While some partied on Mardi Gras two-and-a-half weeks ago, Len Daws headed to a meeting with West Deptford Democratic Party chief Gerry White.
Daws thought he was going in for a political chat.
Instead, White told Daws he had a pair of fresh faces waiting to run for the two seats up on township committee this year, and asked Daws to consider not running for re-election.
“I was not going to do the sit-down, shut-up role,” Daws said Thursday night, and declined to step aside. “It’s the committee’s decision, it’s not one individual’s decision.”
That meant he’d be presenting his candidacy–the first time an incumbent ever had to do so in West Deptford–along with the newcomers at the closed Democratic executive committee meeting, which was originally scheduled for last week, but was cancelled and rescheduled after Daws told White he wouldn’t step aside.
Daws said that, along with others, including some on the executive committee, he wasn’t happy with the process, starting with White asking him to not run this year, and said it would’ve benefited from being more out in the open. Instead of behind closed doors and in executive committee, he said the party should’ve brought a slate of candidates to the primary and let the voters sort out who would run.
“People assumed too much,” he said. “People just thought I was going to step down.”
And allowing it to be decided before the executive committee, where some members have jobs with the county, adds another wrinkle, he said.
“People can be intimidated, especially when you have county leadership involved in the party,” Daws said. White, in addition to being the local Democratic head, is also deputy county administrator.
All of that adds up to a selection process that, from the outside, seems murky, he said. Adding to that murkiness was confusion over whether the meeting Thursday night was open to the public, which resulted in some flared tempers when people trying to get in were told it was a closed session.
“My issue here tonight is trust, integrity and transparency,” Daws said, adding that he thinks people need to be more open at both the party level and in local government.
Ultimately, Daws said he wanted to get past the selection process and get back to focusing on important issues, such at the $3.1 million jump in debt service payments looming in 2012.
“We have a huge problem next year with the debt situation,” he said. “Next year starts now.”