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TNDP Blames GOP for State Unemployment Uptick

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; August 16, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Tennesseans saw the third straight month of higher unemployment numbers when the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development issued figures showing that Tennessee’s unemployment rating rose .3% to 8.4%, eclipsing the national average of 8.3%.

“Democratic lawmakers rang the alarm bells about the need for a pro-jobs agenda to put Tennesseans back to work, but the Republican party was too focused on settling political scores and stacking the deck against Tennessee’s working class to stop and listen,” said Brandon Puttbrese, Communications Director. “If the GOP would have worked as hard to protect the middle class as they worked to reward the special interests, we’d be seeing unemployment numbers going in the right direction today.”

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They Play, You Pay

Tennessee taxpayers will fork over an estimated $4.5 million this week administering elections for the two major parties.

But as a matter of state law, the decision as to who can and cannot participate in the partisan festivities is ultimately left to party officials and not the government. For that matter, there’s no guarantee the majority will get to decide the winners and losers.

That reality of the fundamentally rigged nature of Tennessee’s primary system was on display recently in Rhea County, where election judges turned away at least 10 voters this month for trying to vote in a primary election in which they were deemed by local GOP bigwigs as not “bona fide” members of the Party of Lincoln. All were asked to swear their allegiance to the Republican Party, and nine were given no guarantees their vote would count.

Members Only

Tennessee GOP chairman Chris Devaney indicated the party’s primary concern in the primary is promoting long-term partisan fidelity.

“We encourage people who have good intentions, Democrats, independents, to come over and vote in our primary if they intend to stay,” said Devaney when asked about the voter challenges in Dayton, a town of 7,000 people.

“But I don’t want people voting in our primary if they just want to manipulate the election,” he said.

Tennessee’s primary election system is technically open, allowing anyone to cast a vote in any primary. But the fine print of the law gives political parties the power to challenge and discount an individual’s vote if they are not “a bona fide member of and affiliated with the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote.“

Voters can get around that law only if they have “declared allegiance to the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote and (stated) that the voter intends to affiliate with that party.” If party election officials are convinced, voters can cast a ballot. Otherwise, those voters cast a rejected ballot that party leaders decide later whether to count.

Leading House Democrat Craig Fitzhugh says Democrats didn’t have a candidate to vote for in the Rhea County race. But no voter should stand accused of so-called “crossover voting” without evidence, he said.

“I just think that’s carrying that party tag a little too far,” he said, adding he was OK with Dayton Mayor Bob Vincent’s wife Maxine trying to switch from Democrat to Republican to presumably vote against incumbent Rep. Jim Cobb, of Spring City, who is running against Dayton businessman Ron Travis.

“I don’t think much of that at all. I think people cherish their vote a little more than that just to use it in that manner,” he said.

The Kurita Cure

That’s not what Democrats were saying a few years ago when the party’s State Primary Board chose to oust the people’s choice, an incumbent, in a state Senate race in favor of a hand-picked successor more to the party establishment’s liking.

If party officials believe a race was decided by voters who weren’t “bona fide” party faithful, the state party itself can decide to go with another candidate.

That’s what happened in 2008. Democrat Sen. Rosalind Kurita, who had earlier cast the key vote to name Republican Sen. Ron Ramsey as the Senate speaker, so infuriated the party brass that they gave her the boot in favor of the man she actually bested by a razor thin margin.

The party’s primary board reasoned that Kurita’s 19-vote victory was “incurably uncertain” because they believed voters of the wrong partisan hue jumped party lines in an attempt to sway the election in her favor. So the party’s executive committee sent her challenger, Tim Barnes, to the general election in her place, and he won despite Kurita’s attempt to run as a write-in candidate.

Kurita took her fight to U.S. District Court in Middle Tennessee where Judge Robert L. Echols dismissed the case in part on the grounds that primaries are technically private-party affairs.

“Simply stated, the manner in which primary election contests are handled is left to the parties,” Echols wrote in his ruling.

The power to select a nominee for a political party has never been reserved traditionally and exclusively to the State of Tennessee. In fact, just the opposite is true, as the Tennessee General Assembly expressly disclaimed any role of state government in resolving party nomination contests and instead reserved power exclusively to the political party to choose the nominee whose name will appear on the general election ballot.”

Kurita lost her latest appeal to that ruling last month in the 6th District U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, agreeing with the lower court’s opinion that the parties themselves are the final arbiters of who gets to go on to the general election under the party banner.

Taxpayers Footing the Bill

Secretary of State spokesman Blake Fontenay said the tab for putting on the roughly four-and-a-half-million-dollar show for Republican and Democrat primary voters includes the cost to provide early voting, count ballots, staff election precincts and other duties — all paid for through county tax dollars.

One activist said that legislators should change the laws so voters can be confident they can vote for their favorite candidates in the primary election — regardless what party they belong to.

“This is going to sound funny, but there’s too much politics in our elections,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, a left-leaning civil rights group. “It’s the election by the people. They should have access to whatever ballot they want to choose during that process. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.”

But she declined to comment on what she thought about Kurita being bumped off the ballot for alleged cross over voting.

“People want us to believe we live in this hyper-partisan society. But I think there’s a lot of people out there who vote for the person, not the party,” she said.

