Rashad Richey Gets The Hook

July 8, 2013 9:05 am

by George Chidi · 29 comments

source: rashadricheyradio.com

Rashad Richey is job hunting.

Rashad Richey was still wearing the political fixer’s uniform – dark blazer, crisp collared shirt and a well-worn cell phone clipped to his belt right next to what looked like sheriff’s office identification. He wore political braggadocio like a suit, too – an eagerness to describe himself, his work as political director for the Georgia Democrats, his radio talk show, the people he had just met and the people he was meeting tomorrow.

Richey and I ran into one another a few months ago at a gathering of broke young progressive staffers out for drinks at Cowtippers. Richey slid over to us as we nursed post- policy grind beers. I think he bought the round.

Weirdly, that may speak to an underlying reason Richey got canned last week. The party is broke. Richey’s $50,000+ annual salary – second highest after the executive director – appeared increasingly hard to justify, especially because of the way the DPG has to carry it. That, and the specific way his arrest record dovetailed into concerns about the party’s perceived relationship with women moving into the 2014 Senate race, may have made him the wrong man at the right time. 

There’s no mystery about Richey’s rise in Georgia politics. The charismatic 32-year-old has old-school ground game and the energy of youth. He knows which politicians have birthdays in May. He can recall the demographic makeup of an Atlanta planning unit with equal facility.

Richey is appealing the decision to the full committee, and he has supporters. Regardless of the outcome, he will have employment offers in politics, assuming he doesn’t already have one in hand, both he and others said.

Former staffers have knocked him for focusing on training county parties on technical matters instead of concentrating on strategy. But there are few complaints about the quality of the work he did in outreach and education. “He’s a fine young man who understands politics,” said State Rep. Virgil Fludd, Democratic caucus leader in the Georgia House. “He’s helped me get more people engaged.”

However, there are questions about how he got the job in the first place.

Bloggers began tearing into Richey last year when they discovered he had multiple arrests. He pleaded guilty to two counts of simple battery and trespass in 2007. He spent about a month in jail in 2010 for a probation violation while on the payroll of Gail Buckner’s campaign for Secretary of State. Chairman Mike Berlon and Richey landed in their Democratic Party of Georgia roles after Buckner’s unsuccessful run. (Berlon resigned last month amid scandal around his law practice.)

“My first online interaction with Richey was with his mugshot,” said Amber English, former president of the Young Democrats of Atlanta. English approached Richey at a party meeting in 2010, when he was working on the Gail Buckner campaign. “I walked up to the table with the Gail Buckner sign. He was talking about a potential job, and asked me to send my resume. I went home and the first thing I saw when I Googled him was his mugshot.”

Acting Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia

A potential distraction. That’s how acting Georgia Democratic party chairwoman Nikema Williams described Richey, without elaborating. Both she and other senior party leaders have been very careful not to go into details of the termination out of concern for potentially violating employment law.

But the inference is clear.

Richey fought back aggressively. He sued bloggers Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered and Melanie Goux of Blog for Democracy for libel, along with former Young Democrats of Georgia president Jane Bradshaw. The suits were later dropped, but they’ve left bad blood with the YDG leadership.

He also spearheaded a change in Georgia law to ban websites from charging money to get mugshots removed. He’s quite proud of the law, not just because it prevents an abuse, he said, but because it’s also a demonstration of his political skills.

It may seem unfair to raise the issue but I really think that when placed into context, female party members’ concern about Richey explains part of what’s going on here.

Black voters in particular might dismiss his record as the product of racial disparities in arrests and convictions in Georgia. “We all have pasts, people can change,” English said. “I was unnerved because other people didn’t seem concerned.” Under other circumstances, his misdemeanor convictions could blow over as venal sins.

But these are not other circumstances. Two contending, viable Republican candidates for an open U.S. Senate seat – Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey – are solidly in Todd “legitimate rape” Akin and Richard “God intended rape” Mourdock territory in terms of their potential to enrage voters who love women.

In the 2012 election in Missouri, Romney won the state and won roughly 2 out of 3 white voters. But in the Todd Akin-Claire McCaskill Senate race there, a third of white female Romney voters and a quarter of white male Romney voters crossed parties to vote for McCaskill. Joe Donnelly beat Richard Mourdock by six points after similarly stupid comments in Indiana. Romney won the state, but about one in six white male Romney voters crossed over to vote for Donnelly, as did about 22 percent of white female Romney voters. Obama lost Georgia by eight points in 2012.

Michelle Nunn is being presented as Kryptonite to a Paul Broun candidacy. The rationale is obvious: if an antiabortion madman wins the nomination, find the most powerful voice for women’s rights available.

