ALBANY — The Dougherty County Democratic Party held elections for six committee seats in three districts Saturday. The meeting itself was routine, except for the presence of 20-year-old Andrew Niquette, who failed in a bid to unseat either Chevene King or Wilbur Carver on the local Democratic Committee.

It was a series of emails, however, among Niquette, former state Rep. John White and state Democratic Executive Director Rebecca DeHart leading up to Saturday’s meeting that made things interesting.

Niquette is gay and has a partner. He is also white, young and brash. He was a delegate to the Democratic Party National Convention in Philadelphia in July and was later named as the Deputy Regional Organizing Director for the Florida Party. He’s also given the local party’s old guard quite a case of heartburn.

Late last week, Niquette announced his intention to run for a committee seat with the local Democratic Party, which prompted an email response from DeHart:

“I’m so thrilled by your excitement to get involved, Andrew. Thanks for all you are doing and I’m looking forward to seeing the upcoming election.”

Apparently the word got out to White, who in 1974 was the first black from Albany elected to the Georgia House and is a longtime Dougherty Democratic County apparatchik. White now lives in Alabama.

He fired off an email to DeHart and two others in response to Niquette’s plan. He also included a photo of Niquette kissing his partner.

“Rebecca, is this what you are thrilled about? I can’t say ‘I am thrilled about all you are doing,’” White wrote. “Andrew Niquette can do his Whatever in Florida. I have ZERO Tolerance for this lifestyle.”

White bolded the sentence for emphasis.

An hour later, Niquette fired back.

“Such a shame that a reputable former Democratic Representative who was an advocate for Civil Rights has the audacity to judge me for whom I choose to love,” Niquette wrote. “I do hope that you get together with the 21st Century, Rep. White, and you can be sure that it will be known of your homophobia.”

DeHart was not amused by White’s email, and responded:

“Yes, I am absolutely thrilled by Andrew’s enthusiasm and absolutely all of him and absolutely all he represents. I am beyond angry at what you have just emailed me, Mr. White,” DeHart wrote. “For the officers of the party — and to the general counsel of the party that I have included in this email, let me explain what has happened. I congratulated Andrew Niquette, who I had the pleasure of getting to know in Philadelphia, as he was an elected Delegate representing our great state.

“Andrew wants to run for a post seat holder in Dougherty … and I sent him an email commending his passion — we want young, bright leaders carrying the torch for our party. I have absolutely zero tolerance for hateful emails like the one you just have sent me. I am a Democrat. I believe in equality with every single bone in my being and I will not be silent — ever — should I ever be in receipt of an email such as this.”

When asked for comment on White’s email, DCDP Chair Constance Burkes replied, “We have not authorized John White to make a statement on the Democratic Party of Dougherty County’s behalf.”

For his part, Niquette was angry, yet stoic, and he said he regards the last week’s events as a lesson learned.

“I learned that I still have so much more work to do here in Albany to be a representative of the Democratic Party and its platform,” he said. “I am astonished that fellow members of the Democratic Party have the audacity to make homophobic remarks to me. This is not what the Party stands for, and incidents like this only move the Party backwards, not forward. The Democratic Party is inclusive to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, race, status, and anything in between.

“This fight is not over. I’ll always fight for what is right with every ounce of my being, whether you are gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Muslim or human.”

White could not be reached for comment Saturday.

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Writer with The Albany Herald.

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