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NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

AAUGH! TNDP’s Woes Could Affect Abortion Amendment Vote

Could an unknown candidate for governor play a decisive role in whether constitutional amendments pass or fail in Tennessee this year?

The Democratic Party of Tennessee has lately been getting unwanted national media attention and mounting ridicule related to their Aug. 7 gubernatorial primary winner, a man named Charles V. “Charlie” Brown. The 72-year-old Morgan County retiree is a political unknown who espouses some rather unorthodox political views and priorities, at least for a modern Democrat.

Brown’s biggest political attribute appears to have something to do with his name. He may have won because his was the only name most Democratic primary voters in any way recognized on their gubernatorial ballot last Thursday. Or, it could have been because it was at the top of the ballot, due to where ‘B’ finds itself in the alphabet, and a majority of the party’s voting base quickly check-marked his box and then moved on to more pressing election questions.

At any rate, unless party officials try to remove Brown’s name from the ballot, he’ll officially be the Democrats’ guy in the gubernatorial race against incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

And that’s got Davidson County Democratic officials reportedly concerned that exasperated progressives may choose to skip the gubernatorial election on the ballot — which, in turn, could hurt the party’s chances of defeating a proposed amendment to the state’s Constitution that many active Democrats fear and loathe.

Early polling suggests a majority of Tennessee voters are skeptical of the Amendment 1 abortion-rights question. If passed by voters, the Tennessee Constitution will be amended to declare, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” The state’s General Assembly, currently dominated by Republicans, would be granted sweeping powers to “enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

But there are variables that may come into play that have more to do with turnout than just tallying up the “yes” and “no” votes.

A change-in-wording to the document must win a majority of the votes not on the ballot question itself, but of the total number of people who cast votes in the gubernatorial election. The Tennessean offers this explanation:

If 1.4 million people vote in the governor’s race, for example, the proposal to remove abortion protections from the constitution will need 700,001 votes to become law. But if 1.5 million people vote in the abortion referendum and 1.4 million vote for governor, the same 700,001 votes will get the job done for the amendment, despite being in the minority on that issue. On the other hand, if those 1.4 million vote for governor and just 1.3 million people vote in the abortion referendum, anti-abortion forces will need more than a simple majority to win.

Multiple attempts to reach Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron for comment on Brown’s candidacy have gone unanswered.

Categories
NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

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.