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Forrester: Dems Need to Fight For Their Principles

Statement from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester; Jan. 9, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester vowed he would continue to hold Republicans’ feet to the fire on behalf of Tennesseans who struggle to provide a better life for their families during his next two-year term at the party’s helm.

He also promised to unify Tennessee Democrats for the hard work ahead to regain majorities in the state’s General Assembly and its congressional delegation. Forrester won re-election as party chairman on Saturday after a spirited campaign among two other candidates, whom he said he looks forward working with in unifying and moving the party forward.

“Each one of them should be thanked by all Tennessee Democrats for their desire to help this party and this state,” Forrester said of Matt Kuhn and Wade Munday. “We have much to do in the next two years to ensure we elect Democrats who will work tirelessly to ensure our communities have good jobs, effective schools and a quality of life each of us deserve.

“Tennessee Democrats care about our communities and the people who live in them. Too often we overlook the less fortunate among us. We cannot forget those who get left behind in the progress of today’s society.

“It’s our job as Democrats to ensure everyone has an opportunity to succeed, and we can only do that if we fight for our principles and have selfless leaders and elected officials who fight for those same principles. Matt and Wade have shown they are Democrats who will go to the mat for their principles,” he said.

Forrester received 38 votes from then party’s executive committee, which selects the chairman every two years. Kuhn received 17 votes, and Munday received 10. Forrester said he was committed to involving all interested Democrats in the electoral process.

“I am honored and humbled by the support that I received from the state executive committee in my bid for re-election as chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party,” he said. “But I am also pleased that, in this race for chair, we had challengers who brought energy, enthusiasm and new ideas to be discussed. Young Democrats are the future of our party, and I am pleased these challengers stepped up to offer themselves for service to our party.

“My number one objective is to unify our party. I honor and respect those on the executive committee who did not support me and will work to make them an integral part of moving this party and our state forward,” Forrester added.

TNDP Chairman Says Dems Look Forward To New Year

A statement from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester; Dec. 17, 2010:

The holiday season is a time for us to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. This past year has been memorable to say the least. For example, Tennesseans witnessed torrential flooding in the spring and a huge outpouring of compassion from one another as we recovered from the devastation. We Tennesseans are courageous, resilient and, above all, compassionate.

We also saw a great deal of change in our political leadership. Last month we elected a new governor, four new congressmen and a whole host of new state legislators, signaling a dramatic change in the state’s political landscape. Some have observed this election as a signal that Tennessee Democrats have lost their way and are doomed to political insignificance for the next decade or more. Those who believe that are wrong and have a poor understanding of history.

Tennessee is a wonderful state in which to live and raise a family. We have much to offer our residents, including diverse political views. As time passes and situations change, we elect leaders who most reflect our viewpoints and the society in which we live. This past election was simply a reflection of an evolving electorate. And that electorate will continue to evolve. Our elected officials would do well to remember this fact.

Tennessee Democrats are as courageous, resilient and compassionate as the rest of the state’s citizens. We have stood strong for our principles, our neighbors and our communities. We will continue doing that. We have worked overtime to ensure our communities attract good-paying jobs, bolster their schools and provide the services needed to enhance quality of life.

Democrats in the state Legislature and Gov. Phil Bredesen have done an admirable job in a challenging economic environment. Through their fiscal discipline, they made sure our state remained on sound financial footing, with a debt load ranking the lowest of any state in the nation. Republicans in the General Assembly should work with their Democratic colleagues to move Tennessee forward by ensuring our children receive top-notch educations, our citizens have good jobs and our communities get the help and support they need to be desirable and safe places to live.

I wish Gov.-elect Bill Haslam well and hope he can instill in the Republican leadership in the General Assembly that we have to work together to ensure Tennessee is a state conducive to job growth, educational opportunities and diversity. Too many Republican lawmakers have displayed an astounding amount of hypocrisy in the last couple of years. This nation and this state are facing some big challenges, and it behooves all of us to stop this political posturing and work together to meet those challenges.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Democrats need to do a better job reminding Tennesseans we have been good stewards of the state and of the people’s interests. We will work with our Republican colleagues to ensure this state and our communities move forward and have the tools needed to ensure success. And we will work relentlessly to elect Democratic leaders who reflect the courage, resilience and compassion of Tennessee’s citizens. That’s why we look forward to the new year and the challenges ahead.

