Tag Archives: Democratic party

Hamblen County Democratic chair charged with theft

The Hamblen County Democratic Party chairman has been charged with stealing files from the county’s Circuit Court office, reports the Morristown Citizen-Tribune.

Timothy Wayne Woodard, 27, Ponder Drive, Talbott, was indicted Monday by a Hamblen County grand jury for nine counts apiece of illegally removing documents and theft under $500, both misdemeanor offenses.

Woodard, who has graduated law school and recently took the bar exam, is chair of the Hamblen County Democratic Party and a member of the Hamblen County Election Commission, according to Jeff Gardner, administrator of elections.

While prosecutors only presented evidence in nine cases, authorities recovered 57 original files that Woodard allegedly stole, according to Teddy Collingsworth, a criminal investigator with the district attorney’s office.

District Attorney General Dan Armstrong declined to publicly comment on a possible motive in the alleged thefts… Woodard, like anybody else, could have copied the redacted files, which would not have included Social Security numbers and other private identifiers, according to the district attorney.

Armstrong said the criminal inquiry began in early July after Teresa West, Hamblen County Circuit Court clerk, contacted his office.

Woodard worked for the circuit court clerk’s office under a previous administration, but none of the files he allegedly stole were taken while he was working for county government, according to Collingsworth.

Fifty-five of the stolen files allegedly were recovered at a law office in Jefferson County where Woodard was working, according to Armstrong, The other two reportedly were found in the defendant’s brief case.

Holt vs. TNDP on election administrator’s exit

A Tennessee Democratic Party press release criticizing a new state law declaring that only Republicans can serve as county election commission chairs included a line that says Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, “had a local Weakley County election administrator fired and then replaced her with his inexperienced friend.”

Holt has responded to that with a missive to state Democratic Chair Mary Mancini, declaring in part the “disgraceful & slanderous accusations are baseless, and serve as a reminder that the modern Democratic Party is wrought with corruption.” He included a copy of former Weakley County Election Administrator Barbara Castleman’s letter of resignation to show she left of her “own volition.”

And TNDP’s communications director, Spencer Bowers, has in turn responded to Holt with a “correction” to the press release acknowledging that Holt did not fire the election administrator, then adding, “What he did was much worse. By recommending the removal and replacement of three members of the 5-member election commission he manipulated the system until he got what he wanted, the job for his inexperienced friend.”

Holt includes a link to the blog post (HERE) that included the TNDP press release. TNDP includes a link to a Jackson Sun story describing event leading to Castleman’s departure.

(Note: The Sun story quotes Castleman as blaming Holt’s activities for her decision to quit and avoid “the hassle of the representative calling my shots and things.” Link to full story below with TNDP release; short blog version HERE.)

The Holt letter and the Bowers response are both below. Continue reading

Shelby County Democratic Party disbanded

The Shelby County Democratic Party was forcibly disbanded Friday, punctuating years of bitter in-fighting that have recently revolved around former chairman Bryan Carson, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini said she notified SCDP chairman Michael Pope in a letter Friday that she had chosen to “de-certify” the state’s largest county party, effectively disbanding it.

“Shelby County is very valuable to the Democratic party because there are some good and active Democrats in this county,” she said. “The decision was made because the Shelby County Democratic Party was not supporting, engaging and encouraging all those good and active Democrats.”

In the letter, she said the TNDP would work with local Democrats to “determine their own needs, evaluate the effectiveness of past bylaws and leadership, elect officers and executive committee members, and enact reforms that bring in new people and build a strong grassroots organization.”

Corey Strong, a state party executive committee member representing Memphis, said a party whose main purpose was to organize support around electing Democratic candidates had been rendered ineffective by internal issues, as displayed in past elections.

Most recently, county party members have quarrelled about how to handle allegations that former chairman Carson embezzled more than $25,000 in his tenure. At the direction of Mancini, SCDP chairman Pope approved a $6,000 settlement with Carson, even though the county executive committee had already approved a resolution to file charges against Carson, leading to shouting matches at recent committee meetings.

Strong said the party was being disbanded because it wasn’t “living up to its purpose.”

“This is not about an individual,” he said. “This is about a systemic inability to meet the party’s own charter and the minimum requirements of the state party.”

He said state executive committee members from Memphis were the ones who pushed Mancini to decertify the party because they didn’t want the party to “flounder on the local level.”

Carson and his mother, Gale Jones Carson, are both members of the state executive committee.

Strong said the party would be reorganized, possibly as early as November, under the supervision of local elected Democrats. The party’s money would be moved into a trust until the party is reconstituted. A meeting with party stakeholders is scheduled in two weeks, Mancini said.

TNDP chair enters bona fide battle over former Shelby chair

Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini says Bryan Carson, former Shelby County Democratic Party chairman, is still a bona fide Democrat despite a vote to the contrary by the Shelby County Democratic Party’s executive committee.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

Mancini said the resolution declaring Carson “not fit” to seek office on the Democratic ticket and not a “bona fide Democrat” circumvented the process laid out in state party bylaws for officially revoking Democratic credentials. The party’s vote follows internal strife in the SCDP over how to handle bookkeeping errors during Carson’s tenure that some members say amounts to his embezzling more than $25,000.

