Vincent Fort’s feud with Georgia Democratic establishment deepens

State Sen. Vincent Fort introduces Bernie Sanders at his rally at Morehouse College.

State Sen. Vincent Fort introduces Bernie Sanders at his rally at Morehouse College.

Vincent Fort is the No. 2 Democrat in the Georgia Senate, a likely candidate for Atlanta mayor and an outspoken supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. And, he said Tuesday, he’s also a wanted man – targeted by state party leaders for daring to oppose Hillary Clinton.

The Atlanta lawmaker claimed that Democratic Party of Georgia chair DuBose Porter and other party poobahs secretly orchestrated the campaign of little-known Democrat Jeff Sadiq, who challenged Fort in the May primary. Sadiq was disqualified after investigators found he didn’t meet residency requirements to run for the south Atlanta district and Fort coasted to re-election.

By airing his complaints, he’s opened a very public feud with the Georgia Democratic establishment.

Here’s what Fort said in a statement:

“It’s surprising that the Democratic Party of Georgia would not only qualify someone to run against me but then utilize their legal team in an attempt to keep an opponent who doesn’t live in the district on the ballot. I’ve tried to contact Chairman Porter but he won’t return my calls. The party establishment should respect my decision to back Bernie Sanders, and not use the party apparatus to try to unseat one of the most progressive members of the Democratic caucus.  I formally ask Chairman Porter to apologize for his breach of party protocol.”

His mention of the “legal team” is a reference to Sadiq attorney Carlos Vilela, whose LinkedIn page showed that he was a volunteer deputy counsel for the party.

Porter shot back that Fort’s accusations are “baseless.” Here’s more:

“Let’s get this straight—the DPG did not utilize its legal team in any shape, fashion, or form to help one candidate or another. An individual came in to qualify in that district of his own accord, and was subsequently disqualified. That’s the beginning, middle, and end of this story. I’ve answered or returned any of Senator Fort’s calls he placed with me and he has not reached out to me about any of these allegations.”

He also dismissed the anti-Sanders allegations, noting that several party officers and state committee members back the Democrat. Among them is Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, one of the party’s top deputies.

Porter and the vast majority of other Georgia Democratic leaders endorsed Clinton, who won Georgia’s primary with nearly three-quarters of the vote. But Fort, also an early Clinton backer, flipped to Sanders’ camp ahead of his February visit to Atlanta, becoming the Vermont senator’s most prominent supporter in Georgia and deepening his tension with party leaders.

Fort’s open war with the state’s Democratic establishment could factor into his potential bid for Atlanta mayor. If he runs, he’s likely to try to lift a page from Sanders’ playbook with an insurgent, anti-establishment campaign focusing on populist favorites such as a $15 minimum wage. He has plenty of competition, as six candidates have already jumped in the race to succeed term-limited Mayor Kasim Reed.

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