York County Dems elect new leader, but only males could run


York County Democrats elected a new chairman Tuesday, but who could run for the post was limited to just males due to an old bylaw from a bygone era.

Chad Baker, who was spokesman for the local Democrats for just over four years, took hold of the reins of the party after the majority of committee members at the meeting voted him to the position.

He succeeds longtime chairman Bob Kefauver, who in June announced his resignation because of health reasons.

Baker, 38, of Manchester Township, said he is looking forward to moving the party forward but that work must be spread to all local party members.

"We have a lot of work to do," he said. "We have to provide a voice for those who don't have a voice."

He was the only person to seek the unpaid job. But one former candidate couldn't formally run because of a rule that dictates the chair and vice chair can't be of the same gender.

Gender balance: State and local Democratic parties' bylaws have a rule, known as the gender balance rule, that was put in place at a time when mainly men held party leadership positions and was meant make those positions more inclusive of women.

Since Kefauver is a male and the vice chair is a female, the new chair had be a man, according to a letter sent to Kefauver from Diane Bowman, executive director of the state party.

"Look, I'm not happy with this either," Kefauver told committee members at a meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York in the city. "It just doesn't seem fair."

Kefauver said he was told in June the rule wasn't being enforced by the state Democratic Committee, but the committee's parliamentarian told the local party in late July they had to abide by the rule.

Carla Christopher, the former poet laureate of York City and one-time candidate for chairwoman, pointed out after the meeting the law has the opposite effect of what it was first intended to do.

"It's clear that our bylaws are antiquated," she said.

Christopher put forth her name for chair during a meeting in July, but the committee failed to meet a quorum, delaying the vote until Tuesday.

She learned the gender balance rule is being enforced and she couldn't run for chair about a month ago.

Debate: With three or four rows of chairs on either side of the room where the meeting was held and a podium at the front, the room had a look of a House of Commons in the parliamentary system. The debate over the gender balance rule, with some in the audience voicing their displeasure about it, made it feel like a session of Parliament.

Some who spoke told Bowman the rule is archaic and said the bylaws need to be amended to remove the rule.

Alex Shorb, chairman of the York County Republican Party, said he's not aware of a gender balance rule in his party's bylaws at the local or state level.

The chairs of the local and state GOP are male, and its vice chairs are female.

New chair: Baker is a lifelong Democrat and has been involved with the local party since he moved to York County in 2001.

He is the director of marketing and public information at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster and is married with two children.

Baker said his main goals are to get Democratic candidates elected in the upcoming general election in November and to fight for values Democrats hold dear.

"We're fighting for the middle class," he told committee members as he was announced as the new chairman.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.