Breakdown Of Williamson County Special Nomination Convention For District 7 Commissioner (Op-Ed)

Image Credit: Ichabod / CC

By Steve Hickey [special to The Tennessee Conservative]-

Williamson County District 7 voters were shocked and saddened to learn long time county commissioner Bert Chalfant passed away on August 24th.  His passing set in motion an accelerated Republican nomination process for the November 8th special election, culminating in Chris Richards’ Tuesday night victory over former commissioner Bobby Hullett at the Cool Springs Marriott Convention Center.

There is much more to this story than a quick, intense and surprisingly high visibility campaign.  The main story involves the convention itself and the planning thereof.

The Williamson County Republican Party was caught with a difficult situation—producing a nominee by the September 16th ballot deadline.  To their credit, they decided to allow the voters to decide the outcome, rather than a closed door appointment.  For that, they should be commended.

The WCRP and party elites have had a fraught relationship with local conservative grassroots groups since the previous spring’s GOP primary 1 & 2.   The name calling 3 &4, reminiscent of how Democrats attack, was disturbing.  Worse, the weaponization of rules effectively shut doors for citizen participation in the electoral process 5.  The mid-summer Soviet style purge 6 of the lone conservative voice on the WCRP’s Executive Committee further left local conservatives tasting bile.  To many of us, this all appeared to be the antithesis of what Republicans stand for—truth, freedom, and a fair fight in the arena of ideas.  As a result, there was a jaundiced view among many Williamson County conservatives regarding the process being dictated by the very people who had shown open hostility towards them in the very recent past.

The Party announced on August 30th via email to its members that it was conducting a September 13th mass convention.

This included a link for people to preregister by 11:59 on September 6th to “secure your attendance and ability to vote.”  It further indicated the need to be a bona fide Republican (having voted in three out of the last four state/federal GOP primaries) and be an active member of the Republican Party.  This last part was not explained in the email and left to the reader to determine what constituted active in the Republican Party.  The email concluded with “share this email with friends & family.”

The Party followed this up with a second email to members on September 2nd.

This email pushed the registration deadline back to September 8th and clarified the participation requirement to include contribution of time or money.  This was the last communication the county party had with potential voters before the convention.

Behind the scenes, there was unprecedented maneuvering afoot.  Mr. Richards’ attorney attempted to get clarification on numerous questions regarding rules to be utilized during the convention, Republican citizen participation in the convention, and encouraging process transparency.  This engagement with both the WCRP chair, Cheryl Brown and TN GOP chair Scott Golden culminated in a back and forth email exchange on September 9th between the attorney and Mr. Golden.

This exchange is notable as it appears the WCRP/TNGOP were mixing processes from two different types of conventions.  Furthermore, suggestions for transparency and campaign representative oversight (akin to poll watchers in a standard election) were ignored.  The end result was a situation where the party was following rules it wanted to while avoiding any oversight by the invested parties.

The night of the convention brought several surprises.  First, the supposed preregistration requirement advertised in the emails appeared to have been quietly vacated.  The party was allowing walk up registrations, raising the question why preregistration was pushed in the first place.  Second, Robin Baldree was serving as a registrar.  Ms. Baldree had previously lost the D5 GOP county commission primary, despite herself not being a bona fide Republican at the time.

 Furthermore, Ms. Baldree actively supported independent candidate Michael Gallik in the D5 commission general election (see photo below of Robin Baldree’s property before the August county general election, note Michael Gallik campaign signs), a bylaw sin cited by Ms. Brown as the reason why she worked so aggressively to target Williamson Families PAC 7.

Finally, a steady stream of eager voters began to depart the facility long before the event even started.  Richards’ supporters caught up with many of these people and inquired what had happened.  What was learned was the party was actively weeding out the electorate, perhaps purposefully and with forethought.

We discovered nearly all of the 42 people had preregistered for the event, raising concerns the Contest and Verification Committee, that should never have been employed for a mass convention, was purposefully weaponized against a bloc of voters.  Furthermore, most of the people turned away were dismissed due to the time/money contribution stipulation.  Several turned away voters were active contributors to Republican candidates such as Marsha Blackburn or Republican groups such as Turning Point USA. 