Imagine how that might be undercut by Republicans if the Democrats’ state political director is perceived as someone with a Chris Brown problem. It’s an analogy Richey thinks is inapt, of course – Richey said he has spent years traveling the state, speaking frankly with students about his failings and how to avoid them. “I actually changed the core nature of who I was. I’ve found that if I focus on helping others, that it helps me stay true to the change that I made myself.”

But imagine how acting chair Nikema Williams, who resigned outright from her role as vice president for public policy at Planned Parenthood Southeast in order to avoid distractions while she straightens out things at the party, might nonetheless view that distraction.

Add to that the problem of Richey’s salary. After being hired, Richey record caused him to fail the Democratic National Committee vetting process. Normally, the DNC helps kick in cash to cover some staff salaries. DPG was forced to carry his salary itself because of the failed vetting. And the DPG is broke. The party likely has less than $20,000 in cash on hand.

Dealing with distractions at the party seems to be the rule of the day. Williams more or less immediately sacked the executive committee, removed board members appointed by Berlon and laid off two paid staffers. (Notably, Richey wasn’t laid off – he was fired outright.)

After speaking with members of the committee, Democratic politicians and others involved in the party, two schools of thought about her moves are emerging.

One holds that Williams is overstepping her temporary authority, making decisions that exacerbate factional infighting and that may very well be reversed later.

“The Chair has an unambiguous right to surround herself with people she gets along with,” said Steve Perkins, a party activist. “I suspect firing Rashad, is probably political score settling, but that’s OK. The State Committee hasn’t raised a fit about it. It has sort of been factored in.”

Another view – Williams is purposefully clearing the decks so that whoever wins the chair doesn’t have to be the bad guy.

“Our party is much better off when we all focus on the same goal, electing Democrats,” Williams said. “Every decision that I have made and will make will be through the lens of, will this move our party forward and increase Democratic victories up and down the ballot?”

In either case, the party is plainly beginning to orient itself toward the 2014 and 2016 races with an eye toward cultivating a base of support among disaffected female voters. We’ll see where to fit guys like Richey into that game plan.

MouthoftheSouth July 8, 2013 at 9:28 am

You get the replace Rashad with 3 staffers for the same DPG cost. It is a no-brainer, even if Rashad was effective in his job, which he was not.

The problems with women and the arrests are relevant because they sap donor and volunteer motivation and support, and because they are the basis for the salary problem.

But really, he’s an ineffective employee and that should be the end of it.

Oh, and I hope he enjoyed being in the photo with the President, might be the last time that happens.

sockpuppet July 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

Looks like the Democrats are going the southern strategy route. Or maybe they are going back to their old segger roots. But hey, keep stuff like this up and black males might just start asking exactly what they’re getting for their support for the Democrats anyway. Black females benefit from Democratic Party policy, though because they are women, not because they are black. Black males? Not so much. If stuff like this helps black males figure that out and reconsider their voting tendencies, then hey, keep it up.

Lea Thrace July 8, 2013 at 10:09 am

I want some of whatever you are smoking if that’s what you took from Richey’s firing.

sockpuppet July 8, 2013 at 10:08 am

Another thing: didn’t Pete Randall used to get excoriated as a racist for posting pictures of alleged troublemaking blacks on his blog posts? Hmmm … yet another reason why we should bring Randall back.

SteveP July 8, 2013 at 10:55 am

George,

I take objection to the context you provided in quoting me.

The quote is accurate… but I simply do not see how you get to this from what I said.

“One holds that Williams is overstepping her temporary authority, making decisions that exacerbate factional infighting and that may very well be reversed later.”

There may be some people you talked to that might hold that view, but I am not one of them and I don’t think there is any effort in that regard. I want to reemphasize that I believe the Chair is wholly within her rights to dismiss Mr. Richey. This is pure and simple politics (normal and pretty unspectacular) and we need to be adults about it and move on.

George Chidi July 8, 2013 at 11:22 am

I note your objection. I have discovered, even with the most careful of back and forth with people, the most cautious and thorough reporting possible, that someone will inevitably be annoyed when its a story about politics.

Forgive me if the context does not accurately reflect the position your views take in the conflict between Richey supporters and detractors. I might have used a different quote to illustrate the idea about “overstepping her temporary authority,” That’s not your view, exactly. I think the rest of it fits.

George Chidi July 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

Also … this was in the draft I sent you five days ago. Had you raised an objection then, sir, I probably would have played with it.

