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Eleven Sign Up as Write-in U.S. Senate candidates

Eleven people have signed up to have their names counted as write-in candidates for the U.S. Senate, but the state Democratic Party has not endorsed one as an alternative to their disavowed nominee, Mark Clayton.
Under state law, a voter can write in anyone’s name at the polls, but the vote will not be counted unless the named individual filed the appropriate paperwork with state election officials.
The 11 candidates who met the deadline for doing so include two losers in the Aug. 2 Democratic U.S. Senate primary, Nashvillians Larry Crim and Gary Gene Davis, and one loser in the Republican primary, Fred R. Anderson of Maryville.
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker won the Republican nomination for a new term with 389,613 votes. Anderson was third with 15,951. The names of Corker, Clayton, Constitution Party nominee Kermit Steck, Green Party nominee Martin Pleasant and five Independent candidates will appear on the ballot.
Clayton got 48,196 votes in the Democratic primary but was subsequently disavowed by state party officials. Tennessee Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester cited Clayton’s membership in a organization characterized as an anti-gay “hate group.”
Forrester said Tennessee Democrats should instead vote for “the candidate of their choice” on Nov. 6, though leaving the door open to party officials later recommending another candidate. Brandon Puttbrese, the party’s communications director, said Wednesday there has been no formal move to do so, but the subject could come up at a Sept. 29 meeting of the party’s State Executive Committee.
Davis was runner-up to Clayton on Aug. 2 with 24,214 votes. Crim, who filed a lawsuit challenging Clayton’s nomination only to drop it after a judge ruled against him in the initial hearing, was fourth, behind actress Park Overall, with 17,744.
Internet searches of the write-in candidate names indicate Angelia Stinnett of Hixson is among the more active in promoting her candidacy on social media. She depicts herself as an advocate for the “working class” on her campaign website.
Others qualifying to have their names counted as write-in candidates include Allen Hoenicke of Columbia; Dewayne A. Jones of Memphis; Jacob Maurer of Nashville; Jim Maynard of Memphis;, Margie Nell Penn of Memphis; Christopher Schappert of Nashville; and Mary D. Wright of Memphis.

Mark Clayton & Vetting Democrats in the Future (Maybe)

Jeff Woods, in a Nashville Scene article, spends some time with Mark Clayton and then meanders into party efforts to make sure someone like him doesn’t win a major Democratic primary in the future. The effort apparently isn’t going smoothly so far.
Apparently in an attempt to show Democrats are moving forward, as Forrester claims, one Executive Committee member, Cleveland lawyer Jim Bilbo, has been asked to develop proposals to change the party’s bylaws to prevent a nutty fringe candidate from ever again topping the ticket.
Under this plan, the party would try to strike wack jobs from the ballot ahead of time. The difficulty lies in trying to distinguish lunatics from ordinary Democrats. Even Bilbo concedes it’s basically an impossible task.
“We’re in the process of trying to come up with a way to vet candidates and see if they are bona fide Democrats,” Bilbo said.
“Part of that process is coming up with a definition of what is a bona fide Democrat and, you know, it’s not that easy to do.
“Frankly, we have members of the Democratic Party who are members for just a wide variety of reasons. I count myself as an example of that. I’m an evangelical Christian, belong to a Pentecostal church and have been actively involved in my church virtually all of my life. I’m very much pro-life, believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. I own guns and nobody’s going to take them away from me, and I believe we pay too much in taxes, and I believe that government is too big and too intrusive in our lives. But there are other reasons that I’m a Democrat. So our task will be to try to come up with some kind of objectivity.”
There is a current standard for bona fide Democrats in the party’s bylaws. A candidate needs to have voted in at least three of the past five party primaries. Under that rule, the party could have disqualified Clayton.
Bilbo thinks even that’s too restrictive, however. He believes the party should “expand it a little bit more and perhaps make it a little more inclusive of everybody’s right to run as long as they adhere to the basic core principles of the Democratic Party.”
…Be that as it may, Cheek thinks it’s foolish even to try to define a bona fide Democrat. He points out there have been many crazy Democrats in Tennessee history — notably the late John Wilder, the state’s (ahem) somewhat unorthodox lieutenant governor for nearly 40 years. Wilder held power in a cabal with Republicans, and there were constant calls for Democrats to kick him out of the party for his various betrayals of so-called principle. But they never did.
…”If you don’t have a candidate, you don’t have a candidate,” Cheek said. “You could pitch one guy off the ballot and then you might just wind up with another fruit loop. Who knows? You can’t figure it out. It’s a total exercise in futility. It’s not even a slippery slope. It’s a cliff.”

