In case you didn’t hear, a homophobic right-wing nutjob ran for the Tennessee Democratic Party nomination for U.S. Senate in last week’s primary, and actually won. Now Tennessee Democrats are a national laughingstock.
Let me jump in here and point a few things out. First of all, Tennessee is an open primary state. Second of all, with incumbent Bob Corker on the Republican side assured of winning the actual seat, not too many people were willing to be the sacrificial lamb and offer themselves to the cause. No Republican had a serious hope of beating Corker in that primary, either. So of course the wackjobs ran as Democrats, and Mark Clayton — whose name appeared at the top of the alphabetical list — won. I don’t know if any Republican voters crossed over and voted in the Democratic primary, since there were some hotly contested Republican races that kept those folks voting in their own primary. But if you didn’t live in a district with such a race, crossing over might have been tempting to some folks “in the know.”
I’d never heard of Mark Clayton before walking into the voting booth. The Democratic candidate we all knew to vote for was Park Overall. But interestingly enough, Clayton wasn’t the only wackadoodle on the list. When I went to vote in our Democratic primary, there were a lot of names I didn’t recognize. For example: Gary Davis, who wants to do away with all foreign aid and “restore rights to the state by giving people full control of their own health care,”; and then Benjamin Roberts, who wants to return us to the gold standard because “inflation is grossly out of control,” despite it being only 1.7% right now. Neither of these people seems to espouse Democratic Party values, yet they ran for the Democratic Party nomination.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester explains how this happened:
Well, Tennessee has a very low threshold of 25 signatures to get on the ballot. So it’s not difficult to offer yourself as a candidate. We have a very small window of five days after candidate paperwork is filed and there are 99 House seats, 33 Senate seats, nine congressional seats. So we have five days to withdraw or not allow a Democratic candidate to be placed on a ballot. And it’s also a slippery slope to keep a candidate off the ballot. And frankly, we didn’t expect him to win … he had spent no money. But with turnout so low and [him] at the top of the ticket and his ballot placement as a “C”, it gave him, because nobody knew who these candidates were, an edge to win the primary.
I dunno, seems like you could get some College Democrats to sit down with a laptop and the Google for a weekend and do some research on who these candidates are. Shouldn’t be too hard. And in a state where just 25 signatures are required to get on the ballot and there’s an open primary just begging to be freeped, it seems like some due diligence is in order. If you aren’t going to “protect the brand” and keep people who are members of hate groups off the Democratic ballot for some weird reason (hey, it’s not like they can’t run as independents), well then at least support the candidate you have decided is the “real” Democrat. At least get the word out. I mean, why did it take until after election day to find out that Mark Clayton is the member of an anti-gay hate group? Maybe a press release or e-mail before the fact? Something? Ya think?
I dunno, this really pisses me off. These excuses just sound so weak to me. Mr. Beale tells me to quit whining. “If you can’t get the word out who the real candidate is, then get over it,” he says. And then he says, “Tennessee Democrats can out-wackadoodle anybody! We’ll put up someone so far to the right of the Republican Party in Tennessee that next year, we’ll get the NRA endorsement!”