She said Democratic bona fides — which are necessary to have “Democrat” next to a candidate’s name on a ballot — can only be revoked if the person is a candidate and if they haven’t voted in three of the previous five Democratic primary elections. Neither applies to Carson, she said. Continue reading

More notes on TN Democrats in Philadelphia

Bashing Trump
Excerpt from the third edition of Mark Harmon’s “Delegate Diary:”

No one can beat the Bernie Sanders delegates for great headgear. At Monday’s big events for Bernie, many of his supporters wore green felt Robin-Hood-style caps, complete with feathers on one side. These were a delightful play on Sanders’ message that wealth inequality is a consequence of the rigging of our economy and our politics. The “rob from the rich, give to the poor” metaphor was a subtle reply to the reactionaries on talk radio and Fox News.

Speaker after speaker has derided Donald Trump as divisive, and he certainly has been — but he is unifying Democrats in disgust at his candidacy. David Bone, a legislative assistant from Nashville, said, “The chickens have come home to roost on the Republican side of the ticket. You can’t spend 30 years of policies trying to make people afraid and hate, and not expect to end up with a candidate like Donald Trump.”

Dennis Patrick is a 72-year-old Vietnam combat veteran from Cleveland, Tenn. He says Trump is a bigot and only interested in helping himself.

“Trump is a loudmouth, a carnival barker trying to tell you what’s under the tent,” Patrick said. “Once you look under that tent, there’s nothing there.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, denounced Trump as an embarrassment, a sociopath and a narcissist.

“If we get behind Hillary, we will get the Senate and make gains in the House,” Cohen said of presidential nominee Clinton.

To him, the biggest issue will be appointees to the Supreme Court. Clinton’s nominees, he declared, would be qualified and responsible; Trump’s choices would move the court in dangerous directions for a generation.

…Nashville-area Congressman Jim Cooper added that little more than 100 days remained to work hard to “make sure America goes in the right direction.” He warned, “We cannot let Trump ruin America. … Bill Clinton carried Tennessee twice, so why can’t we carry it for his wife?” Continue reading

More TN Democratic email fallout: Widow gets apology, Cohen wants firings

Longtime Knox County Democratic activist Sylvia Woods says Scott Comer, finance chief of staff for the Democratic National Committee, called her Tuesday to apologize for a “smart-aleck” comment he made about Woods’ dead husband in an email prior to a reception for outgoing DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz here in June.

Further from Georgiana Vines:

Woods said Comer, a 28-year-old Knoxvillian, contacted her after she let Ronald Allen, the DNC’s Southern regional director, know people were reaching out to her in a concerning way about the email, provided by WikiLeaks over the weekend.

Woods and her husband, Harold, long served on Knox County and state Democratic Party committees. Sylvia Woods is on the county board of governors representing a Democratic women’s club and on the state executive committee. She is attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a member of the Platform Committee as a Hillary Clinton supporter and has obtained a floor pass to sit with the Tennessee delegation, she said.

Woods was reached by the News Sentinel as she boarded a bus to travel with the delegation from its hotel site in Valley Forge, Pa., to Philadelphia. She said Comer told her he would meet her at the convention site “and hug your neck just like Tennesseans do.”

The emails regarding the Knoxville reception were written after Sylvia Woods contacted Allen on learning of the event… Allen offered Woods two tickets. Woods told him she would be unable to attend and would appreciate a ticket for (Knox County Democratic Chairman Cameron) Brooks. Woods then mentioned she was using the iPad that had belonged to her husband, who died in 2014,.

… (In an email) Allen wrote to Comer, saying, “All good now and look at my well-crafted response lol! Can the Knox county chair come in her stead?”

“Of course!” Comer answered. “Glad she’s placated and using her dead husbands (sic) iPad.”

Brooks called Comer’s comments “embarrassing and mean.”

Woods agreed.

When Comer called Woods to apologize, “I gave him the motherly lesson,” she said. “Pay attention. You can hurt someone’s feelings. What he said was so unnecessary.” Continue reading

Shelby Democrats pick new chair, seek criminal investigation of old chair

Shelby County Democrats elected a new party chairman Thursday night and voted to refer a matter involving a former chairman to authorities for criminal investigation, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Members of the Shelby County Democratic Party’s executive committee voted in favor of a resolution to pursue criminal charges with the Shelby County District Attorney or the sheriff’s office against former party chairman Bryan Carson.

The resolution accuses Carson of “unlawful embezzlement of funds in the amount of at least $25,000” during his term as chairman from March 2013 to January 2015.

The county party had previously attempted to reach a settlement that would have had Carson repay $26,336, an amount that was reached after two reviews of the party’s bank accounts found what party officials have called “unsubstantiated activity.”

Carson declined to comment on the matter last month, but his attorney, Robert Spence, said Carson rejected the allegations of fraud. Spence said Carson might not owe the party anything.

Party leaders said they needed to take action to move beyond the Carson matter.

…Also during the meeting, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Michael Pope, who had been acting chairman, was elected chairman. Virgie Banks was elected first vice chairwoman.

