortless change in leadership of the Democratic City Committee Wednesday night turned into a contest and a loss for former mayor Charles Donovan.
Donovan indicated his interest in the party’s chairmanship about 10 days ago; saying unnamed elected officials had urged him to run for the post. In an interview Wednesday morning, then chairman Jeff Gofton said he had talked with Donovan, that he would not stand in the former mayor’s way and, in fact, would be pleased to nominate him. He also said he knew of no other candidates for the job.
But sometime between 1 p.m. and 7 that day, in the Oakland Beach Volunteer Firefighters hall, a campaign was mounted for Rob Farrell, chair of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee.
Gofton said he caught wind there was another candidate late that afternoon and by that evening, with cars parked three deep at the firemen’s hall, it was evident this would be more than an as usual party reorganization following an election year.
Nonetheless, Gofton’s declaration that there was a quorum was challenged, which provoked a role call of the 81-member committee. There were 31 members present, three more than required, and that increased by a couple more before the chairmanship came to a vote.
Making it all the more evident a contest was shaping up, Ward 1 member and former party chairman Gary Jarvis, holding a sheath of papers, made a motion to count proxy votes. A debate followed over past practice and how the issue of proxy votes had not been resolved. Issues of fairness and transparency were raised.
Charles “CJ” Donovan Jr., Ward 7 councilman and son of the former mayor, argued this would not be fair to members who had not been informed of who the candidates were and might have attended the meeting or cast a proxy ballot if they were.
“This position is critical,” he said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to vote.”
Jarvis argued the proxies he had in hand should count. Donovan suggested, if proxies were to be counted, then those who disagree would walk out and there would no longer be a quorum.
Gofton proposed the vote be postponed for two weeks unless Jarvis agreed to withdraw his motion to allow proxies.
Jarvis agreed and went on to nominate Farrell. Gofton nominated Donovan.
Both candidates offered similar visions for the party, calling for party unity and winning the mayor’s position in 2014.
Donovan said he looked at the job with two goals in mind – creating greater party camaraderie and having a Democrat win the post of mayor.
“There is no question where the clout is,” he said of mayor.
Donovan said his aim would be to pull the party together and avoid a primary.
“If you want me, I’m willing to give it my all,” he said.
Farrell said the party doesn’t work together. “I want people involved in the process … I want a Democratic mayor in there … we can all work together.”
Paper ballots were distributed and when the count was done, Donovan had 9 votes to Farrell’s 24.
Re-elected with no contest were: Jeff Ursillo, First Vice Chairman; Tracey McDermott, Second Vice Chairman; Norman Goodman, Treasurer; Tim DelGiudice, Recording Secretary; and Michelle Place Gleason, Corresponding Secretary.