Open Primaries Are An Awful Idea And They Suck

If you’ve been to Nashville lately you know we have an election next week, because every house and business seems to have sprouted a garden of campaign signs. Judging by the yard signs and amount of campaign literature flooding our mailboxes you’d think this was a national election. But no: we’re voting for District Attorney and a whole bunch of judges. These are not normally high-interest races, but this year in addition to the constant influx of mailers we’ve been inundated with robocalls, door-to-door campaigners, television ads, etc. Oh and let me add, Tuesday’s elections are for the primaries; the actual election is in August.

We haven’t seen this level of interest for judicial primaries since, well, ever. This time, however, early voting numbers have doubled what they were the last time we elected judges.

All of which I find really interesting. So, with that in mind, this caught my attention:


Adam Dread is the poster boy for why having open primaries is stupid and lame and should be changed. Dread is running in the Republican primary for judge but he apparently did not vote for himself because he chose to vote in the Democratic primary instead. He can do that because his race is uncontested and we have open primaries in the state of Tennessee.

Adam Dread is a vocal Republican. He has always been a vocal Republican. He has name recognition in this city because before going to law school he was a local stand-up comedian and college radio DJ who developed a douchey “Man Of Leisure” personae where he got to spout his sexist and racist BS in local media. He tried to run in the Democratic primary this time out and got busted for it. So he basically got shamed into running as a Republican, even though he is a Republican.

Such are the trials of being a Republican in true-blue Nashville/Davidson County. Though Tennessee is very, very red, Nashville is not. If you are a Republican in Nashville you swim in a very small pond. This is abundantly clear when you see the Republican primary ballot for Tuesday’s election: an endless list of “no candidate qualified” non-choices and non-contested races. Sucks to be you.

So the solution for Republicans is to sometimes run as Democrats instead, which Dread tried to do before he got busted. I’m sure we have more than a few Republican “Trojan Horses” on the Democratic primary ballot, and weeding them out is hard because there’s very little information on a lot of these folks. Let me add: I really don’t get this strategy. You will have a chance to go head-to-head against the Democratic candidate in the general election in August. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? I guess they want to take the easy way out, try to beat the Democrat in the primary and then coast to an easy victory as an uncontested candidate.

But even worse are all the Republicans who are voting in the Democratic primary this time out and supporting Democratic candidates. People like notorious Republican moneybags Lee Beaman, who has funneled bazillions of dollars to conservative groups like Americans For Prosperity, the Club For Growth, not to mention the RNC and related Republican committees.

Beaman is supporting Democratic candidate Glenn Funk for DA. As a result, I’ve seen Glenn Funk campaign signs in the yards of people I know to be Tea Partiers — people who supported Newt fucking Gingrich in the last presidential primary, fergawdsake. I mean, c’mon, people.

Why should Lee Beaman, an outspoken, prominent Republican, and his minions be selecting the Democratic candidate for DA? Again: these folks can vote for whomever they want in August. But these people are not Democrats. They should vote for a Republican candidate in the primary, and if the GOP can’t find one, well, sorry. Now you know how we Democrats feel every time we go to the polls for state and some national elections.

Let me add, I’m sure there are quite a few very red counties in this state where the tables are turned and Republicans dominate the local elections and Democrats are picking Republican candidates. This is wrong.

Also, just a little tip to all of you Republicans who plan to vote in Democratic primaries: you are now listed as a Democrat in the Election Commission data base. That data base will be used by canvassers in future elections. If you don’t want to be asked for money by the Democratic Party or receive mailers and door-knockers for Democratic candidates, do not vote in a Democratic primary. (I cannot tell you how many people told me they “didn’t know how they got on the Democratic Party’s solicitation list” when I was doing campaign work. I do: you voted in a Democratic primary, idiots. So don’t do it.)

I don’t think Republicans should be picking Democratic candidates. I don’t think Democrats should be picking Republican candidates, either.

I want this changed. Republicans should want this changed, too.


Filed under elections, Nashville, Tennessee

19 responses to “Open Primaries Are An Awful Idea And They Suck

  1. Mark Rogers

    SB, for the first time this year the Tennessee Republican Party is taking into account the primary voting records of persons who wish to run for office, be that public office or a position in the Republican Party. That means anyone in Davidson County, for example, who votes in a Democratic primary may not be eligible to run as a Republican in the future.

    Such a measure is not as effective as closed primaries but it is something.

    You will be comforted, I think, to know that your position is shared by the various Tea Parties and other far right groups who want to close the Republican primaries in order to shut out moderates who choose primaries based on the candidates in different elections.

    Those of us who like open primaries value the impact of voters who want less ideological candidates and more cooperation in the center. After all, open primaries have been a large part of Republican electoral success in Tennessee while Democrats virtual abandonment of primaries mirrors their statewide decline.

    • “That means anyone in Davidson County, for example, who votes in a Democratic primary may not be eligible to run as a Republican in the future.”

      I hadn’t heard that. I wonder how many people are aware of that? So this means Adam Dread can’t run as a future Republican candidate? I’m guessing he wasn’t aware of that either.

