A federal judge this week 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.
Clayton got 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. Crim came in fourth with just more than 17,000 votes.
The day after the election, the state Democratic Party said it wanted nothing to do with Clayton. A statement disavowing his campaign said he is a member of an anti-gay hate group and not a real Democrat because he previously voted in only one party primary.
State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said last week that there isn’t enough time to hold another primary.
Tennessee Assistant Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter echoed that when she told the judge having another election would be “physically impossible” because of the requirements that have to be met before the November general election.
“It’s a very detailed process,” said Kleinfelter, who also noted that 65 counties have already certified election results.
Crim’s lawsuit also sought to overturn the Senate primary and asked the judge to order a new one to take place by Sept. 15.
The petition contended that the party committed fraud because it could have kept Clayton off the ballot by meeting an April deadline to tell the state he wasn’t a bona fide Democrat under the party’s by-laws.
The lawsuit also claimed the state’s alphabetical arrangement of candidates’ names on the ballot creates an unfair advantage for some candidates. The petition noted Clayton’s 2008 Senate race, in which he lost to former state Democratic Party chairman Bob Tuke.
Clayton, who was an intervener at the hearing, said afterward that he felt somewhat vindicated.
“No reasonable person believes at this point … that we could have possibly won by having our name at the top of the ballot or something ridiculous like that,” he said.
Goins said after the hearing that he plans to proceed as normal.
“Right now the presumptive nominee … will be Mark Clayton,” he said.