Notes on Tennesseans at the Democratic National Convention

Believing in President Obama
Tennessee delegates to the Democratic National Convention are supportive of President Obama despite what pollsters describe as an “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans this year, reports Michael Collins in a setup story on the state’s representatives to the Charlotte gathering.
“It’s really fascinating,” Gloria Johnson, a delegate from Knoxville, said of the convention experience. “You’re sitting there, and there is George Stephanopoulos four seats down. There are all these people there, and nobody cares. We are all there to nominate the person we want to be president.”
Four years ago, Johnson attended her first political convention. She had never been involved in a political party or politics, yet she was so inspired by Obama that she became politically active. Now, she’s chairwoman of the Knox County Democratic Party and a candidate for the state House of Representatives.
Like Dayton and other Obama believers, Johnson was convinced four years ago that as president he would bring about much-needed changes. In her view, he has.
He got health care reform passed, ended the “don’t ask don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the msitary, signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law and offered a stimulus package that created millions of private sector jobs, Johnson said

Ashley Judd: Star of the TN Show
Entertainer Ashley Judd, a Tennessee delegate to the convention, tells the Tennessean she’s a dedicated activist.
“I’ve been a Democrat for a very long time,” Judd said. “Family lore says that my beloved great-aunt, Pauline, who lived on a farm in Lawrence County in Eastern Kentucky, named all her dogs after Democrats.”
This week Judd, a famous actress, activist and Williamson County resident, is taking her partisanship to a new level as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. She’s an at-large member of the Tennessee delegation and a campaign surrogate for President Barack Obama, speaking to supporters on his behalf.
And she says her ties to the party run even deeper than those born of family lore.
“The party platform is one of a social justice gospel and faith. It became my party based on a sense of equality and fairness, hard work and advocating for people living at and below the poverty line and helping them strive toward our fabled middle class.”

Clayton Takes a Swat at the Chair
While party unity is a theme at the Democratic convention, Michael Cass reports that disavowed U.S. Senate nominee, Mark Clayton, wasn’t on board, providing a pre-convention parting shot at Tennessee’s party chairman.
Clayton released a lengthy statement Friday that attacked Forrester (without ever daring to mention his name) and the party for supporting gay marriage, saying that stance puts the Democratic establishment out of step with most voters.
“The current TNDP chairman and staff are finding themselves politically isolated and left to represent, with taxpayer funds, the fringe of anti-family, anti-constitution zero-sum politics in Tennessee all the while making President Obama look like a far right-winger by comparison to themselves,” the statement said.
“Mark Clayton always got along fine with previous TNDP chairmen. But in contrast, the current TNDP chairman and his staff who despise Mark do not represent mainstream Democrats in Tennessee and are far to the fringe and far away from even President Obama’s comparatively conservative view on the Constitution and marriage issues.”

The Memphis Mood
Bart Sullivan has commentary from West Tennessee delegates to the convention:
City of Memphis police legal adviser and lawyer Zayid Saleem will be attending his first convention after being elected to the Shelby County Democratic Executive Committee. Saleem said he recognizes that Tennessee has gone for the Republican presidential candidate the last two cycles but “we still need to motivate people to get out (to vote) across the state. You never know what will happen.”
Seeing Obama at the 73,778-seat Bank of America Stadium Thursday night will be a highlight, he said. “It’s historic to actually be a part of the process.”
Kelly Jacobs of Hernando is driving her bronze Prius — decked out with re-elect Obama signs and Christmas lights — to the convention, her third after former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s run got her charged up in 2004.
While she’s excited to be among other Obama-Biden supporters, she’s disappointed at the decision not to let Dean or Obama’s chief rival in 2008, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, make podium speeches. She also said she had a pile of invitations five inches high by this time four and eight years ago, but now invitations come by e-mail and she wonders if elderly delegates who don’t use computers will miss out.

Crim Drops Lawsuit Seeking to Void Mark Clayton Nomination

Larry Crim, fourth place finisher in the Aug. 2 Democratic U.S. Senate primary, indicates in a news release that he’s dropping legal action to void the apparent victory of Mark Clayton, who has since been disavowed by the state Democratic party.
This comes after U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp of Nashville effectively threw the lawsuit out — though telling Crim’s lawyer he could come back and try again.
Instead of litigating, the release says Crim is launching a new organization — he will be chairman — called Democrats United For Tennessee. It’s purpose, says the release, will be uniting Democrats and “providing leadership for a new direction focused on emphasizing the importance of every race for public office and on the vetting, selection, nomination, and general election of Tennessee Democrats dedicated to being a public servant for all Tennesseans.”
The full release is below.