Pope said after the meeting that the party would consult with counsel before formally taking action on the resolution to pursue criminal charges against Carson.

DNC chair cancels Knox rally (but will show for Knox fundraiser)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, will be in Knoxville for a private fundraiser Thursday but will not attend a rally of Knox County Democrats as originally planned, reports Georgiana Vines.

The fundraiser will be at the home of Leanne and Rusty Comer, 7151 Sir Arthur Way, in the Deane Hill area beginning at 6:30 p.m. Their son, Scott, is employed at the DNC.

Knox County Democrats planned to have a rally at their headquarters at 311 Morgan St., which Wasserman Schultz was to attend before the fundraiser, but Cameron Brooks, party chairman, said he was notified Wednesday she would not be at the public event.

“When the head of the Democratic Party comes to our community it is my belief that they should be accessible to everyone, not just those with the means to give money. I am extremely disappointed that her appearance at our rally was canceled,” Brooks said.

…Wasserman Schultz is getting flak nationally, particularly from the supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, for her handling of some campaign issues. There is talk of possibly replacing her before the Democratic National Convention in July in Philadelphia. Politico reported Sanders recently endorsed her opponent in the Democratic primary in Florida, Tim Canova.

Note: The referenced Politico story is HERE. A recent story from The Hill on Democrats pushing for Schultz to quit is HERE.

Carville rips Trump at TN Democrats’ Jackson Day dinner

Veteran political operative James Carville was keynote speaker Saturday at the Tennessee’s Democratic Party’s Jackson Day Dinner in Nashville, attended by a crowed of about 750, according to The Tennessean.

Carville was introduced on Saturday by former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, and for whom the ballroom for Saturday’s event is named after. His successor, Mayor Megan Barry, also spoke. Former University of Tennessee football coach Johnny Majors, a Democrat, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Carville, a longtime Democratic operative who emerged on the national political scene in 1992 as manager for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, told the audience of partisans Saturday, “You reap what you sow.”

That what’s happened with the Republican Party and Trump, Carville said, as some establishment Republicans opt not to endorse the polarizing billionaire real estate mogul in the days since his final two opponents dropped out of the primary.

Carville said rhetoric of conservatives — that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, that global warming doesn’t exist and that tax cuts balance budgets — fueled Trump’s rise.

“When the people rise up and start believing all this madness after you’ve given them the green light, why are you surprised? You started all this.”

To win in November, Carville said Democrats need to make their arguments more “cogently and more to the point” — and he said the polarizing Trump will help Democrats make their case.

“Trump is going to help us, and there’s no doubt about this,” Carville said. “We should not kid ourselves. We’re looking at a 162-year-old political party literally cracking up right in front of us. And they’re cracking up because they deserve to crack up.” Continue reading

Clinton-inspired fundraising campaign shortchanging state parties?

State Democratic party organizations involved in a fundraising campaign launched with Hillary Clinton last summer have received less than 1 percent of the $61 million raised, reports Politico. The Tennessee Democratic party is one of those involved.

The venture, the Hillary Victory Fund, is a so-called joint fundraising committee comprised of Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and 32 state party committees. The setup allows Clinton to solicit checks of $350,000 or more from her super-rich supporters at extravagant fundraisers including a dinner at George Clooney’s house and a concert at Radio City Music Hall featuring Katy Perry and Elton John.

The victory fund has transferred $3.8 million to the state parties, but almost all of that cash ($3.3 million, or 88 percent) was quickly transferred to the DNC, usually within a day or two, by the Clinton staffer who controls the committee, POLITICO’s analysis of the FEC records found.

By contrast, the victory fund has transferred $15.4 million to Clinton’s campaign and $5.7 million to the DNC, which will work closely with Clinton’s campaign if and when she becomes the party’s nominee. And most of the $23.3 million spent directly by the victory fund has gone toward expenses that appear to have directly benefited Clinton’s campaign, including $2.8 million for “salary and overhead” and $8.6 million for web advertising that mostly looks indistinguishable from Clinton campaign ads and that has helped Clinton build a network of small donors who will be critical in a general election expected to cost each side well in excess of $1 billion.

The arrangement has sparked concerns among campaign finance watchdogs and allies of Clinton’s Democratic rival Bernie Sanders. They see it as a circumvention of campaign contribution limits by a national party apparatus intent on doing whatever it takes to help Clinton defeat Sanders during the party’s primary, and then win the White House.

But it is perhaps more notable that the arrangement has prompted concerns among some participating state party officials and their allies. They grumble privately that Clinton is merely using them to subsidize her own operation, while her allies overstate her support for their parties and knock Sanders for not doing enough to help the party.

“It’s a one-sided benefit,” said an official with one participating state party. The official, like those with several other state parties, declined to talk about the arrangement on the record for fear of drawing the ire of the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

Note: A Center for Responsive Politics report shows TNDP receiving $64,100 from Hillary Victory Fund. Clinton, btw, has directly raised about $1.36 million from Tennessee donors, according to an FEC summary of presidential candidate contributions in the state — more than any other candidate, Republican or Democratic.