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Press Releases

TNGOP Elects Devaney for Second Term as Chairman

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party; Dec. 4, 2010:

NASHVILLE, TN – The TNGOP State Executive Committee today re-elected Chris Devaney to a second term as Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. The election was held during the committee’s December meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn in Nashville.

“I’m honored the State Executive Committee has elected me to serve another term,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney. “I’m honored to have the committee’s support and look forward to working with Republicans across the state to strengthen our Party and broaden our base in Tennessee. I want to thank committee members for giving me this opportunity for a second time and I look forward to our partnership over the next two years.

“The Tennessee Republican Party experienced great success this election cycle, but it is critical we begin efforts now to build on that success in coming elections,” continued Devaney. “In preparation for 2012, the State Party will engage in aggressive candidate recruitment and retention efforts, put significant emphasis on fundraising, and work side-by-side with our Republican elected officials who now lead at every level of government in this state. There is much work to be done, but I’m committed to doing whatever I can to ensure our party’s future remains strong and successful.”

Chris Devaney was first elected Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party on May 30, 2009. He led the State Party’s efforts to elect Republicans in the historic 2010 Midterm Elections which resulted in Republicans taking the governorship, gaining a Congressional majority, and increasing majorities in the General Assembly. Prior to serving as TRP Chairman, Chris worked as State Director for U.S. Senator Bob Corker, was an aide to U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, served as Executive Director at the TRP and assisted with other campaigns across the country.

Chris and his wife Heather live in Chattanooga with their four children and attend Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church. For more information on Chris Devaney, visit the Tennessee Republican Party website by clicking here.

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Press Releases

GOP: Poll Shows Most Tennesseans Oppose Obamacare, McWherter Says Too Bad

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party; July 28, 2010:

The release of a new poll shows that the majority of Tennesseans are opposed to Washington Democrats’ government takeover of health care rammed through Congress by President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel:

Tennesseans oppose the national health care reform law enacted by Congress at the urging of President Barack Obama by a margin of almost 2-to-1, according to a recent poll.

Fifty-seven percent of the 625 registered voters surveyed said they oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while only 30 percent said they support it. The remaining 13 percent were undecided… Voters who said they were politically independent opposed the plan by a 59 percent to 25 percent margin.

It’s clear that people across Tennessee are concerned about the effects of this new law and are looking to state leaders to stand up to Washington Democrats on their behalf. However, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter has made it clear that if elected governor, he has no plans to give Tennesseans a voice in opposition to Obamacare. Following is a sampling of what Mike McWherter has had to say about Democrats’ so-called health “reform”:

• “McWherter called the health care overhaul signed by Democratic President Barack Obama last week ‘the law of the land,’ and criticized Republicans for urging the state to join a lawsuit seeking to block the law.” (“Democrat Mike McWherter gives $1M to his Tennessee gubernatorial bid,” Associated Press, 05/30/10)

• “‘I’m going to work with our congressional delegation to make sure we improve this legislation and make it something that will help … and not burden our Tennessee taxpayers.’ McWherter’s response was greeted with boos and calls to “repeal it…” (“Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Health Care at Northeast State Forum,”Kingsport Times News, 06/14/10)

• “‘But the bottom line is that law has passed now. So, what we need is a governor with the business skills to make sure that we know how to implement what does come out of Washington,’ he said. “The reality of it is, it does not fully implement for four years. I’ll be running for re-election possibly by the time this really becomes an issue.'” (“McWherter Steps up Governor’s Race Efforts,” Memphis Daily News, 05/07/10)

• “McWherter said several attorneys general from other states will probably follow through on a threat to take the federal government to court. But he termed the legal action ‘grandstanding.’ ‘I don’t encourage us getting involved in the middle of that.'” (“McWherter Steps up Governor’s Race Efforts,” Memphis Daily News, 05/07/10)

By refusing to stand up on Tennesseans’ behalf on the issue of health care, Mike McWherter is putting the agenda of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi before the needs of this state. That’s certainly not what Tennessee voters want and exactly why the chances of Mike McWherter becoming the Volunteer State’s next governor are growing slimmer by the day.

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Press Releases

Republican Party: TNDP Turns Own Members Into Collateral Damage

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party, April 1, 2010:

NASHVILLE, TN – Just this morning, the Tennessee Democratic Party went on the attack against State House Republican Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver for a bill (HB 3627) she has been working to move through the legislature. Democrats characterized the intent of the legislation as “sheer lunacy.” Interestingly, the bill has already been approved by voice vote at the subcommittee and full committee levels with the support of Democrats. Further, the full committee that approved the legislation two days ago is actually chaired by a Democrat.

“I can’t imagine that the Democrats on these committees are very happy,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney. “Here at the Tennessee Republican Party, our strategy is to protect our incumbent members. This is clearly a far cry from the tactics being employed by our Democrat counterparts.”

The legislation targeted by Tennessee Democrats is HB 3627, which was first passed out of the Subcommittee on Rural Roads by voice vote without any of the four Democrats on the committee being recorded as no. And two days ago it passed out of the full Transportation Committee – a committee chaired by a Democrat – by voice vote without any of the six Democrats on the committee being recorded as no.

To demonstrate the lack of opposition on Rep. Weaver’s legislation, video of the bill’s consideration in the full Transportation Committee two days ago is below.

Click HERE to View

*Discussion of Rep. Weaver’s bill begins at 34:15