Two individuals lamented they were very active members of the local party, until COVID limited their activities.  One wheelchair bound woman similarly said she was a dedicated Republican voter, but was told her lack of participation and mail in votes disqualified her.  Some complained that the party should have followed up after their preregistration and explained what constituted the required time/money threshold.  Several people had made donations to the WCRP or one of its affiliates in the hours before the convention.  These people were turned away due to an undefined “poll tax” rule.

Supposedly, a day of donation is considered a poll tax, but a donation the previous day is not.  What is clear is there was a pay-to-play expectation (the rules of which were very poorly advertised by the party) for anyone desiring entry to the D7 GOP nomination convention.  Perhaps most telling was the fact that nearly all rejected voters who voluntarily disclosed who their preference was stated they were either Richards voters or undecided.

The rejection of bona fide GOP voters is not the way to build the party.  The selective use of rules against those with whom you disagree is not the way to build the party.  Calling your fellow Republicans names and engaging in unfounded character assassination is not the way to build the party.  Shrouding an election in secrecy and not allowing outside visibility of its processes is not the way to build nor engender trust in that party.  Relationship building is how you build the party.

As WCRP Assistant Secretary Chad Story noted at the end, this election was ultimately decided by the candidate who more effectively engaged the electorate.  Chris Richards built those relationships with the electorate and turned out significantly more voters than his opponent Tuesday night.  As a member of the conservative grassroots here in Williamson County, I hope this lesson is not lost on the party and they recognize marginalizing their base is no longer a viable strategy.     

Sources cited:

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14 thoughts on “Breakdown Of Williamson County Special Nomination Convention For District 7 Commissioner (Op-Ed)

  • September 15, 2022 at 7:35 pm

    There is a moral to this story. It is NOT that the Republican establishment in Williamson County that is content for the Williamson County Republican Party to be the political arm of the local Chamber of Commerce and is used to running things will welcome conservatives into the party. This “Big Tent Party” stuff is meant to welcome centrists and even center-left types into the party not conservatives.

    No! The moral to this story is that conservatives must vote in every Republican primary that comes down the pike and be a member of at least the Williamson County Republican Party. We will always have a two party system and conservatives must seek to exert influence within the Republican Party or we will not have any influence at all. We can’t do that unless we are members in good standing.

    • September 15, 2022 at 7:54 pm

      But do we want to donate to a county party that will waste our money and fight against us? It’s a real conundrum.

      • September 15, 2022 at 8:38 pm

        ABSOLUTELY TP when the only avenue for conservatives to actually governing the county, or at the very least having influence as to how the county is governed, is through the county Republican Party. I have always been a “MILLIONS FOR CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATES, NOT A PENNY FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY” kind of guy, but I now believe that tactically paying the membership fee to join the local Party is the wise thing for conservatives to do.

      • September 16, 2022 at 12:21 am

        so let me ask this, what organization has the authority to put on such a convention? does this page have that authority? It is the organization that has been recognized by the state republican party. Without the ability to raise funds through dues and donations, how would an organization facilitate procuring a location? how do you verify if someone who walks into a republican convention is a republican voter? Well voting history is one way, but there is plenty of history that shows there are democrats that vote republican than actual republicans every election. So voting record alone must be validated against something else. If you are democrat, you are not going to spend time and money to support a republican so that is why it is important to show a voting history and participation in the party, the official party.

        These are the rules that have been on the books forever. Some of the specifics have been refined but the bona fide status helps identify with more accountability that the person making decisions regarding republican representation are republicans.

        I also find it funny how this write up attacks someone who i don’t think is even a board member. But because she supported an independent you decide to attack her by name. But this same group attacked the party for voting off a vice chair who apparently used his position and knowledge to help push many republicans to run as independents in that last county election in direct opposition of other republicans. The selective outrage is a apparent and the unfortunate reality is you want to raise it as a opportunity to attack someone while ignoring a more egregious act because it does not fit your narrative.