TNDP: Republicans Still Pitching ‘Failed Economic Policies’

Press Release from the Tennessee Democratic Party, Sept. 23, 2010:

Republicans from Washington, D.C., including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, are crisscrossing the state in an attempt to confuse Tennessee voters into believing the weak job market is a result of current economic policies.

“I’m confident Tennessee voters remember what got us into this mess in the first place,” Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said. “It was the failed economic policies of a Republican White House that was more concerned about helping the bottom line of its Wall Street and Big Business buddies.

“This Congress and this White House have turned things around for us. We’ve emerged from a deep recession, but we still have a long way to go before this economy churns out the level of jobs it was before George Bush took office.

“Tennessee Republicans like Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, along with Reps. John Duncan, Phil Roe, Zach Wamp and Marsha Blackburn, seem to have a memory block about what happened. They want to blame Democrats when they know full well it was their Republican leadership that nearly sent our economy into a ditch.”

Forrester pointed out that the entire Republican congressional delegation from Tennessee voted against the Recovery Act last year, a package that has committed $6 billion in federal funding to help the state create or retain more than 10,000 jobs and provide much-needed infrastructure improvements. Included in that funding package is $500 million in Race to the Top funds helping Tennessee complete a comprehensive reform of its schools.

“It is shameful that each of them has the audacity to come back home and take credit for the very projects they voted against,” Forrester said of the state’s Republican congressional delegation.

“Whether it’s a new $11 million school construction project over in Hamblen County or a $483 million investment at the Spring Hill General Motors plant to create 500 jobs, Republicans want to take credit for it. If that isn’t the ultimate example of hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.”

Forrester also called the Republicans so-called “Pledge to America” a gimmick that would send our economy into the same ditch from which we are now climbing out.

“They would rather continue to protect corporate loopholes and their Wall Street buddies than help ordinary hard-working Tennesseans find a job or send their children to a good college,” Forrester said. “Their pledge is nothing more than a gimmick. We cannot afford to go down that path again.”

TN Dems: Rutherford GOP Candidate Lies About Resume

Press Release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; Aug. 24, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Rutherford County Republican state House candidate Mike Sparks has once again gotten himself into trouble over a Facebook posting that implies he is a 1997 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.

According to MTSU officials, Sparks has never received a degree from the university. Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester is asking Sparks to apologize to Rutherford County voters for “falsifying his resume.”

“People are routinely fired from their jobs for a lie like that,” Forrester said. “Mr. Sparks is guilty of falsifying his resume. He should explain to the citizens of Rutherford County why he decided to pass himself off as an MTSU graduate.

“This is just one more in a list of blunders Mr. Sparks has made during his campaign for the state House. The people of Rutherford County deserve a representative in the General Assembly who is honest, hardworking and beyond reproach. Mr. Sparks is not that leader.

“Just a few weeks ago Mr. Sparks posted anti-Semitic material written by a Nazi sympathizer (PDF) on his campaign Facebook page and provided a link to other bigoted YouTube videos. Someone who shows this kind of judgment has no business running for an elected office in this state or this country. The Tennessee Republican Party should immediately remove Mr. Sparks from the ballot,” he said.

Sparks, a Rutherford County commissioner, is seeking the House seat currently occupied by state Rep. Kent Coleman of Murfreesboro.

Forrester also pointed out that Sparks had to amend a filing with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance revealing that he has made expenditures during his campaign. His first two filings with the state agency claimed no expenditures had been made. Sparks’ campaign website also fails to list an appropriate authorization line as required by state law.

“Mr. Sparks is not at all ready for prime time,” Forrester said. “We need lawmakers who understand that we need good jobs for our families, good schools for our children and safe, desirable communities in which to live.”

