GOP Leadership Disenfranchises Blount, Polk County Voters In “Childish Display”

Image Credit: Tennessee Republican Party / Facebook

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn]

Last night (September 7th, 2022), the Tennessee GOP’s State Executive Committee (SEC) met to discuss Committeeman-elect Mark Pulliam’s write-in win for the District 2 SEC seat, ultimately voting to invalidate his election in a meeting that The Tennessee Conservative’s Brandon Lewis calls an, “embarrassing, childish display.”

Lewis said, “As I watched the proceedings, I was amazed at the rudeness and hatefulness of certain SEC members and the TNGOP Chairman toward Mr. Pulliam. I wish the majority of SEC members would be as zealous in defending the Republican Party platform when it is abused by RINOs as they are enforcing small technicalities that disenfranchise the voters. I cannot imagine any competent grassroots activist wanting to be a part of this group given the childish spectacle that was on display. If this is the condition of our party’s leadership, it is little wonder we can’t tackle issues like illegal immigration, school choice and corporate welfare in our state.”

Mark Pulliam

Mark Pulliam issued the following statement in response to the SEC’s decision:

As a lifelong Republican, with decades of grassroots experience, I was very disappointed that the current State Executive Committee of the Tennessee Republican Party saw fit to overturn the results of the August 4 election and deny me a seat on the SEC as the Committeeman for District 2. I strongly disagree with the grounds asserted for this decision. By refusing to recognize the election results, the SEC disenfranchised more than 300 District 2 voters who cast write-in votes for me in accordance with Tennessee law. While I acknowledge that the Tennessee Republican Party has the legal authority to regulate GOP primary elections, nullifying an election after the fact—when the results have already been certified by the Tennessee Secretary of State–is a drastic measure that should be taken only under extraordinary circumstances. My write-in election–for an unpaid, volunteer position that no one else wanted—is not such a circumstance, and the grounds for doing so were dubious at best. The unprecedented ruling of the SEC creates poor optics for the Republican brand. How can the party that stands for “election integrity” be willing to negate the results of a lawful election, after the fact? The disheartening message to grassroots activists in the Volunteer State is “You are not welcome here.” The TRP exists for the benefit of Republican voters and activists, not vice versa.

I understand now that a successful write-in election to the TN GOP SEC is a historical anomaly that was not contemplated by the TRP bylaws. I did not realize this when I undertook my write-in campaign, and only learned of the TRP’s objections after the election was over. The solution, going forward, is to clarify the TRP bylaws, not to negate an election that met the requirements of Tennessee law.

In the course of last night’s discussion, many SEC members who voted against my election explained that they felt compelled to do so in order to maintain consistency with the pre-election disqualification of other candidates on similar grounds. This is a valid consideration, although I question whether those candidates presented a factual profile comparable to mine.  Some members also expressed the hope that the TRP will appoint me to the “vacant”  position in District 2 when the newly-elected SEC is sworn in. I decided to run as a write-in candidate to give District 2 voters a voice on the SEC. Appointing me to fill the “vacant” position in District 2 would demonstrate the sincerity of the objections expressed last night. I would be willing to consider an appointment if it were offered to me. The District 2 Republicans who voted for me deserve no less.

The decision to invalidate Pulliam’s election was 25 to 13 in favor.

“Apparently, Scott Golden’s primary concern was Pulliam not paying the $100 fee that TRP’s Political Director had told him he was not required to pay since he was a write-in candidate. A casual observer would have to wonder why Pulliam would even wish to be a part of a group that viciously attacked him based on such an insignificant thing,” Lewis said.

Background:

During the August 4th election, District 2 SEC write-in candidate Mark Pulliam won the seat with 300 votes in Blount County, and 2 votes in Polk County.  However, since there wasn’t an opposing candidate for the position on the roster, Pulliam could have won with a single vote.

In response, Tennessee GOP State Party Chairman Scott Golden threatened to declare Pulliam as “non-bona fide” and “vacate” his election even though Pulliam met all the criteria set forth in the GOP bylaws to be an elected member of the SEC. 

Pulliam told the Tennessee Conservative, “I assumed there would be some resistance to my write-in election in Blount County, but did not expect to face pushback at the TRP. I met a recently-elected SEC member at the Tennessee Freedom Summit who told me she had been invited to (and attended) a SEC meeting a few days after the 8/4 election, which featured a discussion about the potential impropriety of a write-in candidate, something the bylaws did not contemplate. Obviously the discussion was about me.”

