Democratic Party Faces Lawsuit Over Clayton Nomination - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Democratic Party Faces Lawsuit Over Clayton Nomination

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By Ben Hall
Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Democratic Party is vowing to fix the candidate review process that allowed Mark Clayton to become the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate.

The promise came after one of the candidates who lost to Clayton promised to sue the party.

Democrat Larry Crim, who finished fourth in last week's primary, said party leaders should have researched Mark Clayton and kept him off the ballot.

"Mr. Forrester did not do his duty to screen this democratic candidate," Larry Crim said.

Crim blames party chairman Chip Forrester for the embarrassing mess.

A letter from state Coordinator of Elections, Mark Goins, to Larry Crim states "Although Chip Forrester had the authority in April to disqualify Mr. Clayton, he did not do so."

The letter quotes the Democratic Party's bylaws which state if a candidate fails to vote in at least three of the last five democratic primaries he can be challenged as "not being a bona fide member of the democratic party" and kept off the ballot.

Clayton's voting record shows he has voted in just one democratic primary in the last eight years.

"Mr. Clayton voted for himself one time in the democratic primary so he did not qualify as a bona fide democrat," Crim said.

Party Chairman Chip Forrester declined an interview Tuesday, but after the election, he disavowed Clayton for his conservative beliefs including ties to anti-gay groups.

"We cannot have someone who spews that kind of bigotry and hate representing the Tennessee Democratic Party at the top of the ticket," Forrester said.

State officials said there's no time to hold a new election.

Forrester is encouraging a write in campaign but isn't recommending who to write in.

"Anybody but this guy Mark Clayton, we're just allowing Tennesseans to choose who they would want to represent them," Forrester said.

The Democratic Party claims Goins, who is republican, overstated Forrester's power to keep a candidate off the ballot.

The party claims it would take a county committee to challenge a candidate before the chairman could disqualify him.

But the party is promising to keep this from happening again.

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