LD 26 Democrats Remove Chair John Kelly


Sara Thompson, KP News

Kelly continues to chair the KP Democrats. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

The longtime local activist barred from Democratic Party activities until 2020.

John Kelly was removed from his position as both member and chair of the Legislative District 26 Democrats at a special meeting Nov 1. He had served as chair since 2016 and his term was scheduled to end in December. 

Kelly is a longtime Key Peninsula resident and a commissioner-at-large on the Key Pen Parks board.

According to a press release, Kelly had been censured by the group at the October meeting for threatening to endorse a Republican legislative candidate. The censure also cited “behavior perceived to be harassing, abusive or disrespectful” and his “failure to avoid profane, prejudicial, exclusionary, abusive or sexualized language.” The censure noted that Kelly exhibited disruptive behavior despite several months of advice, coaching and counseling by party leaders and colleagues. 

“It was a smoke screen, just an opportunistic thing; they just don’t like old-fashioned Democrats,” Kelly told KP News in March. “The main thing that gets me is them wanting to paint me as some kind of harasser of women—I am an equal opportunity harasser. I tell people exactly what I think.”

Evidence was presented at the November meeting of Kelly’s endorsement of Republican legislative candidate Jesse Young through mailers and television advertisements. Kelly left after the presentation without responding to the charge.

Kelly later told the KP News that he had endorsed Jesse Young and filmed an ad supporting him the day after his censure. The ad can be viewed on YouTube.

“I’ve never been a fan of Jesse Young, but believe me he has done more for the parks than any other legislator we’ve had,” Kelly said. “We’ve got a situation right now where we need a turn lane by Gateway Park before somebody gets hurt or killed, and I really trust that Jesse is the guy to do it.”

Young’s Democratic opponent, Connie FitzPatrick, “was a terrible candidate,” Kelly said. “I’ve got an election myself coming up here in November and I want to tell folks I did what was right for the parks.” 

The precinct committee officers voted unanimously to remove Kelly as chair. Since that time, Kelly has been denied membership in LD 26 Democrats and in the State Democratic Party through 2020. 

State Chair Tina Podlodowski said, “John Kelly has not been willing to support the principles and goals of the Democratic Party and is not a member.” He has been barred by precinct committee officers in LD 26 from attending any Democratic meetings and events in LD 26 or elsewhere, and he was previously barred from the Pierce County Democrats.

KP Democrats continues to meet monthly at the Home fire station and is led by Kelly. 

Luellen Lucid, who now chairs the LD 26 Democrats, said, “The attorney to the state party has told us that ‘Democrat’ is not a trademarked or copyrighted term, so we cannot prevent him from using it even though he and the KP group have no connection to the Democratic Party.” 

Kelly said that KP Democrats was established as a grassroots organization and was never intended to be an extension of the Democratic Party. He said that he sees his role as one of trying to be more inclusive of people with views more conservative than those expressed by the LD 26 Democrats. 

The LD 26 Democrats, which meets in Port Orchard, is the only official group representing Democrats in the community. “While anyone who wishes to may attend Kelly’s meetings, the Democratic Party is not encouraging our members to attend meetings put on by his group,” Lucid said. “We do encourage our members to attend the KP Community Club meetings.” 

Ted Ralston, who helps coordinate the KP Community Club, said, “It was created as an adjunct to the KP Community Council, and as such is non-partisan. It is not a substitute to the group John Kelly leads. It is primarily a gathering for anyone who is interested in civil discussion of topics that have an impact on the KP.” The group currently does not have a regular meeting schedule but will post topics, speakers and times in the KP News events calendar.