NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An embattled nominee for the U.S. Senate is turning to a Republican state senator to try to underscore his Democratic credentials.
Mark Clayton, who was disavowed by the state Democratic Party after winning the primary because of his anti-gay stance, held a news conference in Nashville on Monday with Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield.
Campfield, the sponsor of a bill seeking to bar teaching about gay issues, told reporters that he had previously tried, but failed, to recruit Clayton to run as a Republican. Campfield said he wasn’t endorsing Clayton.
Clayton is vice president of Falls Church, Va.-based Public Advocate of the United States, deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Clayton showed reporters a certificate of appreciation he received from the organization.
Here’s a Campfield quote via WPLN: “Listen, if it’s wrong to say we need more pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional family Democrats, if that’s wrong then I don’t want to be right. Those are the things that Mark holds and that he truly believes.”
The “don’t say gay” bill — which sponsor state Sen. Stacey Campfield prefers to call “don’t teach gay” — has emerged as a topic in reports about Mark Clayton, who won the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination only to be disavowed by the state Democratic Party.
Part of the disavowal is based on Clayton’s position as vice president of Public Advocate of the United States, described as an “anti-gay hate group” by state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester.
Clayton actively supported Campfield’s bill, which passed the Senate in the last legislative session but died in the House. A Public Advocate newsletter distributed to legislators and the media in March of this year by Clayton features a front-page story on the issue under the headline, “Tennessee Legislature Rejects Californication” and with a picture of Campfield, R-Knoxville.
The story begins: “Tennessee is on the verge of becoming the first state in America to outlaw the California method of pro-homosexual education.”
Public Advocate President Eugene Delgaudio is quoted as declaring, “Public Advocate and its supporters were instrumental in supporting Sen. Campfield and forcing the rest of the Senate to pass the Classroom Protection Act.” (Note: PDF of the newspaper at this link: publicadvocate.pdf )
Campfield said he doesn’t remember meeting Clayton personally, but does recall talking with him over the phone and welcomed his support for the legislation.
“I was glad to see somebody in the Democratic Party standing up for traditional family values again,” Campfield said. “It’s good to see they have a few.”
Asked if he would consider voting for Clayton over Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Campfield declined to give a direct answer, saying, “I think they’re both good people.”
“I always vote for the most conservative person,” Campfield said.
So, of the two, who is most conservative?
“I think it should be abundantly clear,” the senator said without elaborating
— Update Note: The Sen. elaborates, a little bit, in a blog post.
Tennessee Democrats legally could strike their controversial U.S. Senate nominee, anti-gay rights activist Mark Clayton, from the November ballot and replace him with another candidate, according to State Election Coordinator Mark Goins’ office.
From Action Andy’s story: “The process requires one of the losing candidates to contest the election within that five-day window after certification,” said Blake Fontenay, a Goins spokesman, Friday.
“Then,” Fontenay said, “the party must decide if ‘justice and fairness’ make it necessary to set aside the election results.”
The decision could be made with the executive committee acting as the State Primary Board.
“If that decision is reached, then [the executive committee] could choose a new nominee,” Goins said.
Goins’ confirmation came after an attorney well versed in state election law earlier stated Democrats could indeed act if one of the six other candidates contested Clayton’s election. The attorney spoke on condition of not being quoted by name.
Goins, a Republican, previously has stated there is not adequate time between now and the general election for Democrats to seek a redo of Senate primary.
…Democratic Executive Committee member Jim Bilbo of Cleveland, an attorney and chairman of the party’s bylaws committee, said that despite the assertions of Goins, a Republican who cites state statutes, be believes the issue is far from clear based on court rulings.
In 2008, the state Democratic Party’s executive committee vacated the nomination of state Sen. Rosalind Kurita after she scraped by with a19-vote victory over Tim Barnes.
His attorneys alleged wide scale crossover voting by Republicans, who fielded no candidate, and charged Barnes supporters had been told to vote in the wrong primary. Kurita later ran as an independent and lost. She also filed suit against the party’s action. Just recently, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Democrats’ actions.
Bilbo recalled that when Democrats “went through all of that,” they were relying on one of two issues from a previous court ruling. They had to show either that there was some type of fraud committed. The second factor was “that there was so much going on that the outcome was uncertain.”