      Of course, it is a largely meaningless gesture since most people don’t ever think to themselves “I may run for office some day,” and a lot of important offices, like metro council and mayor, are non-partisan.

      We need to change the state law, I think.

      I really fail to see how open primaries have brought the Republicans “less ideological candidates” judging by the wackaloons the GOP has in our state legislature. Last governor’s race Tennessee Republicans were tripping over themselves to see who could be more outrageous than the other. Can’t believe you’ve forgotten all the crazy spewed by Zach Wamp and Ron Ramsey in 2010.

  2. Mark Rogers

    SB, there is a procedure to challenge the bona fides of persons seeking office as Republicans. They can be challenged, defend themselves and a committee from the State Party makes a decision. If you check the Tennessean, a few would-be Republicans were blocked from the May county primaries and August primaries for not having Republican voting records.

    I cannot speak to future decisions but I suspect Judge Dread will be fine.

    I understand why reasonable people {distinct from the agenda of the extremists on both sides} but I think it is good to have people in the middle holding influence on both parties.

    To your question, over the last two or three cycles there have been a few state races where very conservative Republicans complained that the moderates who won did so with Democratic crossover. These were in Eastern Tennessee so they didn’t get much coverage here.

    That is why the advocates for closed primaries on the Republican side are on the far right. They see closed primaries as a tool for gaining more power in the Party.

    • I just find the argument that closed primaries somehow suppress moderates to be ludicrous. As if somehow moderates decide not to vote in primaries when there are a bunch of wackaloons running? Or the wackaloons decide not to run because suddenly there are more moderates in the race? That makes no sense.

      Tea Party nutters love a good conspiracy theory, especially when their perpetually hurt feelings at being mocked come into play. I can see them trying to blame “liberal activists” for their own crackpot candidates — as if massive numbers of liberals would really vote for the craziest Republican candidate to crawl out from under the conservative rock so we could then reveal these people to be the extremists we always knew they’d be. They are chronically unable to take responsibility for their own actions. You know, it’s as if they want to blame us for Scott DesJarlais or something. Sorry guys, that one’s all yours.

      These theories about primary election games are cute but they defy reason and logic — two other things Tea Partiers lack.

      They may advocate for closed primaries for all the wrong reasons but at least they end up at the right place. Bless their hearts.

  3. Judge Dread. How quaint.

  4. “there have been a few state races where very conservative Republicans complained that the moderates who won did so with Democratic crossover. ”

    The more I think about it, the more idiotic I find this to be. It’s just a lame attempt to portray closed-primary adherents as some kind of “fringe” ideologues (be it right or left). Because the only time I hear anyone talking about crossing over to vote in the Republican primary it’s not to elect “reasonable” Republicans — it’s to support the Basil Marceaux-types and other way-out-there wackaloons so the Democratic candidate stands a better chance.

    I don’t know anyone who’s actually done that, mind you, but that’s always been the argument. And that is precisely why establishment Republicans have finally turned on the Tea Party and are trying to make sure the extremists in their party don’t win primaries.

    • Mark Rogers


      The two races I know where this issue was raised were the failed effort to defeat State Senator Doug Overby and the successful effort to unseat Representative Julia Hurley. As I remember, the opponents of Overby actually presented the voting records of a number of people who voted in that Republican primary who previously voted in Democratic primaries as grounds to overturn the outcome. The State Executive Committee chose not to accept the challenge.

      Representative Hurley made a similar claim to me after her defeat two years ago. She claimed that there were numerous long time Democrats who voted in her primary.

      I also note that this same issue was front and center in the challenge to Senator Rosalind Kurita’s primary victory over Tim Barnes in 2008. While the Democratic State Executive Committee overturned her primary victory on different grounds, the Barnes forces did provide something like 800 names of ‘Republican’ voters who crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary. Their argument was precisely what I said happens sometimes. Thy claimed that the reason the Republicans crossed over was to ensure that the Democrat most favorable to Republicans was elected.

      Why should it be surprising that Democrats who didn’t have a viable candidate in November would want to elect a Republican who would be more to their tastes?

      I have some knowledge of Senator Overby’s career and I think he is an excellent legislator and I am glad he is still in the Senate.

      • I have no idea who Steve Overby is so I can’t speak to that but Julia Hurley? Seriously? The chick who brought national shame to her name through “dog surfing” videos and carving her name in her desk at the state capitol, like a schoolgirl? Sounds like she’s trying to avoid any shred of personal accountability for losing her seat — something else an immature schoolgirl would do. It’s all talk and hurt feelings unless you provide actual evidence, and that is the kind of evidence that is very hard to come by.

        The point being, your claim that large amounts of far-left progressive Democrats are crossing over to try to elect Dem-palatable Republicans (“Republican-lite”) is a completely ridiculous idea. You clearly have no understanding of the Democratic base, sweetie. Those people ALREADY think Tennessee Democrats are “Republican-lite”!

        Any Democrat that crosses over to do that is going to be a MODERATE Democrat — which entirely negates your claim about it being “extremists” in both parties who cross over. Sorry, no dice.

