An African American state senator is protesting the appointment of a well-regarded operative as the new executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia, citing a lack of racial diversity in the organization’s all-white senior leadership.

Senate Minority Whip Vincent Fort says the selection of Rebecca DeHart, who is white, as the state party’s top strategist failed to “reflect the rich diversity of Georgia Democrats.

“When you have a chairman who is white and an executive director who is white,” Fort, the senate’s second-most senior member, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “that rich diversity is not reflected.”

Gross mismanagement and weak fundraising had crippled the state Democratic party in recent years, leaving it orphaned from the national power structure and with little hope for revival.

But the statewide candidacies of Michelle Nunn and state Sen. Jason Carter, as well as the recent state party chairmanship contest won by former state Rep. DuBose Porter, had breathed new life into the struggling organization.

DeHart had been serving as the party’s acting executive director since Porter’s ascension to the chairmanship last summer, but a Tuesday evening conference call of the state executive committee fully ratified her selection.

Fort told the paper that he considered DeHart a friend, but chaffed at the “good ol’ boy approach” that resulted in her appointment.

Never mind that DeHart is a woman, and a tremendously accomplished one at that: she won four Pollie awards from the American Association of Political Consultants for work in the 2012 election and was previously a finalist for Campaigns & Elections Reed Awards, a prestigious industry nod.

Fort’s opposition to DeHart’s selection mirrors in many ways the clamoring among the state’s Democratic congressional delegation over the nomination of four judicial nominees to the federal bench.

In December, Reps. John Lewis, Hank Johnson and David Scott demanded that President Barack Obama withdraw consideration of four would-be judges for vacancies in Georgia.

(Only one of the nominees is an African American, and is reportedly a Republican, though conservative bloggers have questioned the claim. Other nominees include a Republican-appointed state judge; a former state legislator who once voted to preserve Georgia’s former Confederate-themed flag; and the lead defense attorney, on behalf of a Democratic attorney general, in legal challenges to the state’s 2005 voter identification law.)

Scott escalated the conflict Tuesday, when he asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify against the slate when the panel considers their nominations.

Fort said the state party deserves the same scrutiny as the president.

“We’re all supportive of the president,” he told the AJC. “But if we can challenge his federal judicial nominees, the Georgia Democratic Party shouldn’t be above the same scrutiny.”

– James Richardson