But Clayton won by 48,126 votes, more than double what Davis received.
“I don’t think that either one of those criteria exist in this case,” Bilbo said.
So, who is Mark Clayton, the man who will represent Democrats in November?
The question is posed by Chas Sisk, who then gives the short answer: A study in political contradictions — and an example of the limitations of party labels.
An excerpt from the elaboration: Clayton, 35, has worked against gay marriage and for Tennessee’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, but he opposes a Republican-backed law requiring new welfare applicants to be drug-tested. He’s pro-life, but he thinks the Republican Party has nothing to offer working-class people. He’s pro-military — and was briefly a part of it — but he says it has “gone overboard.”
Some of Clayton’s policy positions are off the beaten path of either major party: his talk of a “new world order”; fears of America sliding into an “Orwellian super state”; concerns about “FEMA prison camps”; and a belief that the United States, Canada and Mexico want to form a “North American Union.” But he can come across as more reasonable in person, speaking earnestly about what average citizens want and need from government.
…Clayton was born in Mobile, Ala., and spent most of his early years in Alexandria, Va. He has described his parents as “Goldwater Republicans.” His father lobbied Congress on religious liberty issues.
After graduating from high school, Clayton joined the U.S. Army Reserve, where he started learning to be an aircraft electrician. He later changed course “on intuition” and decided to enroll at Pensacola Christian College, where he graduated with a pre-law degree in 2002.
A year later, tired of the high cost of living in northern Virginia, he moved to Nashville. He intended to go back to Army officer training, but then his father and a beloved mentor, author William Gill, both died.
“My greatest political defeat was wrought by death,” he said Thursday between sips of iced tea at Demos’ Restaurant downtown.
So in 2004 he bought a 1920s-era farmhouse on 3 acres of land in Whites Creek, where he still lives with his dog, Saint. He has never married.
Clayton isn’t a lawyer, businessman, governor or actor. He has worked at Target and a call center. He has sold life insurance, siding and roofs. He has been a church youth group leader and a floor installer and now works for a moving company.
…Clayton said he passed out nearly 5,000 fliers and knocked on “an uncountable number of doors” during his first campaign four years ago, which did “a lot of the heavy lifting” for his current Senate bid.
He has not filed any fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission.
He said he raised $100 for the primary and spent $65 of it on a news release.
Now, he said, he plans to raise $10 million for the general election. But his $500 haul in the first week won’t threaten Massachusetts candidate Elizabeth Warren as the biggest fundraiser among first-time Senate nominees.
While Republican Bob Corker remains virtually assured of re-election to the U.S. Senate, an unprecedented race for runner-up status has developed with ramifications on Tennessee political contests in 2014, and perhaps later.
And it could lead to headaches in this November’s vote-counting as well.
For the first time in many decades, there will be four candidates for the U.S. Senate on the state’s November ballot who are identified by party affiliation. A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision this week means that the Green Party nominee Martin Pleasant of Knoxville and Constitution Party nominee Kermit Steck of Kingsport will join Republican Corker.
Mark Clayton, a flooring installer living in the Nashville area, will apparently be the Democratic nominee — though state Democratic officials are still in something a dither about that since disavowing Clayton’s candidacy for what party Chairman Chip Forrester calls “extremist, tea party right-wing positions.”
Still hanging is a complaint from Larry Crim, fourth-place finisher in the Democratic Senate primary, asking the party to throw out Clayton’s nomination.
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester is coming in for heavy criticism over Mark Clayton’s victory in the U.S. Senate primary. A sampler:
From a Chattanooga Free-Press editorial: How long does it take to turn a state political party from an empire that controls every facet of government into an irrelevant laughingstock? Apparently about six years when you have ineffective buffoons like Chip Forrester and Gray Sasser at the helm.
Gail Kerr’s opinion: Clayton has already served a useful and overdue purpose. He has demonstrated that the Tennessee Democratic Party is a complete, dismal mess.
From Democrat-oriented Pam Strickland:
Chip Forrester should be ashamed. When the state Democratic Party chairman hoodwinked the Executive Committee into re-electing him after the bloodbath that the party took in state legislative races in 2010, he promised to do better, but what he has delivered instead is a U.S. Senate nominee that the party has been forced to disavow.