In not receiving communications from the SEC following his win, Pulliam contacted the TN GOP Chairman Scott Golden inquiring about the dates for future meetings and if the SEC took issue with his write-in win.

Pulliam wrote, “If you contend that write-in candidates are barred from serving on the SEC by the TRP bylaws, please indicate specific language. All I see is a requirement that the candidate be a “bona fide Republican” residing in the district who is elected  ‘by the voters of each respective District qualified to vote in such Republican primary.’ I meet these requirements.”

Indeed, the Tennessee Republican Party bylaws (last updated December 16th, 2020) do not mention anything about write-in candidates.

Golden replied to Pulliam stating that his write-in candidacy “does present some issues concerning our Bona Fide requirements.”

Golden laid out three provisions to be considered “Bona Fide” by the Tennessee GOP.

1.  Actively involved 

2.  Voting in the last 3 Republican Primaries

3.  Candidate Registration Fee

Golden wrote to Pulliam, “Obviously, because you choose not to go through the regular process for petitions, I am unaware of whether you qualify on number 1 or 2.  However, I do know that you did not file a registration fee with the TNGOP either prior to the April filing deadline or even the June deadline for notification of write-in candidacy.”  

“After discussions with our legal counsel, though I may the power to declare you are non-bona fide and vacate your election, we feel that this decision should best be left in the hands of the State Executive Committee and the State Primary Board because of the long term implications, impacts, and precedents of all write-in candidacies,” Golden closed.  

In a reply email, Pulliam explained to Golden that he was informed by TRP’s Political Director, Tyler Burns, at the time that he filed his Certificate of Write-In Candidacy, that no fee was required in his case.  Pulliam assumed that guidance was given because his name did not appear on the Republican primary ballot. 

Pulliam stated that after Golden raised the $100 fee as a basis for overturning the results of the election on August 23rd, he (Pulliam) went ahead and paid the fee.

Pulliam wrote to Golden, “I defy you to take the position that I do not qualify as a ‘bona fide Republican’ under the current definition in the TRP Bylaws (or any rational definition). I am a lifelong Republican who has voted in every election since 1976.  Accordingly, I am not clear what ‘long term implications, impacts, and precedents’ need to be reviewed by the SEC and the State Primary Board, as you suggested in your email.”

In closing, Pulliam wrote, “I’m looking forward to a more detailed explanation for the basis of your challenge to my election. Due process requires that I be given written notice of the specific issue(s), and an opportunity to respond.  I find it ironic that the GOP, after all the controversy involving the 2020 election and questions about the integrity of the election, would be seeking to overturn the result of an election, after the fact, without citing any violation of applicable law.”

The Tennessee Conservative has also reached out to Golden and the GOP’s communication officer to inquire about what issues are involved with Pulliam’s installment as they relate to bylaws, etc. but we never heard back from them.

However, following our communication to the GOP, an email was sent out to SEC members by the TNGOP calling for a “State Primary Board” meeting regarding Pulliam and his write-in candidacy for the SEC Committeeman District 2 scheduled for last night, September 7th.

The email gave background information for the SEC members as follows:

Background Information:

– The SD 2 Committeeman’s position was left vacant following the April 8th state filing deadline

– Mr. Pulliam filed notice that he was going to seek the position as a write-in candidate in June

– Mr. Pulliam’s write-in votes were counted and certified

Why State Primary Board?

– TCA 2-13-104 states:

            All candidates for state executive committee members and for membership in the general assembly shall be bona fide members of the political party whose election they seek.

– TNGOP Bylaws require 3 criteria to become a Bona Fide Republican candidate for office:

            1. Active – Time or Money

            2. Voting (3 of 3 in GOP Primaries for SEC Members)

            3. Registration Fee (Capitol Club Dues)

– Mr. Pulliam did not pay his registration fee prior to the April 8th deadline for consideration

– The TNGOP did remove candidates in 2022 because they refused to submit the registration fee through the Bona Fide qualification process

– The TNGOP reserves the right to determine who is a Bona Fide Republican

Filing Issue:

This issue has surfaced as well and is still trying to get a legal opinion from the Division of Elections as to whether Mr. Pulliam should have been allowed to be a write-in candidate.  

– TCA 2-8-113C states:

            (c) Any person trying to receive a party nomination by write-in ballots shall complete a notice requesting such person’s ballots be counted in each county of the district no later than twelve o’clock (12:00) noon, prevailing time, fifty (50) days before the primary election.

