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North Mississippi attorney Wil Colom to challenge Rep. Cheikh Taylor for chair of Democratic Party

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North Mississippi attorney Wil Colom to challenge Rep. Cheikh Taylor for chair of Democratic Party

Jun 13, 2024 | 5:00 am ET
By Taylor Vance
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Attorney Wil Colom said he’s running for chairmanship of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Credit: Special to Mississippi Today
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Attorney Wil Colom said he’s running for chairmanship of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Credit: Special to Mississippi Today

Wil Colom, an attorney and businessman from Columbus, will run for chairman of the state Democratic Party and challenge its current chairman, Cheikh Taylor, for the position, according to an email he sent to several members of the party’s executive committee. 

Colom’s email, obtained by Mississippi Today, said that if he were elected leader of the party, he would work to implement a rigorous fundraising program, decentralize the party’s operations, create an outreach and training program, establish a communications arm for the party, and recruit candidates to run for office in 2027. 

“I’m not going to be a candidate,” Colom wrote. “Others can call the press conferences and give the speeches. My job, if I become chair, would be to amplify the messages of the candidates by ensuring resources are available.”

Taylor, a state representative from Oktibbeha County, is the party’s current chairman and is up for reelection to a full term this year.

Colom told Mississippi Today that he knows Taylor and his family personally since they’re from the same area of the state, and his decision to run for party leadership is not a personal attack on the current chairman. 

“I don’t want anyone to get the impression that (Taylor) is a bad guy,” Colom said. “I just think I have a different skill set.” 

Taylor told Mississippi Today that he also plans to run and welcomes Colom’s challenge. Having led the party through the 2023 statewide elections and presided over the party’s recent convention, Taylor said he believes he’s “battle-tested and battle-ready.”

“This is an exercise in the democratic experience,” Taylor said. “If we get in a position when we frown on challenges, we’re frowning on the democratic process.”

The party’s next executive committee meeting is July 22, when members will vote on for a chairman and other party officers. If Colom becomes the party’s new leader, he would be the organization’s third chairman in one year, potentially writing a new chapter in its recent chaotic history. 

The party’s executive committee voted to oust Tyree Irving as its chairman in July 2023 after Mississippi Today published emails Irving wrote to national Democratic Party officials that included a nasty attack on the state executive director. 

After Irving’s ouster, the committee voted to replace him with Taylor. However, less than a year after Taylor was first elected to the post, some in the executive committee apparently believe it’s time for a new face to lead the party. 

North Mississippi attorney Wil Colom to challenge Rep. Cheikh Taylor for chair of Democratic Party
Attorney Wil Colom said he’s running for chairmanship of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Credit: Special to Mississippi Today

Colom’s past may make him an unconventional choice for the leader of the Democratic Party. He was once a Republican and ran for State Treasurer in the late 1980s as a Republican, but he left the GOP in the mid-2000s. 

Since his exodus from the GOP, he has been a member of the Democratic National Committee, served on the national finance committee for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and helped recent Democratic candidates try to win office in Mississippi. 

His son, Scott Colom, is an elected Democratic district attorney for Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee and Oktibbeha counties. President Joe Biden nominated the younger Colom to an open federal judicial seat in north Mississippi, but his confirmation remains stalled in the U.S. Senate. 

North Mississippi attorney Wil Colom to challenge Rep. Cheikh Taylor for chair of Democratic Party
Mississippi Democratic Chairman Cheikh Taylor (second right), State Rep. Daryl Porter (right) were joined by supporters who gathered at the Sillers Building to protest Gov. Tate Reeves unveiling of a hospital program, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Colom acknowledged that he has been involved in Republican politics in the past but said, “It’s been 18 years” since he last had any major involvement with the GOP. 

Party leaders aren’t always elected officials, but they play a crucial role in the political process. They often help organize messaging, coordinate fundraising, and strategize campaign efforts. During major elections, state party leaders often interface with national leaders to draw down funds. 

A lack of funding and resources are two of the most pressing issues that have hampered the state Democratic Party from growing its influence and presence in a Deep South state dominated in recent years by the Republican Party.