TNGOP: Democratic Chair Misleading Public About Primary Election Problems

Memo from Tennessee Republican Party; Aug. 23, 2010:

M E M O R A N D U M

TO: Tennessee Media

FROM: Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney

RE: Misleading Claims Made by TNDP Chairman

DATE: August 23, 2010

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester has made a number of misleading claims and accusations regarding this year’s primary elections. Essentially, Chairman Forrester has accused Republicans of conspiring to manipulate elections in order to secure wins. The fact is, Chairman Forrester has no evidence to support any of his claims and in fact was forced to admit in an article published over the weekend that most of the human error mistakes that occurred during the primary were made under the leadership of staff appointed and hired while Democrats controlled county election commissions across the state. According to the Tennessean:

“He conceded that some of the mistakes might have been made by people hired before Republicans came to power…” (“TN Dems claim GOP made errors in elections,” Tennessean, 08/21/10)

Now that Forrester has been forced to admit that his recent unfounded claims are nothing more than propaganda, I wanted to bring to your attention some important facts that will further dispel his misleading claims.

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“‘Secretary of State Tre Hargett and his election coordinator Mark Goins have continued to show their willingness to manipulate vote counts to keep their party in power,’ Forrester said.” (Press Release, 08/11/10)

FACT:

Chairman Forrester has zero evidence for any of these claims. In fact, his brazen attempts to smear the names of respected state leaders by making completely unfounded accusations is both reckless and irresponsible. These types of flagrantly false accusations have no place in Tennessee politics.

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“Reported election mishaps in Rutherford, Davidson, Hawkins, Maury and Shelby counties have revealed troubling problems in Tennessee and the Republicans responsible for conducting those elections, according to Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.” (Press Release, 08/19/10)

FACT:

Four of the five counties mentioned above have election administrators who were appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission. The fifth released a report naming a staffer responsible for a data entry error. That staffer was brought on years ago under a Democrat-controlled election commission.

Rutherford County – Former Rutherford County Democrat Party Chairman and current Rutherford County Election Administrator Hooper Penuel was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to reinstate election administrators appointed by a Democrat-controlled Election Commission. A Chattanooga Times-Free Press report showing he was one of those hires can be read here. Following issues that arose during this year’s primary in Rutherford County, multiple news reports highlight Penuel’s role in the situation: According to the Daily News Journal:

The commission voted on its early voting schedule based on the recommendation of Administrator of Elections Hooper Penuel. Penuel said his advice was based on trying to save money because of budget restraints and early voting typically only having two Saturdays in its 15-day period and not three as it did for the past Aug. 5 election. ‘The three hours may follow me to my grave,’ Penuel told the commission. (“Election Commission admits early voting mistake,” Daily News Journal, 08/18/10)

Davidson County – Davidson County Election Administrator Ray Barrett resumed his role as election administrator in 2004, four-years prior to the county having a Republican-controlled election commission. According to a WKRN report:

Barrett has worked for Metro government for more than 50 years and spent 25 years with the election commission. He resumed the role of Election Administrator in 2004. (“Nashville Election Administrator Ray Barrett to resign,WKRN, 07/07/10)

Hawkins County – A report in the Kingsport-Times News confirms that Hawkins County Election Administrator Patricia Lumpkins was appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission and joined a class-action lawsuit to try and keep from being removed from her position in 2008. According to that report:

Following the November 2008 elections, there was a Republican majority in the Tennessee General Assembly, and new Republican-majority election commissions were appointed statewide… Some elections administrators didn’t go quietly, including Lumpkins, who joined a federal class-action lawsuit with other administrators in U.S. District Court in Nashville attempting to block their ouster. (“Tennessee high court opts out of elections administrator lawsuit,” Kingsport Times-News, 02/23/10)

A recent report that followed the August 5 primary elections highlights Lumpkins’ comments about her role in these elections. According to that report:

The county’s election administrator, Patricia Lumpkins, realized the error early, and the commission manually checked the votes… Lumpkins assures the public that the certification process she, her staff, and the Hawkins County Election Commissioners are going through is the best way to make sure all votes are counted, and accurate. (“The Hawkins County election glitch awards a different commissioner,TriCities.com, 08/13/10)

Maury County – According to records on file with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, Maury County Election Administrator Todd Baxter has been certified as an administrator since 1995. A call to the Maury County Election Commission confirmed he has been the administrator there for at least the past 12 years – meaning he was appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission.