SteveP July 11, 2013 at 5:49 am

So it turned out the new version went to my Spam folder… Just found it.

SteveP July 8, 2013 at 11:39 am

Actually you asked for a quite after I read the draft…. but thanks for correction and modification.

Gray July 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I know Rashad well, as I do many of the other people mentioned in this post. I understand the pro-Rashad and anti-Rashad arguments.

Against his will, Rashad was made into a proxy for people who didn’t like the previous Chair. It’s unfortunate that a paid staffer was exploited by fellow Dems, some of them on the Executive Committee, as a potential weakness to remove the Chair of the DPG. It was unfair and I hope that it doesn’t happen again. No staffer deserves that.

There are dozens of candidates or elected officials (including Fludd, the Democratic Caucus Chair mentioned in the article) that will testify to the fact that Rashad knows his stuff.

I’m not questioning the current leadership of the DPG, they have a job to do. But if you ask Democratic activists across the state, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone on our side more highly regarded for his constant travel, political knowledge, and contacts throughout Georgia.

griftdrift July 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm

All may be true. But if I have a new hire, it doesn’t matter how good he is if he can’t pass a background check. And if I still hire him and the result of ignoring that result is additional cost, he wouldn’t be the only one let go.

Napoleon July 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm

To be that close to POTUS, he had to have passed some sort of background check.

griftdrift July 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

“Add to that the problem of Richey’s salary. After being hired, Richey record caused him to fail the Democratic National Committee vetting process. Normally, the DNC helps kick in cash to cover some staff salaries. DPG was forced to carry his salary itself because of the failed vetting.”

Napoleon July 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm

But your contention, GD, was that he, “can’t pass a background check.”

I’m only stating he can, and obviously has. That doesn’t mean he’d pass any and all background checks, but he has evidentially passed at least one.

griftdrift July 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Angels. Pinheads. I’m talking about comparable business decisions. Not the specificity of background checks.

Once he became a liability he should have been gone. If he was hired with known liability, who hired him should also be gone. That’s the way it works in business and the way it should have and ultimately did here.

Napoleon July 11, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Sorry GD. I’m not a mind reader, though I cannot argue at all with the rest of your point.

Spacey G July 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Do you hire only men?

Napoleon July 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Interesting positioning in the photo. Obama’s position, with arm outstretched towards Rashad, palm towards him, also with back towards the President could be seen as sending the message that the Dem establishment pushing him out, but Rashad happily leaving.

I know it’s reading too much into it, but I still find it interesting how it came out.

slyram July 9, 2013 at 4:24 am

I worked with Richey’s mom in Rep. Bishop’s office and we grew up together . His father came from a successful farm family. (see where I am going with this) Let me write the possible next parts of his resume for you: works midterm elections, helps Hillary try to win Georgia, waits for CBC retirements in Atlanta or south ga.

Harry July 9, 2013 at 11:35 am

What’s CBC?

Harry July 9, 2013 at 11:36 am

Congressional Black Caucus – got it.

Scarlett July 9, 2013 at 8:11 am

Anyone who hires this guy for their campaign is a fool. He’s worse than useless, has zero political skill and can’t seem to leave women in the office alone.

MouthoftheSouth July 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

For the uninitiated, this is what facts sound like.

Spacey G July 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm

If I had a dollar for every jerk I’ve ever met/had to deal with who claims to now be a reformed, sober, newly enlightened, terrific spiritual person, whatever, you get the point, yet still little more than a basic jerk I’d be Anne Cox Chambers rich.

saltycracker July 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Of all the juke joints, seedy places and opinionated social misfit sites you could go to, what were you expecting when you came in here ?

Harry July 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Present company excepted?

Jane July 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm

There are enough decent humans in both parties That You should have to hire bad people.

cwoods July 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Nikema was totally justified in her actions. The whole set-up of everything under Mike Berlon was ass backwards. I’m sick of people talking about the party has to do better but not really wanting to do the work to make it happen. Simple mindedness makes it hard to get big picture and stay on track and creates a ripe environment in which to get easily distracted on BS. Perhaps the lack of exposure to real political structure, policy, strategy and organizing within the party makes it easy to act like a dog with any ol’ bone that gets tossed your way.

CatherineAtlanta July 11, 2013 at 7:48 am

Mr Richey’s employment with the DPG is an excellent example of the importance of due diligence in hiring practices. The position for which he was hired was never posted. No other candidates were considered. Perhaps in an open application process, Mr Richey would have still been hired, but it would have been an informed hiring decision.

Considering all support he is receiving, I’m sure Mr Richey will land on his feet.

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