Tyree Irving, the chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party since 2020, resigned as dozens of the state party’s executive committee members appeared poised to remove him from his seat in a July 6 emergency meeting.
Irving’s resignation, effective July 22 but announced on Saturday, comes less than a week after Mississippi Today published emails that some party officials feared would jeopardize a $250,000 donation from the national party.
The emails, which included a nasty personal attack of the No. 2 leader of the state party and were sent to senior staffers of the Democratic National Committee, led the state party’s executive committee members to begin gathering signatures to call a special meeting next week. The purpose of the meeting, according to a form being circulated, was to “address the long standing and repeated actions of malfeasance and misfeasance of the Chair of the Mississippi Democratic Party.”
Dozens of signatures had been gathered as of the weekend — more than enough to both call the meeting and ultimately remove the chair, several sources on the state party’s executive committee shared with Mississippi Today.
Irving, who sent his resignation letter to some committee members on Saturday, was critical of the coverage of his actions.
“The past week has been very stressful for me, and especially my family, due to the circulation of false and misleading information impugning my name and reputation, while we are trying to plan for a successful election this year,” reads the resignation letter from Irving, first reported by SuperTalk Mississippi. “Regrettably, today I must inform you of my intent to resign as Chairman, effective at midnight, July 22, 2023.”
Emails published on June 26 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.
Irving, in an interview and follow-up messages with Mississippi Today, declined to respond to the content of his emails and whether he thought they may encourage the DNC to pull back on their commitment.
After the article published, several prominent Democrats publicly called for Irving’s removal from his post.
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.
“The chairman’s main job is to fundraise and to support candidates up and down the ticket,” Young said earlier this week. “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.”
Irving’s resignation comes at a critical time for Mississippi Democrats. Every statewide office, legislative seat and district attorney positions is on the ballot in November. And at the top of the ticket, Democrat Brandon Presley is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in a race many political observers have opined will be close.
On Thursday, before Irving announced his resignation, Presley attempted to distance himself from the Democratic Party drama.
“We’re running our own race, which, frankly and truthfully, doesn’t give me time to divert attention to things that seem to be internal matters within the party or party matters and are not my campaign matters,” Presley told Mississippi Today after speaking to Burning Bush Missionary Baptist Church in Grenada.
Democrats in recent years have been dominated by Republicans at every level of politics in the state. In election years, the party chair often guides political strategy and programming in addition to fundraising.
The executive committee is expected to meet in coming days to select a new chair of the party, who will lead the party’s efforts to support its candidates in the major election year. The new chair must currently serve on the state’s 80-member executive committee and must secure a majority vote of the committee.