Tensions between members of the the 26th Legislative District Democrats have come to a head as chairman John Patrick Kelly, under fire for controversial comments directed at women, plans to resign before his re-election in December.
“I’m just going to quit,” Kelly told The Peninsula Gateway this week. “And I am endorsing (Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor) this November. I have not left the Democratic Party, the party left me.”
Kelly also serves as a commissioner on the Key Peninsula Parks Board.
Kelly has not made an official statement on his resignation, but fellow Democrats have started the legal process to remove him from his position, citing inappropriate comments and behavior in meetings and on social media.
“He’s not been much of a leader, to put it mildly,” vice chair Luellen Lucid said. “He puts out very offensive posts, and I have been counseling him. We are trying not to get into a big conflict.”
The party voted during its regular meeting Oct. 4 to censure Kelly because of his behavior. Kelly was up for re-election in December. Lucid said she doesn’t believe he would have gotten the votes to remain chair, but the party felt the need to move ahead with the censure process to show its supporters and voters that they “do not tolerate” Kelly’s alleged behavior.
“We are going to remove him,” Lucid said “It’s a process. We can’t just do it overnight.”
The 26th District encompasses the southeastern portions of the Kitsap Peninsula and includes Bremerton, Port Orchard and Gig Harbor.
Kelly said the choice to remove him was a result of an internal power struggle, which he blamed on some new women members.
“I wasn’t surprised by this,” Kelly said. “What you really don’t see is the internal power struggle. These ladies from Gig Harbor, known as ‘the mean girls,’ were originally from the Indivisible Party. I made a mistake of letting them take over the party because, honestly, they are good hard workers with good skills.”
Pattern of ‘blunt’ comments
A list of the official complaints from the party, a copy of which was provided to the Gateway, include:
▪ During a recent meeting Kelly made an offensive comment to a Red Beret member (supporters of universal healthcare and members of Pierce County Progressive Caucus) and later blew her a kiss as a way of “gloating.”
▪ Kelly posted inflammatory and unprofessional comments on the Pierce County Democrats Facebook group, including the comment “Daddy was right … Bye bye Ladies. Daddy is just one of my titles. You can also call me Chair or Commissioner.” In another Facebook post Kelly responded to a woman who complained his comments were sexual harassment with: “Not interested in having sex with you, (woman’s name). Sorry.”
▪ Kelly allegedly used profanities and unprofessional wording in internal emails between board and party members.
▪ Kelly allegedly refused to listen to “senior members of the party” when asked to not attend a public meeting and to take a leave of absence in light of his behavior.
▪ The party also noted comments from Kelly to support Jesse Young in the November election against the Democrat party’s candidate, Connie Fitzpatrick. Kelly was then seen in a mailer sent to voters in the 26th district in support of Jesse Young.
“He was horrible at the meetings,” Lucid said “He said really awful things. He called us awful things. I will not repeat them.”
Lucid said there was no place for Kelly’s behavior in today’s political realm.
“It all had to do with interactions with women,” Lucid said. “We couldn’t duck it anymore. (The executive board) went through a very prolonged process. We were trying to put him to the side. The things he said were so offensive, and the things he was posting on Facebook and things like that, very insensitive about women.”
Kelly did not deny the allegations and said he is a “blunt” person who speaks the truth.
“I don’t care about the Democratic code of conduct,” Kelly said. “The anti-male, the anti-white male, shaming is just appalling. It’s all about how women are better than men. And how men have screwed everything up. I think the pendulum has flown too far.”
Kelly admitted to blowing kisses and making the cited comment to a woman in the Red Berets in response to a unsavory interaction between the Red Berets and Kelly at a recent campaign event. Kelly cited the women’s behavior when they confronted U.S. Rep. Denny Heck at the event.
Kelly also admitted to being “aggressive” on Facebook and said he has taken a break from social media since. Kelly said he’s seen a shift in the local and national Democratic party which has led to longtime Democrats like him feeling the need to look across the aisle at other candidates.
“I’m not backing down,” Kelly said. “I’m pretty blunt and pretty frank. I really feel like the party needs to be … a little bit tougher and at least protect our elected officials better than we do.”
Kelly said he’s been a Democrat since he was 14 when he traveled to Seattle by public bus to campaign for presidential candidate Jimmy Carter.
Kelly was elected as the chair 26th Legislative District Democrats in January 2017.
Lucid said she did not join the party’s executive board until recently. Since then, she and fellow progressive members have worked to make the party more “productive” in their work with candidates and local elections. She said she didn’t realize the issues inside the party’s leadership until she started work on the board.
“I am a professional person, and I just couldn’t tolerate it,” Lucid said. “We got a whole bunch of other people on the board starting to make meetings really productive. There was a bunch of people who left the board, and we got good people to step up.”
Lucid said she has been focused on the November election, but the board has started the process to legally remove Kelly from his position. The board would need 36 votes from their precinct community officers to remove Kelly if he doesn’t officially resign before then. Lucid said the party is following state standards and is not sure if the vote will happen before or after Election Day, Nov. 6.
Lucid said she hopes the issues within the local party will not affect the polls in November.
“We have really good candidates, men and women,” Lucid said. “I’m sure it’s confusing to people why someone with the title of chair would do this, and we are not happy about it.”