Shelby County – A recent news article points out that the data entry mistake that caused problems was due to an employee by the name of Dennis Boyce and that Boyce was brought on staff a number of years ago under a Democrat-controlled election commission. According to the Memphis Flyer:

It may not be the final chapter in the “glitch” election of August 2010, but four members of the Shelby County Election Commission – two Democrats and two Republicans – formally underwrote and presented to the media on Wednesday their conclusion as to the cause of that glitch: human error, not political conspiracy or machine malfunction… The causative mistake, documented in a report prepared jointly by Meyers and Johnson, was a freely acknowledged one by the commission’s I T director, Dennis Boyce, a civil servant, who told commission director Rich Holden on the morning of election day, Thursday, August 5, that “he had made an error in selecting one of the data files” that were loaded into the Electronic Poll Book (EPM) used for voting that day… Giannini estimated that Boyce’s service at the Election Commission dated back at least nine years – which meant that he was hired during a period of Democratic control of the commission. (“Election Commission Rules ‘Human Error’ Caused Glitch, Clears Way for Certification,” Memphis Flyer, 08/19/10)

FORRESTER CLAIM:

“If we had those [optical scan] machines in place earlier this month and Republicans hadn’t fired so many experienced election administrators, we likely would not have encountered as many problems,” Forrester said. (Press Release, 08/19/10)

FACT:

Many of the issues that arose during voting have been attributed to human error, meaning the type of voting machine being used would not be a factor in whether or not these errors occurred.

Rutherford County – Election Administrator Hooper Penuel, appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission, admitted his human error. According to a news report:

The commission voted on its early voting schedule based on the recommendation of Administrator of Elections Hooper Penuel. Penuel said his advice was based on trying to save money because of budget restraints and early voting typically only having two Saturdays in its 15-day period and not three as it did for the past Aug. 5 election. ‘The three hours may follow me to my grave,’ Penuel told the commission. (“Election Commission admits early voting mistake,” Daily News Journal, 08/18/10)

Davidson County – Election Administrator Ray Barrett, appointed by a Democrat-controlled election commission, said a voting machine in one of the precincts was mistakenly not counted. According to the Tennessean:

An audit by the Davidson County Election Commission turned up a previously uncounted voting machine from one precinct, Election Administrator Ray Barrett confirmed this morning. (“Election audit drops Henry’s lead over Yarbro to 11 votes,” Tennessean, 08/16/10)

Shelby County – The Shelby County Election Commission has released a report citing human error as the cause for election problems during the primary. The staffer responsible was hired under a Democrat-controlled election commission. According to the Memphis Flyer:

It may not be the final chapter in the “glitch” election of August 2010, but four members of the Shelby County Election Commission – two Democrats and two Republicans – formally underwrote and presented to the media on Wednesday their conclusion as to the cause of that glitch: human error, not political conspiracy or machine malfunction. (“Election Commission Rules ‘Human Error’ Caused Glitch, Clears Way for Certification,” Memphis Flyer, 08/19/10)

TNDP: Election Problems Sen. Ketron’s Fault

Press Release from Tennessee Democratic Party; Aug. 19, 2010:

MURFREESBORO – State Sen. Bill Ketron shoulders much of the blame for recent election blunders that call into question the intention of the Murfreesboro lawmaker and Republican colleagues who fired election administrators across the state and delayed a law meant to improve elections.

Reported election mishaps in Rutherford, Davidson, Hawkins, Maury and Shelby counties have revealed troubling problems in Tennessee and the Republicans responsible for conducting those elections, according to Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.

“Mr. Ketron and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly should apologize to all Tennesseans for mishandling elections in this state,” Forrester said. “People, regardless of their party affiliation, expect their votes to be counted correctly.

“Using wrong voter files, miscounting ballots, and not even opening voter precincts at all like over in Rutherford County do not provide many of us with confidence in the election process, which is the bedrock of our democracy. It appears the Republicans responsible for running our elections are either grossly incompetent or trying to manipulate election results.”

Ketron sponsored the bill that delayed until 2012 the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which required all county election commissions to make the switch to optical scan machines and paper ballots before the November 2010 elections. More than $30 million in federal funding has been set aside to purchase the new machines.

“If we had those machines in place earlier this month and Republicans hadn’t fired so many experienced election administrators, we likely would not have encountered as many problems,” Forrester said. “Republicans flat out lied when they said the purchase of these new machines would be a financial burden to county governments.”

