A Republican candidate in next year’s race for Monroe County sheriff has been informed by state GOP leaders that he must prove his party bona fides or face removal from the ballot, reports the News Sentinel.
Bryan Graves served as chief deputy to former Democratic Sheriff Bill Bivens, who lost the 2014 election to Republican Randy White. Bivens challenged the election and White was forced to step down following a trial that ruled he was not qualified to serve as sheriff.
In an email Saturday to Graves, Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the state Republican Party, said multiple Monroe County Republicans have challenged Graves’ status to run based on his voting record in Republican primaries.
“I have the unfortunate responsibility of informing you we have received a challenge to your bona fide status as a Republican. This means your standing as a Republican has been challenged in order to remove your name from the ballot,” Leatherwood wrote in an email.
Knoxville’s Ryan Haynes, state chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, will render his decision prior to the state’s Thursday deadline, Leatherwood’s email states.
The message instructs Graves to take the next few days to gather evidence that would prove his Republican bona fide status and to forward that information to Haynes by noon Wednesday.
“You may use your voting record if it shows you have voted in 2 of the most recent 4 Republican primaries or you may get letters of recommendation from Republican elected officials to vouch for you to the State Chairman,” Leatherwood wrote in the email.
Graves, who was reached by phone while out of state on a National Guard training assignment, said the challenge stems from the fact that he worked for and supported Democrat Bivens during the 2006, 2010 and 2014 elections.
“I am entirely qualified for the office of sheriff and this has nothing to do with me not meeting requirements of the state I am perfectly vetted,” he said.
Graves said he always voted Republican prior to working with Bivens and has been active in Republican events for most of the past year. He also said the bylaws of the state GOP do not state a specific period of time that he must be active in the party.