        Lastly, the pearl clutching accusations that the party is saying mean things that hurt your feelings while constantly spewing accusations at the party. I have never seen any direct quote from any of the hit pieces that this group has made at the “establishment party ” where you reached out for comment. So you are attacking the party for following established rules but then picking bits and pieces to then stitch together in order to create some false narrative. That is a very progressive tactic

  • September 15, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    You might consider taking a cue from KURT RILEY in SUMNER COUNY… When Michelle Foreman illegitimately took over the Tennessee Republican Assembly, the Sumner County affiliate with some 40+ members withdrew and formed the SUMNER COUNTY CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLICANS.
    They have succeeded in dominating all city and county offices since that time……

  • September 15, 2022 at 11:56 pm

    Robin Baldree is a selfless public servant. It takes a small man to disparage someone who simply volunteered her time to help a special election process run smoothly. His name is Steve Hickey.

    • September 16, 2022 at 2:20 am

      You miss the point Jonathan. The article as it concerned Baldree wasn’t about the quality of her public service. Those ten signs on her property show her to be a rabid Republican centrist rather than a disinterested “. . .selfless public servant” which raises the suspicion that her activism is intended to further the interests of the Williamson Inc. forces in the Party rather than make any “. . .process run smoothly.” The fact that her support of an independent when the fabulous Mary Smith was the Republican who should have garnered Baldree’s support did not result in any sanctions from the Republican hierarchy is another fact that shows how the “Big Tent” of the Party only expands to the left.
      That Jonathan was the point!

      • September 16, 2022 at 11:41 am


        The group who supports Mary Smith is also the very same group who supported many Independents this last election. Steve Hickey is also affiliated with this same group. This whole issue is rife with hypocrisy, and, last I checked, no one is ever expected to vote party line or else.

        Furthermore, I know a bit about Mary Smith’s supporters. Their collective nastiness toward Baldree probably had a lot to do with who she supported. Does that make her any less Republican? Of course not.

        Last, we can thank Williamson Families for Eric Welch. He remains on the school board only due to the shenanigans and stupidity promoted by them. If any of you truly cared about conservatism, you would blindly support a group who achieved the exact opposite this last cycle.

        Talk about a circular firing squad… What they did is indefensible and is magnitudes worse. Yet here you are defending them.


  • September 16, 2022 at 2:38 am

    Ah Jonathan. Nice to see Mary Kate let you off the leash for awhile; please make sure she cleans up after you. Robin Baldree did exactly what anyone can and should do–support the candidate of her choice. That’s not the issue, the issue is the glaring double standard that exists within the WCRP and the weaponization of rules to hamstring conservatives while ignoring those same rules when they’re inconvenient for you. The fact remains, Baldree was not herself bona fide when she ran this past spring, yet I’m certain she didn’t receive an intimidation phone call like Elliott Franklin received from Bob Ravener telling her she was going to be challenged (Franklin was in fact bona fide and was STILL challenged). Similarly, I don’t recall anyone from any of the growing conservative groups being invited to participate in the planning of this convention. That would be due to Cheryl’s edict that any support for an independent candidate taints you with Chernobyl level radiation. Yet Baldree is one of the gatekeepers for this convention? As far as pearl clutching, the party (and Jonathan’s handler, MKAB) enlisted proxies in the form of sitting county commissioners, the BTS group, a sham county commission forum, and Debbie Ballard’s May RWWC speech to smear conservative groups and their supported candidates. Cheryl herself dropped the charade and openly fired shots during her July Diamond & Silk interview. So no, the attacks on conservative groups are not new, nor are they infrequent. I get it. Like the broader conservative movement in the nation scares the GOP establishment, we present a threat to your hegemony. You can continue slinging mud, but the electorate is waking up.

    • September 16, 2022 at 2:55 am

      That is crap. The only people who kept republicans from running as republicans were people who are trying to attack the wcrp out of spite not because of the rules. And to say somebody is Weaponized the party, the last party chair tried to and was successful at least once removing Republicans from the ballot an hour before the deadline on purpose to not give them an opportunity to challenge and run as a Republican on the ballot.


    • September 16, 2022 at 3:48 am


      You don’t know me, so don’t pretend. Also, your writing is of a pseudo-intellect. And it’s boring. You’re a moron, and are a threat to no one.

      I’ll be at the next event. When you’re done picking on women, please say hi.

        • September 16, 2022 at 11:45 am

          “Calling your fellow Republicans names and engaging in unfounded character assassination is not the way to build the party.” Next time, follow your own advice.

          • September 16, 2022 at 7:19 pm


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