NASHVILLE (AP) — There isn’t enough time to hold another primary following the state Democratic Party’s disavowal of its U.S. Senate nominee, State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said Tuesday.
The state party has said it rejects the vocally anti-gay platform of nominee Mark Clayton, who received 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.
Goins, a former Republican state lawmaker, said in a letter to fourth-place finisher Larry Crim that state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester could have disqualified Clayton within a week of the April 5 filing deadline.
“Although Chip Forrester had the authority in April to disqualify Mr. Clayton, he did not do so,” he wrote.
Goins said Crim wants the result overturned because Forrester had failed to properly vet the candidates.
“It is not within the state’s purview to determine whether Chip Forrester is adequately performing the duties assigned to him by the party,” Goins wrote.
It would be up to the party’s executive committee to evaluate a challenge on those grounds and to decide if “justice and fairness” require replacing Clayton as the nominee, he said.
Jim Bilbo, a member of the Democratic Party’s executive committee, said in a release that the panel would work to improve the candidate review process.
“We owe it to Democratic supporters, candidates and volunteers to enact reforms so that extreme candidates who don’t represent our core Democratic, middle class values may never take advantage of our open elections again,” said Bilbo, who is chairman of the panel’s by-laws committee.
Clayton, 35, is vice president of Falls Church, Va.-based Public Advocate of the United States. He denies assertions by the state Democratic Party and the Southern Poverty Law Center that the organization is a hate group.
“Nobody that I know in this country … or anybody who’s ever been associated with any of the campaigns would ever want to hurt somebody who’s gay,” he said at a news conference. “We just want to help protect traditional values, so that moms and dads can raise families in difficult and uncertain times.
“Mark Clayton does not belong to a hate group,” he said. “Mark Clayton belongs to a love group.”
Clayton dismissed the actions of Forrester and the state party.
“Chip Forrester, despite reports to the contrary, is not the Democratic Party,” he said. “He just has a job. He just needs to stay in his office and do his job.”
Clayton said he and his supporters may seek to have Forrester removed from office.
“If he continues to act against party rules and fight an elected nominee, then we’re going to have to go for his resignation,” he said.
Clayton made an appeal to President Barack Obama to invite him to the Democratic National Convention, though he said he voted for a third-party candidate in 2008 and hasn’t decided whether to vote for the president in November.
“I’m very close to voting for Obama this time,” he said. “But like many supporters we want President Obama to come home and be for traditional marriage between a man and a woman.”
The primary election is not expected to be certified until later this month. Goins said there isn’t enough time to hold another statewide contest because military ballots must be mailed by Sept. 22 for the general election.
The state Democratic Party’s executive committee in 2008 vacated the nomination of state Sen. Rosalind Kurita after her 19-vote victory. Her opponent’s attorneys had alleged wide scale crossover voting by Republicans and that his supporters had been told to vote in the wrong primary.
State Republicans in 2004 disavowed the nomination of a U.S. House candidate who espouses racist beliefs. In later contests the state GOP stripped him of his right to run as a Republican.