From Republican-oriented Greg Johnson: To repurpose a 1990s post-Soviet era joke about communism, the Democratic Party is dead in Tennessee — it just hasn’t been buried yet. Here’s another knee-slapper: Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said last week’s GOP primary “shows a Republican Party clearly in disarray.” After the Democratic primary, Forrester should know from “disarray.”
From a Tennessean editorial: If the party knew about Clayton’s positions before the election and did not actively educate voters about their opposition, hoping (praying?) that he would not win, because they were afraid to publicize their error in allowing him on the ballot at all (again), then that is unconscionable bad judgment. If they were totally unaware of his positions, then that is incompetence.
In either case, leadership should own their responsibility and make way for a new team.
The embattled Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate says he doesn’t understand why the head of his party refuses to welcome him to the party ticket, according to TNReport. In a press conference outside the Nashville Metro Nashville Courthouse, presumptive nominee Mark Clayton told reporters that Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester took no issue with him in April when he dropped off his filing petitions to run for office.
“Chip Forrester is, despite reports to the contrary, not the Democratic Party. He just has a job. He just needs to stay at his office and do his job,” said Clayton, who prevailed as an underdog candidate in a crowded field. “I mean, if he did his job we wouldn’t have a problem with that. But if he continues to act against party rules and fight an elected nominee, then we’re going to have to go for his resignation.
“After everything that Martin Luther King went through, after everything we went through as a nation for civil rights, hundreds of years of slavery and violence, we’re going to have a Democratic Party that would take away people’s votes is just very shocking and disturbing to some of our supporters,” said Clayton.
Note: Clayton also has a website up now, HERE, to replace one dating to his 2008 campaign.
Some developments on the Mark Clayton front, as reported by Andy Sher. Jim Bilbo, of Cleveland, a member of the Democratic Party’s Executive Committee and chairman of the party’s bylaws panel, vowed in a news release to improve the candidate review process.
“We owe it to Democratic supporters, candidates and volunteers to enact reforms so that extreme candidates who don’t represent our core Democratic, middle-class values may never take advantage of our open elections again,” he said.
Meanwhile, Clayton held a news conference Tuesday and denied that Public Advocate of the United States is a “hate group.”
“Nobody that I know in this country … or anybody who’s ever be associated with any of the campaigns, would ever want to hurt somebody who’s gay,” he said. “We just want to help protect traditional values so that moms and dads can raise families in difficult and uncertain times.”
He declared that “Mark Clayton does not belong to a hate group. Mark Clayton belongs to a love group.”
Clayton is now asking Democratic President Barack Obama to invite him to the Democratic National Convention and give him a speaking slot to address delegates.
But Clayton acknowledged he didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 — he said he voted for a third-party candidate — and has yet to decide whether he will vote for Obama now. He urged Obama to renounce his recent support for gay marriage, saying many Democrats and others are upset over Obama’s move.
“I’m very close to voting for Obama this time,” he said. “But like many supporters, we want President Obama to come home and be for traditional marriage between a man and a woman.”
He also lashed out at Forrester, noting that “despite reports to the contrary,” the chairman “is not the Democratic Party.” If Forrester “continues to act against party rules and fight an elected nominee, then we’re going to have to go for his resignation,” Clayton said.
— Note: Bilbo’s news release is below.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — There isn’t enough time to hold another primary following the state Democratic Party’s disavowal of its U.S. Senate nominee, State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said Tuesday.
The state party has said it rejects the vocally anti-gay platform of nominee Mark Clayton, who received nearly 50,000 votes, or twice the number of his nearest competitor in a field of seven little-known candidates to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Corker in November.
Goins, a former Republican state lawmaker, said in a letter to fourth-place finisher Larry Crim that state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester could have disqualified Clayton within a week of the April 5 filing deadline.
“Although Chip Forrester had the authority in April to disqualify Mr. Clayton, he did not do so,” he wrote.
Goins said Crim wants the result overturned because Forrester had failed to properly vet the candidates.
“It is not within the state’s purview to determine whether Chip Forrester is adequately performing the duties assigned to him by the party,” Goins wrote.