– Mr. Pulliam did not file in one of the four counties in his district (Bradley)

Ultimately, the decision resides solely with the SEC/State Primary Board. 

Read the full background in our previous story HERE.

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

10 thoughts on “GOP Leadership Disenfranchises Blount, Polk County Voters In “Childish Display”

  • September 8, 2022 at 4:34 pm
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    Unbelievable, petty and shameful on the part of the SEC. They just made themselves less relevant in their position.

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    • September 8, 2022 at 9:54 pm
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      Shame on Scott Golden. He’s a sleaze.

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  • September 8, 2022 at 4:56 pm
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    This kind of control grabbing is why Mary Rochat is running as an independent for District 19 in November. She is a close friend and I talked to her about why not run as a republican. She already knew that the TNGOP is corrupt and doesn’t want any part of their political games. She was wise to make this decision, even though it may split the vote. I believe it is about time for ALL conservatives to disinfranchise the GOP and start a MAGA Party! Leave the old guard in the dust!!

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    • September 8, 2022 at 6:54 pm
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      It’s the Uniparty people. Only those invited can attend!

      Reply
  • September 8, 2022 at 5:17 pm
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    Bogus “chamber of commerce” type republican RINOs need to be rooted out of the new conservative MAGA republican party! Here in Tennessee, Many county organizations and the state leadership is compromised with RINOs that support each other but disenfranchise conservative and loyal republican voters. The good ol’ boy network of crooked self serving power hungry political climbers and friends of lobbyist from either party are what runs the party here it seems! Cheney and Romney type “republicans” are being rejected across the nation but the people of Tennessee seem to not be hearing about their counterparts and allies here. I am sure their friends the democrats and the lobbyist are grateful for their fake republican allies! We need to ditch Lee, Golden and many more such filthy deceivers!

    Reply
  • September 8, 2022 at 6:17 pm
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    TN SEC overriding a legitimate election as certified by the state elections office?!!!!
    Highly questionable!

    As I posted Tuesday:
    Trying to vacate a legitimate election based on not paying the $100 registration fee? Embarassing for the Tennessee Republican Party that this was even considered, esp. as this was confirmed to not be needed by the TRP office.

    That is a pure manipulation to unseat a duly elected SEC Committeeman. Bylaws are convenient when attempting to control the candidates and therefore outcomes of an election … but All Bylaws need to be followed ALL of the time by the TRP and SEC members or claiming “bylaws” looses credibility.

    Here is a HUGE problem – and why the claim the issue is the $100 registration fee is an obvious ploy from the start. (Good thing the candidate has the TRP on record about that issue)

    The SEC members are *REQUIRED* to be Capitol Club members, donating a minimum of $100 to the Tennessee Republican Party. This is specified as a Requirement in the TRP Bylaws:
    “They shall be expected to support the TRP as a member of the Capitol
    Club or higher level of support, and shall assist in recruiting local Capitol Club members.”

    Public record shows that Many SEC Members are NOT Capitol Club members.
    https://tngop.org/2022-capitol-club
    (It will be interesting to see which SEC members are suddenly added to this page … and the dates listed as their date for contribution in 2022 … hope no one is dishonest when updating this page with contributions post April … hope no Capitol Club memberships are backdated)

    If we are now disqualifying based on TRP bylaws, EVERY member that was a sitting SEC member until the election ought to have been terminated for not meeting the TRP bylaw requirements. EVERY member that was just elected on 8/4 who is not a Capitol Club Member needs to be terminated for not meeting the TRP bylaw requirements unless they immediately do so.

    Members have claimed that their Registration fee was substitute for their Capitol Club membership fee. According to the bylaws, they are 2 seperate fees … or EVERYONE paying a registartion fee to run as a Republican would also be listed a Capitol Club member. Registration fees and pure donations are 2 different donations. Are purchases for the Statesman’s Dinner counted as Capitol Club donations? Not according to the bylaws and not according to the website.

    If the TRP is now disqualifying duly elected SEC Members we need to start with those who are not following their own bylaws.

    Some SEC members complain that they serve unpaid and therefore shouldn’t need to pay the registration fee and the Capitol Club membership.
    -They voted their own rules.
    -The SEC position being unpaid was a known fact when they ran for office. If they did not want to serve in an unpaid position within the party, they should have chosen to not run for this office.
    -THEY voted to put “registration” fees in place … do they not realize that few elected offices pay what they cost to serve? What do most county commissioners receieve for their long hours of service, for example?

