Mark Clayton, the out-of-nowhere candidate who won the 2012 U.S. Senate Democratic primary election and was promptly disavowed by the Tennessee Democratic Party, has sued the party and dozens of its officials, according to The Tennessean.
In a lawsuit filed this week, Clayton says party leaders, including then-Chairman Chip Forrester, “constructively voided his primary victory by publicly stating that they disavowed him as the nominee, that he was not really the party nominee and that he was not really a Democrat and generally treating his nomination as if it did not happen.”
Gerard Stranch, an attorney for the Tennessee Democratic Party, said the suit “is clearly without merit” and that the party would be filing a motion to dismiss it. He declined to elaborate.
Clayton, whose name was first on the ballot, won the seven-candidate primary by a landslide on Aug. 2, 2012. His victory stunned and embarrassed Democratic officials, who had failed to recruit a more formidable contender.
The state party quickly disassociated itself from Clayton, saying he had rarely voted for anyone but himself in Democratic primaries and that he belonged to an anti-gay hate group, Public Advocate of the United States. The party urged voters to write in any other name during the general election in November.
…The lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Circuit Court, says officials forcibly removed Clayton from party headquarters when he asked to review records last October and that they made false and misleading statements about him.
It asks that they be found in violation of state law, fined $500 each and charged with court costs and “reasonable attorney fees.”
Note: A news release/statement sent by Clayton to media is below.
News release from Mark Clayton:
STATEMENT BY JOHN M. DRAKE, ATTORNEY
Mark Clayton, duly elected Democratic US Senate Nominee for the State of Tennessee for 2012, filed suit against the Tennessee State Primary Board for the Democratic Party, an entity organized under and governed by Tennessee Code title two (2), and Chip Forrester, then acting Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party and ex-officio member of the State Primary Board, for actions taken to undermine and de-legitimize Mark Clayton as the nominee. These actions included making oral and written statements declaring he was not a “real Democrat” and disavowed as the party nominee, as well as failing to list him on the official Tennessee Democratic Party website where all other Democratic nominees for office, including President Obama and all Tennessee Democratic nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives appeared, hosting a blog on the official Tennessee Democratic Party website for a potential write-in candidate to run against Mr. Clayton in the general election, and sending out statements urging voters to write in some “candidate of their choice” other than the elected nominee, Mark Clayton.
Mr. Forrester and other spokesmen for the Democratic State Primary Board, at times claimed that Mr. Clayton was part of a “hate group,” that he had not been properly vetted, that his views were unknown and were in conflict with “Tennessee middle class values” and the “values of the Democratic Party” and that voters largely voted for him simply because his name appeared at the top of the ballot.
However, Mr. Clayton had widely publicized his views on his campaign website in 2008. In that campaign he came in a respectable fourth (4th) place and was statistically within reach of the second place finisher. Some of the same Primary Board spokespersons who attacked his legitimacy after his 2012 primary victory had encouraged him to keep running after his 2008 loss. Further the views which have earned Mr. Clayton the label of being a member of a “hate group” are the same views that then candidate Barack Obama had taken in 2008, namely that the traditional view of marriage as being between only one man and one woman should remain the law of the land.
It is Mr. Clayton’s contention that title two of the Tennessee Code does not allow the state primary board or its members or agents to effectively treat a duly elected party nominee as anything other than the party nominee. If there is any real question as to the validity of a party nominee, there is a procedure under title two for addressing that. The Democratic State Primary Board did not follow said procedure and in fact defended Mr. Clayton’s legitimacy when a challenge was brought by the fourth place finisher, Larry Crim, arguing in court against many of the very positions that spokesmen for the Democratic Primary Board had previously taken. While Mr. Clayton appreciates the position which Mr. Stranch had taken in court, he sees it as a cynical attempt to stay within the letter of the law while taking every possible action to violate the spirit of it.
Further the Board’s contention that their actions were justified by the alleged ignorance of voters regarding the 2012 Tennessee Democratic US Senate primary is a possible violation of the Voting Rights Act. Mr. Clayton hopes that the action he has filed will clarify these questions of law so that the confusion caused by the rash actions of Mr. Forrester and other spokespersons for the State Primary Board will not happen in the future as it only states to damage the Democratic Party and disenfranchise voters. In addition to intentionally allowing every opportunity to correct these and other errors throughout the process and without previously seeking legal remedy, Mr. Clayton has also been reasonable to expect party officers to abandon a position which treats anyone with traditional family values as someone who cannot be a “real Democrat” who lacks “Democratic values.”
Such extremist positions are not helpful in growing a party that currently is having trouble winning statewide in Tennessee.