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A Democratic Security Breach and the Tolerance Paradox

This week’s Scott McNutt Sunday satire targets the state Democratic Party “security breach” that allowed Mark Clayton’s election as U.S. Senate nominee.
Unlike the recent embarrassing incursion at Oak Ridge’s Y-12 nuclear facilities, in which three aging peaceniks broke through security and vandalized property and that led to a massive personnel shake-up and the removal of the manager there, state Democratic management has stated it will keep itself in place while working to oust the invader who exposed its shortcomings.
Regarding the incident, state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said, “I have the strongest possible confidence in Chairman Forrester. I also firmly think that nobody could have anticipated the breach of the party. And I’m confident Mr. Forrester will do everything humanly possible to plug the hole in our security and evict the infiltrator — that tea partier in donkeys’ skins — from our precincts. Let me say in conclusion: Heck of a job, Chippy.”
Puttbrese confirmed that his confidence in himself remained undiminished as well, although he declined to add, “Heck of a job, Brandy.”
…For his part, Clayton says he’s not trespassing, that the Democratic Party is his home and he has every right to stay.
“Because my conservative social beliefs dovetail with the Republican platform, people ask me why I didn’t run in their primary,” Clayton said. “Some of my views may be extremely Republican-like, but the Democratic Party is supposed to be the party of inclusion, acceptance and tolerance. So why should a Republican be barred from running as a Democrat?”
In response, Democratic officials referred to the tolerance paradox: that tolerance mustn’t tolerate intolerance.

Corker Declines to Discuss Mark Clayton; Does Discuss Todd Akin

Not surprisingly, Republican Sen. Bob Corker is choosing to ignore the flap over his apparent Democratic opponent in November, Mark Clayton, who has been disavowed by the Democratic party, reports WPLN.
When asked about Clayton, Senator Corker hardly responded.
“I don’t think it serves any purpose for me to weigh in on what’s happening or what has happened in another primary. I don’t think it changes one iota of what we planned to do in this race.”
Corker says he plans to talk about fiscal issues. Speaking to the Madison Rotary Club Tuesday, Corker hardly mentioned that he’s up for re-election, only saying that he had to think long and hard before deciding to run again.
Otherwise, Corker gave a technical talk about the insolvency of Medicare and asked that voters support some of the tough decisions that will have to be made in the coming years.

On the other hand, he did talk about Missouri Rep. Todd Akin‘s rape remarks:
“There’s no question the comments that he made were just unbelievably off base and it’s hard to imagine what he was thinking when he said what he said.”
Corker, who often sidesteps hot-button topics, says he’ll allow others to give Akin advice about his political future.

A Gay Marriage Litmus Test for TN Democrats?

Mark Clayton is a nightmare for the Tennessee Democratic Party in large part because of what the controversy surrounding his U.S. Senate candidacy portends for Democratic office-seekers in future elections, says a George Korda column.
With the furor around Clayton, Tennesseans are principally hearing and reading that he’s unacceptable to Democrats because he’s “anti-gay.” The fundamental reasons, once again, are said to be opposition to gay marriage, supporting Campfield’s schools legislation, and being a member of Public Advocate. There are other reasons why some Democratic leaders don’t like him, but those aren’t getting substantial airtime or ink.
(Public Advocate’s “hate group” label comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center. It would be useful for Tennesseans interested in the subject to visit the SPLC and Public Advocate websites, read them, and decide for themselves whether they agree or disagree with the “anti-gay hate group” label) (Note: A Public Letter newsletter, distributed at the state Legislature and including an article on Campfield’s bill is HERE.).
In 2006 a Tennessee ballot measure affirming marriage between a man and a woman passed with 81 percent of the vote. Clearly, Democrats either completely sat it out or voted for it. The margin is a pretty clear indication of Tennessee voters’ sentiments on this issue. They’re not alone. Homosexual marriage referendums have failed in every state in which voters have had a chance to decide the issue.
Combine that voter sentiment with the Democrats’ Tennessee unsuccessful election experience of the past 18 years and the party’s future problem is obvious: will Democratic candidates be required to affirm support of gay marriage, or opposition to Campfield’s bill, to be considered a Democrat worthy of being on the ballot? If not that, will there be other issues for which Democrats must proclaim ideological purity? Global warming? Obamacare? You name it.
If the answer among Democratic Party activists is yes, or even remotely close to yes, history and evidence suggest continuing misery for Tennessee Democrats seeking elected office. A party already reeling will find itself eating its own, the sort of thing abortion supporters often hope will happen to anti-abortion conservatives.
Smart Tennessee Democrats will do everything possible to avoid such an issue-related litmus test for office seekers and get their colleagues to quiet down. It’s not as if Clayton has a great chance to win anyway.