        I repeat: any Democrat I’ve ever heard discuss crossing over is doing so to elect the most repulsive Republican running, thereby increasing the Democrat’s chances. And ditto on the other side: I’ve heard of Republicans crossing over to elect faux-Dem Mark Clayton in the GOP Senate primary. These are not moderate Republicans doing that, people who would have voted for Bob Corker. These are Tea Party extremists trying to game the system and saddle the Democrats with a dog and embarrass the party.

      • Mark Rogers

        “The point being, your claim that large amounts of far-left progressive Democrats are crossing over to try to elect Dem-palatable Republicans (“Republican-lite”) is a completely ridiculous idea.”

        I never said that large numbers did it. And it would not have been far-left Democrats. In no case I know of were the numbers large. I thought I wad clear that the people most likely to cross over wanted to elect someone who was easier to work with and more willing to listen to the other side.

        It was CB who noted that there were progressives in Georgia who were voting for the extreme Republican.

        My claim was that there are cases were there might have been enough to make a difference in specific primaries. Just like the Kurita vs Barnes race where many leading Democrats made the argument that Republican crossovers were the decisive factor. You can go back and look at the news coverage of that race and see that Kurita’s opponents believed Republican voters determined the election. And, for supposedly different reasons, her win was changed.

      • You keep bringing up the Kurita case over here, you seem obsessed with it. Kurita voted to make Ron Ramsey Speaker of the House, a considerable shift in power. That’s not “oh we found a Democrat we could work with,” that’s “Oh we found someone who is a Republican in Democratic clothing.” Any Republican who voted in the Democratic primary for the specific purpose of making Kurita the nominee was not acting as a moderate, in my opinion. They were seeking to cut the Tennessee Democratic Party off at its knees. Perhaps that’s why the Tennessee Republicans never fielded a candidate for that seat to begin with.

        You simply have not made the case that closed primaries favor extremists and frankly I find your not-so-subtle attempt to smear me as some kind of “extremist” by association a little insulting.

  5. CB

    Georgia also has open primaries, SB. Some of my progressive friends have said that they are voting in the Republican primary, for the most ridiculous one in the race — the choice du jour appears to be Paul Broun — so as to strengthen Michelle Nunn’s odds. I don’t think I can do that. I am too afraid of Broun getting any further along than he already is; truthfully, I think he’s certifiable. Besides, we badly need a change in the state school superintendent post, and voting for a Republican won’t help that at all.

    I guess I don’t vote strategically.

    • “Some of my progressive friends have said that they are voting in the Republican primary, for the most ridiculous one in the race — the choice du jour appears to be Paul Broun — so as to strengthen Michelle Nunn’s odds. ”

      See, that is exactly my point. It appears Mark’s protestations to the contrary, open primaries actually favor the most extreme candidates, as partisans from the other side try to “game” the system.

      • Mark Rogers

        I have been involved in campaigns for a long time and I cannot remember a case where the other party’s efforts to get crossovers actually helped a fringe candidate.

        On the other hand, I have seen several state and local examples of partisans crossing over to elect a better candidate for the other party.

        One example I am personally familiar with was the effort by Republicans in Davidson County to elect Howard Gentry as Vice Mayor over Chris Ferrell back several years ago. Gentry was seen as less ideological and more likely to focus on the job instead of his political career. Even though Metro elections are non-partisan, the point is that people were willing to turn out for one member of the other party in preference to another. Interestingly Howard got considerable Republican support in his Mayoral campaign in 2007 and might have made the runoff if the far left had abandoned the dead Briley campaign to back him.

      • Oh, FFS, Mark. I worked with Howard Gentry when he was on the Metro Homelessness Commission. He had huge support across a large swath of voters, and had big support among African American voters and a lot of the “social justice” Christians. The idea that Republicans elected Howard Gentry is ludicrous. And as you mentioned, Metro races are non-partisan. There was no need to declare a party affiliation so the example doesn’t even apply. So what if some Republicans liked Howard Gentry? So did a lot of liberals.

      • CB

        “I have been involved in campaigns for a long time and I cannot remember a case where the other party’s efforts to get crossovers actually helped a fringe candidate.”

        Mark, You must not be old enough to remember the 1966 gubernatorial primaries and eventual runoff election, which brought Lester Maddox to the big chair in Atlanta. Does that jog your memory, or does Maddox not fit your definition of ‘fringe candidate’, because he does mine, and did in 1966.

  6. Mary Hackett Graham

    However, crossover vote may save Sumner County Schools from the teahadists on the county commission.

  7. GregH

    This is an old thread, but I find it delicious that we have open primaries.
    Because of this, there is a royal stink among the local Republican Teahadist faction, because their golden boy got upset in the first ever local Republican primary in our county (prior to this, local elections were all non-partisan). With only 7% turnout, they are convinced it was nasty ole Dems who screwed things up and they want a recount and want to look at voting histories….and, well, it is just so very delicious to see them tearing each other apart when it was ultimately preventable.