Republicans took control of local election commissions in all 95 counties after the November 2008 elections, firing many county election administrators soon thereafter and threatening to fire Rutherford County Election Administrator Hooper Penuel, as well.

A federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Penuel and several other county election administrators in Tennessee contending Republicans violated their constitutional rights by conspiring to treat their jobs as political patronage. Penuel has settled his claim with the Rutherford County Election Commission and will retire at the end of the year.

“Conducting fair and accurate elections is not a partisan issue,” Forrester said. “It is at the core of this country’s foundation. Instead of disenfranchising voters we should be encouraging as many citizens as we can to get involved in the process. Mr. Ketron appears to be more worried about playing partisan politics and taking care of special interests than he is about governing responsibly.”

Democratic Chair Faults GOP for Election Foul-Ups

The leader of the Tennessee Democratic Party says he’s concerned with all the mistakes and inconsistencies that arose in the primary elections the state and local governments administered earlier this month.

And legislative Republicans are mostly to blame for the snafus, Chip Forrester told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday.

The problems could potentially have been avoided by requiring that votes be recorded on paper ballots and entered into a scanner — instead of almost entirely on computer systems, the party chairman suggested.

“We would probably not necessarily be in this situation with some certainly if we had that,” he said. “And it is a disappointment that Republicans have not seen that this is a tool that will be useful for counting votes accurately and properly in the election process.”

Under the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, passed in 2008, counties were supposed to have purchased ballots and optical scanning voting machines to fully embrace the new ballot-counting practice by November.

Driven by Republicans who said in January that cash-strapped counties lacked the money during an economic downturn to buy new equipment, the Legislature voted to delay implementation until 2012.

The delay-measure, HB614, easily passed both chambers with a combined House-Senate vote of 95-30 — with 29 Democrats and one Republican against it.

The Voter Confidence Act also required the state use advanced ballot-counting technology that hadn’t yet been developed, said state Sen. Bill Ketron, who sponsored the legislation to stall the law’s start date. He said he didn’t want to make counties “throw out the machines they bough a few short years ago” to buy new ones.

“The delay was to wait until 2012 to give the manufacturers of the machines time to catch up,” said the Murfreesboro Republican. “I think everybody who voted for (the act) thought those machines would be here, but they’re not.”

The new process is meant to create additional set of checks and balances to verify all votes cast are counted in each election, he said.

Several races in this month’s primary election ended with razor-thin margins, giving the slightest ballot-counting discrepancies the potential to change the outcome of a contest.

Case in point is the Nashville state Senate race between incumbent Sen. Douglas Henry and his challenger Jeff Yarbro.

Tallies last left the senator 11 votes ahead of Yarbro, although the unofficial vote totals have changed four times since election day.

The Democratic Party’s executive committee will decide Monday night, after Davidson County certifies the election results, whether to request a recount.

Other electoral rough patches included Davidson County officials discovering a voting machine that had never been counted, a missed early-election voting day in Rutherford County and a previous election’s votes loaded into Shelby County voting machines.

Even if the Legislature hadn’t postponed the new requirements, Tennessee Secretary of State officials maintain, these kinds of mistakes still could have happened.

“In every election there is the potential for mistakes to be made, particularly human error,” said Blake Fontenay. “Even if you moved to paper ballots, you’d still have the potential for issues to arise.”

Dems To Consider Henry-Yarbro Recount

Statement from Tennessee Democratic Party; Aug. 18, 2010:

TNDP Chair Chip Forrester Statement Concerning Requested Recount Of Primary Election Between State Sen. Doug Henry and Mr. Jeff Yarbro.

“Sen. Henry and Mr. Yarbro met this morning to discuss Mr. Yarbro’s request for a recount. At the end of that discussion, a procedure was proposed and agreed to by Mr. Yarbro regarding a recount of the election. Sen. Henry does not oppose the procedure.

“As part of that procedure, I will convene a meeting of our executive committee, which also serves as our state Primary Board, at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 23, at the Freedom Room of the Tennessee Democratic Party headquarters.

“During the meeting, the Primary Board will consider the proposal and whether we should order the Davidson County Election Commission to conduct a recount.”