    SEC Members from 1/1/2022 until Sept who did not meet their own bylaws need to contribute their $100 and all newly elected need to meet this bylaw stipulation.

    Such hypocrisy that there were some who voted against Baxter Lee, Morgan Ortagus and Robby Starbuck who did not meet their own TRP bylaw requirements to be SEC members.

    Until the TRP SEC members follow their own bylaws for their own office, we voters are Very tired of the TRP SEC crying “bylaws” every time they dislike a candidate (and yes, SEC members are on public record as voting against those they removed in the 5th district as voting against them because they personally disagreed with their politics rather than the candidates not meeting the TRP bylaw requirements) or feel control over candidates is not in their hands. Seems like the bylaws are a tool for manipulation and not of actual concern for some SEC members.

    Who decides who is required to follow the bylaws and who isn’t? Why are those who aren’t followign their own bylaws allowed to skate? What backroom deals are happening in closed door sessions?

    We, the voting Republicans of TN, elect 66 people to the TRP SEC to manage it … not to control the candidates to this extent. Who we elect should be up to the voters, not controlled by 66 people who are elected to manage the TRP for the Republicans of TN.

    Maybe it comes down to one’s point of view as to what is the TRP?

    Is the TRP defined by the 66 SEC members who seem to overrule TN Republican voter’s opinions with their own personal opinions or is the Tennesse Republican Party the majority of voting Republicans, the Repulican Voting Base who the SEC members are meant to represent?

    Is the SEC and the TRP representing the voters or themselves?

    By manipulating the bylaws to represent their opinions v. the Republicans of this state and by not following their own bylaws for themselves one begins to wonder.

    Some of us Tennessee Republican voters are embarassed and disappointed that the TRP SEC is AGAIN in the news for insider fighting and manipulation against grassroots Tennessee Republicans

    Reply
  • September 8, 2022 at 9:46 pm
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    Why I quit supporting RINO ginning TNGOP, RNC/GOP.
    I only support CONSERVATIVE candidates.
    If all would do likewise, they’d prob get the message.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2022 at 12:06 pm
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    Unreal!! I reside in Hamblen County and this upsets me. Remindes me of the Republican party of TN removing Morgan Ortega from the ballot saying she wasn’t a bonifide Republican in the state of TN. All her experience and she is bonifide. I’m disappointed for Mr. Pulliam. But in larger part something fishy is going on in TN and that includes Bill Lee.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2022 at 2:20 pm
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    What’s the difference between the demonrats and republicans? Nothing! That’s why we need a third party that is called America First. Tennessee maybe red but it is turning blue very quickly with all the rinos in charge. Starting with the governor and working on down the ladder. To deny what the people of Tennessee voted for in Mr. Pulliam is an extreme form of voter suppression. There is no election integrity in either party. We need to keep OUR elections fair and honest and not make up rules because they want a specific outcome because their “good old buddy didn’t win”. This is just petty politics at its worst. I agree with the above statement stop supporting these rinos. We also need closed primaries. To have anything less is idiotic.
    In God we trust not government or man.
    Have a blessed day.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2022 at 9:15 pm
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    I just sent this to the TNGOP –

    Members of TNGOP,
    I have learned in dismay of the decision to invalidate the write-in victory of Mark Pulliam for District 2 SEC seat. By taking this position, in a reportedly shameful display of partisan hatefulness toward a legitimate candidate that was approved by the voters, the TNGOP shows where it’s loyalties are placed and it is NOT with the voting public.

    There are many examples of the the TNGOP ignoring statutes, bylaws, etc to pursue the agenda of their masters; but, as usual, when it comes to supporting a grassroots candidate approved by the voters, they will not do it.

    It is clear that the “good people” who hold elected and appointed offices in Tennessee are owned by the same hostile forces that are seeking to take away the Constitutional Republic this country is founded as, and are not good at all. This flagrant dishonesty, corruption and favoring the fascists over the people is a true example of the Luciferian Agenda in action. I pray you see your actions as the evil it is and choose to support the true owners of this nation, the people.

    Go ahead and call me crazy, extremist and dangerous. Those of you who are not too far gone know exactly what is being said here and from many others across the state and nation. Hopefully, you will figure out what you are doing and take steps to change.

    Thank you,
    Kathleen Vinson
    Oak Ridge, TN

    Reply

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