Stewart Unsure of His Vote for U.S. Senator

Eric Stewart, Democratic nominee for the 4th Congressional District seat, says he is unsure who will get his personal vote this fall for president of the United States or for Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seat.
Stewart said that in the Aug. 2, he wrote in the name of state Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, on the U.S. Senate Democratic primary ballot rather than vote for any of the seven listed candidates.
The winner of that primary, Mark Clayton, has since been disavowed by the state Democratic party because of what state party Chairman Chip Forrester calls “extremist” positions and membership in an anti-gay hate group.
Stewart, who is giving up a state Senate seat to run against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, said he respects Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the incumbent challenged by Clayton.
“I will say this: Although Bob Corker and I don’t agree on everything, he is willing to listen and willing to start a conversation,” Stewart said. “We need more of that.”
Similarly, Stewart said he disagrees with Obama on some issues, but respects him and stands ready to work with the president as a congressman “whoever it is.”
As for voting on Nov. 6, he said, “I’m going in, and push a button and vote for somebody…. I’m not telling you either way (his inclination on voting for president or Senate).”
Stewart presents himself as a conservative on some issues. For example, the senator said he is opposed to same-sex marriage, noting Tennessee voters approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
“I stand with the voters of Tennessee,” he said.
Stewart’s comments came in Tuesday before a rally and news conference criticizing DesJarlais for refusing to debate him.

UPDATE NOTE: The reference to Stewart’s presidential vote has been given a “strike over” after the statement released Friday (posted HERE) stating he will vote for President Obama. Kevin Teets, spokesman for Stewart, says the candidate does not recall saying he was unsure about voting for Obama.

Judge Won’t Block Mark Clayton’s Nomination

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge on Thursday refused to void the Tennessee Democratic primary for U.S. Senate won by an anti-gay candidate the party has disavowed.
District Judge Kevin Sharp cited among the reasons for his refusal that the plaintiff, Larry Crim, was lacking certain filings and that there were errors in others. For instance, the Tennessee Division of Elections was named as a defendant instead of an individual, which should have been the election coordinator.
Sharp told Crim’s attorney, Michael Rowan, that once he got the proper items — such as a memorandum, affidavit and declarations — that he was welcome to file again.
“Before you can do anything, you have to follow the rules,” Sharp said.
Rowan, who acknowledged acting hastily in seeking an emergency ruling, told reporters after the hearing that he would talk to his client about how to proceed.
Crim sued the state Division of Elections and the Tennessee Democratic Party in trying to keep the winner of the Aug. 2 primary, Mark Clayton, off the November ballot.

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Lawsuit Seeks to Void Mark Clayton Nomination

NASHVILLE – A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court today asks that the election of Mark Clayton as Democratic nominee to the U.S. Senate be voided because of “fraudulent acts” by state Democratic Party officials.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Larry Crim, one of the losing candidates in the Aug. 2 primary, says state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester and other party officials knew that Clayton was not a “bona fide Democrat” but nonetheless took no steps to keep his name off the ballot, “thereby knowingly misleading” voters.
A spokeswoman for Mike Rowan, Crim’s attorney, says Judge Kevin Sharp is expected to hold a hearing promptly on whether to grant a request for a temporary injunction against certifying unofficial results of the election pending a full hearing on issues raised.
A hearing on the temporary injunction request was scheduled for Thursday.
“It appears to be a frivolous lawsuit,” said Brandon Puttbrese, spokesman for the state Democratic party.. Further comment for now, he said, would be left to party attorneys at Thursday’s hearing.
A draft copy of the lawsuit argues, in essence, that Forrester and other officials favored Park Overall in the Democratic primary wanted Clayton’s name on the ballot – listed first in alphabetical order – to draw votes from Crim, listed second alphabetically, in hopes that Overall would win the primary.
The state Democratic party disavowed Clayton a day after the primary, contending he was associated with “extremist” causes and a member an “anti-gay hate group.” Clayton is vice president of Public Advocate of the United States.
The lawsuit calls for a new Democratic U.S. Senate primary to be held by Sept. 15. State Election Coordinator Mark Goins, in a letter to Crim and his lawyer earlier, said there’s no provision for a new election in state law and that holding one would be virtually impossible because of other time deadlines built into state law.
Candidate Gary Davis finished second in the Aug. 2 unofficial results. Overall finished third in the voting and Crim fourth in the seven-candidate field.

Note: A draft copy of the lawsuit is available by clicking on this link:
CrimSenatePetition.pdf