After Mississippi Today published an emailed tirade by state Democratic Party Chairman Tyree Irving that some fear could jeopardize $250,000 in funding for the state party, one of the top Democratic statewide candidates is calling for Irving’s removal as party boss.
Shuwaski Young, the lone Democrat running for secretary of state this year, said the state Democratic Party’s executive committee should promptly remove Irving from his post.
“It is my hope — and I hate it has to come to this — that Tyree Irving will be removed as chair of the Mississippi Democratic Party for the sake of Mississippi and the collective futures of our residents,” Young told Mississippi Today in an interview late Monday. “I don’t see any other path forward.”
Emails published Monday showed that Irving sharply criticized Andre Wagner, the state party’s executive director and No. 2 leader of the party, in a note that was sent to three Democratic National Committee staffers. Shortly before Irving sent the email, the DNC officials had committed to sending the state party $250,000 to boost political programs and support candidates “up and down the ballot.”
Wagner had sought in an email to clarify Irving’s previous comments about how the state party should spend that $250,000 from the national party. Then Irving, a 77-year-old former Mississippi Court of Appeals judge who has been party chairman since 2020, insisted that he alone ran the state party and that Wagner was “out of order.”
“Mr. Wagner, you do not speak for the chair, and you are out of order,” Irving wrote. “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.”
Wagner, in response, forwarded the exchange to other state party leaders and predicted that the national party would pull its commitment to send the money to the state party. Several other Democratic Party officials told Mississippi Today they shared Wagner’s concern.
Young, who faces incumbent Republican Secretary of State Michael Watson in November, said on Monday that Irving’s comments were “shocking and unacceptable,” and that several high-ranking state Democratic officials felt the same way.
“The chairman’s main job is to fundraise and to support candidates up and down the ticket,” Young said. “When you have a chairman acting in this outrageous way, it makes people not want to invest into the party. It makes people not want to donate to candidates. And politically, it makes it harder for Democrats to win. When we can’t operate in a coordinated fashion because our leader can’t respect other people, it hurts every Democrat in the state. We have to be able to have our house in order, and that’s clearly not the case.”
The process of removing Irving from the chairmanship would not be easy. The party chair is the only individual who can schedule meetings of the 80-person Democratic executive committee. Currently, there is no scheduled executive committee meeting on the books. However, 25% of the committee (21 members) may call a meeting with or without the chair’s approval.
The Mississippi Democratic Party constitution states that a majority of the 80-member executive committee can vote to remove the chair mid-term.
Young, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2022, said Irving “is not doing the job Mississippi needs from him.”
“As far as I can tell, Tyree Irving is a man who has never said one single positive word about any candidate on the ticket, myself included,” Young said. “He does not reflect all Democrats in Mississippi. He sure doesn’t reflect me and who I am. It’s important to have someone in that position who respects people. But the party itself is not being led with the party’s own principles, when it comes to respecting all people and being able to properly conduct business without fear of being sabotaged. How can we win like that?”