Nearly three months after former presidential candidate Ted Cruz was booed off the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland after failing to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and instead telling voters to “vote their conscience,” the Tennessee Republican Party is telling voters in the Volunteer State to do the same thing.
“We’re encouraging people to vote their conscience,” Brent Leatherwood with the Tennessee Republican Party said in a statement to NewsChannel 5. “We view our job as one to continue the advance of the conservative cause by defeating Democrats. So we encourage Tennesseans to vote consistent with their conservative convictions.”
The Tennessee GOP stopped short of specifically asking voters to pick Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, for president. Cruz eventually reversed his decision, and stated he will be voting for Trump.
The statement from the TN GOP comes after the release of a recording of Trump engaged in a lewd conversation about women with then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush.
After the release of that recording, multiple Tennessee Republicans said they will not be voting for Trump, including Gov. Bill Haslam, who said he may consider a write-in candidate.
But Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), a Trump surrogate, says she is standing by the candidate.
“We've all messed up at one time or another,” said Beavers. “He apologized. What more can we ask? The bible tells us we need to forgive, and he's asked forgiveness from the American people.”
Beavers says Republicans in Tennessee have no choice but to vote for Trump.
“He’s Republican, he’s conservative. Who [else] are they going to vote for?” Beavers said. “Hillary Clinton? Or are they going to do a write-in and hand it to Hillary Clinton?”
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Republican Party included harsh words about Trump in a statement released this past weekend, saying: “There is justifiable concern about the repugnant words of one [candidate] and the appalling record of deception of the other.”
Asked if the Tennessee Republican Party needs to be clear in its support of Trump, Beavers said:
“Of course. Every Republican Party -- if you claim to be a Republican -- you should be endorsing the Republican nominee.”
NewsChannel 5 asked Robert Swope, the State Director for the Trump campaign in Tennessee to weigh in on this story.
Swope is also a Metro Council member.
Swope told NewsChannel 5 that he, along with other state directors, is under a non-disclosure agreement from the Trump Campaign that prohibits him -- the person in charge of Tennessee's campaign efforts -- from talking to the media about Trump.
Swope said that's standard protocol, saying selected surrogates, like Beavers, are the ones authorized to speak about Trump
NewsChannel 5 contacted the Clinton Campaign in Tennessee about non-disclosure agreements, and it said it had never heard of those kinds of restrictive limits for a state campaign director before. The Clinton campaign manager in Tennessee, Tyler Yount, told NewsChannel 5 he was not under a similar restriction.
Leatherwood with the Tennessee Republican Party also seemed surprised that the head of a campaign's statewide efforts supporting a candidate would not be allowed to speak about that candidate to the news media.