It would be up to the party’s executive committee to evaluate a challenge on those grounds and to decide if “justice and fairness” require replacing Clayton as the nominee, he said.
Jim Bilbo, a member of the Democratic Party’s executive committee, said in a release that the panel would work to improve the candidate review process.
“We owe it to Democratic supporters, candidates and volunteers to enact reforms so that extreme candidates who don’t represent our core Democratic, middle class values may never take advantage of our open elections again,” said Bilbo, who is chairman of the panel’s by-laws committee.
Clayton, 35, is vice president of Falls Church, Va.-based Public Advocate of the United States. He denies assertions by the state Democratic Party and the Southern Poverty Law Center that the organization is a hate group.
“Nobody that I know in this country … or anybody who’s ever be associated with any of the campaigns would ever want to hurt somebody who’s gay,” he said at a news conference. “We just want to help protect traditional values, so that moms and dads can raise families in difficult and uncertain times.”
“Mark Clayton does not belong to a hate group,” he said. “Mark Clayton belongs to a love group.”
Clayton dismissed the actions of the Forrester and the state party.
“Chip Forrester, despite reports to the contrary, is not the Democratic Party,” he said. “He just has a job. He just needs to stay in his office and do his job.”
Clayton said he and his supporters may seek to have Forrester removed from office
“If he continues to act against party rules and fight an elected nominee, then we’re going to have to go for his resignation,” he said.
Clayton made an appeal to President Barack Obama to invite him to the Democratic National Convention, though he said he voted for a third-party candidate in 2008 and hasn’t decided whether to vote for the president in November.
“I’m very close to voting for Obama this time,” he said. “But like many supporters we want President Obama to come home and be for traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
The primary election is not expected to be certified until later this month. Goins said there isn’t enough time to hold another statewide contest because military ballots must be mailed by Sept. 22 for the general election.
The state Democratic Party’s executive committee in 2008 vacated the nomination of state Sen. Rosalind Kurita after her 19-vote victory. Her opponent’s attorneys had alleged wide scale crossover voting by Republicans and that his supporters had been told to vote in the wrong primary.
State Republicans in 2004 disavowed the nomination of a U.S. House candidate who espouses racist beliefs. In later contests the state GOP stripped him of his right to run as a Republican.
The Tennessee Democratic Party “beat every bush” on Music Row and in other entertainment industry centers as it tried in vain to come up with a Volunteer State celebrity to run for U.S. Senate against well-funded incumbent Bob Corker this year, The Tennessean reports. But the party passed on an opportunity to tell voters about a candidate with views that ran counter to Democratic doctrine, leaving it vulnerable to embarrassment in a wide-open primary election.
….Gary Gene Davis, who finished a distant second to Clayton in the primary, said Democratic Party officials already knew what Clayton stood for after he ran for Senate in 2008 and pulled in 32,309 votes to finish fourth. Bob Tuke won that primary with 59,050 votes, beating Davis by about 20,000 votes before losing to Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander in the general election.
Davis said party activists in Shelby County told him that Chip Forrester, the state party’s chairman, had openly endorsed actress and environmental activist Park Overall, describing her to them as “our candidate.” He said Forrester should have worked harder to tell voters about Clayton’s beliefs, which, according to his campaign website, include the need to “defend Tennesseans from the North American Union, National ID cards, illegal trade deals like NAFTA, radical homosexual lobbying groups who want to get in the Boy Scouts and terrorists who are hiding in the Army.”
…Spokesman Brandon Puttbrese said the party was “agnostic” in the primary, although Overall was given a speaking slot at the annual Jackson Day dinner and was the only one of the seven candidates who took the party up on its offer to help with news releases, talking points and social media.
He said it would have made little sense to talk about Clayton, “pretty much a fringe candidate to anybody.”
“You don’t push around someone’s name that you don’t want to get elected,” he said. “We could never have anticipated it would have ended this way.”
Although he declined to identify any targets, Puttbrese said officials tried to recruit any Tennessee resident they could find with enough name recognition to give Corker a battle.
“Tons of calls were made to legitimate politicians and other high-profile Tennesseans,” Puttbrese said Monday. “We beat every bush and left no stone unturned with people who had already made a name for themselves.