TN Democrats in turmoil: Resignations and attacks on Herron as ‘too conservative’

Rebellious Democratic State Executive Committee critics on Saturday pummeled former state Sen. Roy Herron with complaints, questions and criticisms over his executive style and some decisions during their first meeting since his contested election as state Democratic chairman in January, reports Andy Sher.

During the meeting, the Finance Committee chairman, Jerry Maynard, of Nashville, and vice chairwoman, Mary Patterson, of Mount Juliet, resigned, citing disagreements with Herron.

Maynard, an appointee of prior state Democratic chief Chip Forrester, also said Herron was entitled to his own picks. And he complimented Herron’s fundraising for Saturday night’s Jackson Day Dinner. Herron said it was expected to bring in at least $340,000, more than double the total in each of the past two years. He said the party spent only about $23,000 to stage the event.

Herron began the meeting with a plea for party members to call a halt to the internal wars that had plagued Forrester, a liberal. During Forrester’s four-year tenure, former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and most of the state’s Democratic congressmen quit dealing with Forrester.

“There’s some in this room who can hardly wait to get a hold of me, and I understand that,” said Herron, a social conservative. “And I promise you … I’ll give you a chance.” But he said he was hoping to get through his first meeting without a fracas.

He said when he campaigned for the job, “there were a lot of you who told me they were tired of coming to meetings and fussing — Democrats and Democrats. There are a lot of you who’d rather fight with Republicans than Democrats. Now, that’s all of you and I understand that.”

….But the executive committee members were pretty much all about internal gripes.

State House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, of Nashville, is unhappy that the party is isn’t using a particular national database used to target voters.

Executive Committee member Sylvia Woods questioned whether Herron’s figures for Jackson Day fundraising included money that normally would be flowing into the party. If so, the fundraising total would be inflated, she said.

….Herron said some on the executive committee think he’s “too conservative,” but he added Democrats agree on core issues such as protecting a woman’s right to end a pregnancy if her life is in danger, or providing quality public education.

“I think the Democrats’ biggest ally right now is the extremism of the radicals and the reactionaries who’ve taken over the Republican Party in Tennessee and their deviation away from conservative and compassionate policies to a radicalism and reactionarianism that centers more on who do we hate and who do we fear.”

See also Chas Sisk’s report on Jackson Day. An excerpt:
The dinner was held in the low-cost Musicians Hall of Fame, a new venue in the lower level of Municipal Auditorium. Party Chairman Roy Herron acknowledged the locale’s lack of prestige, but he said the Tennessee Democratic Party expected to net more than $300,000 from the dinner, about five times more than in recent years.

Herron said the party hoped (the keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Tim) Kaine could impart lessons to Democrats on how to win the state back from Republicans.

“He’s from a neighboring state that has gone from red to blue,” Herron said, referring to the colors used to label Republican and Democratic states on election maps. “He’s made that happen, and he’s going to talk to us – and he’s been talking to us – about how to make that happen here.”

Kaine took the stage late in the program, but opened with a message of encouragement, comparing Tennessee’s large Republican majority to the situation in Virginia when he first became involved in electoral politics in the 1990s.

“We were as red as red could be,” he said. “Now we’ve got two Democratic senators. … It can happen, and it can happen a lot faster than you think. It’s all about organization.”