Policing Parties’ Candidates Not Within ‘State’s Purview’: State Elections Official

The state’s elections coordinator says he doesn’t have the authority to scrap the results of the Aug. 2 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, in which a little-known candidate whose “hatred and bigotry” has prompted the party to disavow his candidacy won the nomination.

Elections Coordinator Mark Goins said there’s no time to hold a new primary, and no grounds to do so, in a letter to Larry Crim who came in a distant third to Mark E. Clayton. Clayton garnered 30 percent of the vote in the field of seven candidates.

Clayton followed all the legal requirements in qualifying to have his name on the ballot, and the state Democratic Party did not move to disqualify him in the seven-day window following the qualification deadline prescribed in state law, Goins says in the letter dated Aug. 7.

The grounds you and (your lawyer) stated to me were that Chip Forrester as chairman of the Democratic Party failed to properly carry out his duties charged to him under the Tennessee Democratic Party’s bylaws. Let me be clear that it is not within the state’s purview to determine whether Chip Forrester is adequately performing the duties assigned to him by the party.

In other words, like deciding who is a “bona fide” member of the party for primary voting purposes, this is an area governed by the parties.

The state Democratic Party has explained the outcome of the election by saying that Clayton’s last name, beginning with a ‘C’, appeared at the top of the list and was therefore the default choice for any voters confused by the array of choices.

His win is a mystery, seeing as how Clayton didn’t play the money game and at last check his website was down. His opponent in November, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, had a cool $6.3 million as of mid-July.

Forrester told the Nashville Scene that Clayton’s affiliation with Public Advocate of the United States, an anti-gay group based in Falls Church, Va., was cause for concern.

“This kind of hatred and bigotry is not a candidate that the Democratic Party can embrace,” Forrester said.

More than 48,000 members of the party’s primary voters cast their ballots for Clayton last week.