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Candidate Says Mississippi Democratic Party Chair ‘Undermined Democracy,’ Should Be Replaced

Tyree Irving and Shuwaski Young in a side by side composition
Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Tyree Irving, left, has “undermined democracy” and should be replaced, Democratic candidate for Mississippi secretary of state Shuwaski Young said in a June 27, 2023, statement following the release of internal party emails. Photo courtesy Mississippi Democratic Party / Kayode Crown

Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Tyree Irving should be replaced, a Democrat running for statewide office says. In a statement this afternoon, Mississippi Secretary of State candidate Shuwaski Young said Irving “has undermined democracy and railroaded critical local, statewide, and national relationships that would benefit Mississippi.”

The party made Irving its new chair in 2020 after he had served for decades as a Mississippi Court of Appeals judge.

The call for Irving’s resignation comes a day after Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau reported that fellow Democrats fear the chairman may have jeopardized a $250,000 commitment from the Democratic National Committee. The report said that following a call about the funds on Thursday, June 22, Irving emailed DNC Senior Adviser Libby Schneider urging the party to also “make an equal investment” in Democrat Brandon Presley’s campaign for governor.

Mississippi Today reported that Mississippi Democratic Party State Executive Director Andre Wagner replied to the thread the next morning, including Irving and DNC officials, saying that “the chair misunderstood” and that “we plan to use the funds in accordance with Mississippi law and will use the funds in support of electing Democrats up and down the ticket.” The report says he added that “we also acknowledge that the DNC has not earmarked any funds for a particular candidate.”

The report says the 77-year-old party chair sent a reply that included Wagner and the DNC officials in which he harshly criticized the state executive director.

“Mr. Wagner, you do not speak for the chair, and you are out of order,” Mississippi Today reported Irving as saying. “I am an accomplished jurist. I know and understand things that you cannot know or understand because: you do not have the education level, you do not possess the personal or vicarious experience that I have, and you know nothing about the historical political landscape of Mississippi. You are not in a position to speak for the Mississippi Democratic Party or say how the Mississippi Democratic Party will spend any funds without being granted that authority to speak, and it has not been granted to you. You are a salaried employee and nothing else. You need to find your place and stay in it.”

Mississippi Democratic Party officials fear Chair Tyree Irving may have jeopardized a $250,000 investment from the Democratic National Committee after he criticized party State Executive Director Andre Wagner, pictured. Courtesy Mississippi Democrats

Mississippi Today did not include copies of the emails in its story, and the Mississippi Free Press has not been able to verify their authenticity. Irving did not respond to a request for comment for this story by press time. Asked for an interview, Wagner said in an email that he “no comment for the media.”

“I am shocked by the release of internal emails at the Mississippi Democratic Party,” Young said in his statement today, adding that “it’s up to the Mississippi Democratic Party State Executive Committee to replace Tyree Irving, not me as a candidate for secretary of state.”

“We will continue to run our race, present better policy, and earn the people of Mississippi’s respect and vote,” he said.

This is not the first time Young has criticized the Mississippi Democratic Party’s leadership. After he lost a bid for Congress in Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District in 2022, the candidate also called for a change, saying he was “deeply disappointed with the Democratic turnout in this election.”

“The Democratic Party of Mississippi has failed to show up for the values and policies that we claim are important to democracy,” he said in a Nov. 9, 2022, statement. “We must meet people where they are as a collective party in one accord. Most importantly, we must invest and ensure our folks vote on Election Day.”

At the time, Young said he would “not seek or accept my party’s nomination for Governor in 2023 or any other office until a change in state party leadership has taken place.”

“As a party, we must acknowledge the wants and beliefs of our base in Mississippi,” he said. “We must rebuild our infrastructure, and that starts with a change at the top.”

He launched his campaign for secretary of state two months later in January 2023. He is challenging incumbent Republican Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson in the Nov. 7, 2023, general election.

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