Local GOP Groups Disagree With RINO Vote Allowing Democrats To Vote In GOP Primaries

The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –

The Tennessee House Local Government Committee has now killed multiple bills this legislative session that would have ensured party election integrity for their constituents and the state of Tennessee as a whole. 

Committee Vice-Chair Dave Wright, and Representatives Rebecca Alexander, Dale Carr, Michael Hale, Esther Helton-Haynes, and John B. Holsclaw all participated in voice votes against House Bill 0405 (HB0405) by Rep. Bryan Richey (R-Maryville-District 20) and House Bill 1045 (HB1045) by Rep. Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown-District 38).

Rep. William Slater was present but did not vote on HB0405. However, he reportedly voted in favor of HB1045. Similarly, Committee Chair John Crawford was recorded as voting in favor of HB1045, but not HB0405.

As Republican lawmakers in Tennessee continue to vote against conservative legislation time and time again, the term RINO (Republican in Name Only) becomes more relevant than ever, leaving their conservative base to wonder what exactly their representatives are doing that warrants reelection.

Frankly, it is alarming when legislators start voting against the will of the people who elected them in the first place.

So began The Tennessee Conservative’s mission to find out what exactly Republican constituents had to say about closing the state’s primaries.

Despite a lack of response from Carter County GOP Chair Josh Hardin as well as Sullivan County GOP Chair Bill Kilgore’s refusal to comment, responses from folks in Trousdale, Hamilton, Sumner, Sevier, Knox, and Unicoi Counties were overwhelmingly in favor of closing Republican primaries.

“The TCRP is not in favor of allowing Democrats to vote in Republican primaries. It could influence our political races. It could allow a weaker candidate to become a front runner and ultimately the nominee. Which in turn, could result in a Democratic victory. It weakens our political process.” Said Rachel Jones, Trousdale County GOP Chair.

After noting her sincere respect for Rep. Slater and not wishing to guess his intentions, Jones did go on to say, “I feel if you are in an elected position and there is a vote before you that is not a conflict of interest, it is your duty to vote your conscience and to represent the best interests of your constituents.”

This sentiment was shared by Unicoi County GOP Chair, Renea Jones Rogers who wanted to give Rep. Holsclaw the benefit of the doubt stating, “I understand the committee took a voice vote, and it’s always difficult to hear and see on the video. If he did vote to allow Democrats to vote in Republican primaries, that would be disappointing.”

As the political divide grows larger and larger across the country, it is vital that conservatives ensure party election integrity. Politics may be known for being a dirty business, but when Republicans straddle the party line in a way that hurts their party and their constituents, it may be time to reevaluate. 

The following comments were also made by Tennessee’s GOP Chairs:

“All I can do is speak for myself and Sumner GOP. Our members agreed with our State Executive Committee Members when they again voted to ask legislators to close primaries. The Sumner County Republican Party is against allowing Democrats to vote in our Primaries. As Chairman I believe primaries should be decided by their own party and not by any outside influence. That is the process’s intention.” – Craig Lee Garton (Sumner County GOP Chair)

“The HCGOP is subject to the policies of the TRP, which voted to close primaries.” – Mark Harrison (Hamilton County GOP Chair)

“As a general rule, allowing registered democrats to help determine a republican nominee could cause issues like we have seen in other parts of the country and therefore not be in the best interest of the party.  We would encourage our state and national representatives from both the republican party and government sector to continue to monitor and adapt primary participation policies as necessary to ensure party integrity and candidate quality.”  – Bryan McCarter (Sevier County GOP Chair)

“While I am no longer the Knox County Republican Party Chairman, I was in favor of closing our primaries and only letting Republicans vote for our nominees.” – Daniel Herrera (Former Knox County GOP Chair)

“We support closed primaries.” – Renea Jones Rogers (Unicoi County GOP Chair)

As it stands right now Tennessee voters remain unaffiliated, allowing Democrats to vote in Republican primaries and vice versa, in direct opposition to what many conservatives are calling for.

Primary elections exist for the sole purpose of Republican and Democrat voters deciding who will represent their respective parties in the General Election. 

While intentionally voting in an opposing party’s primary is a misdemeanor and against Tennessee law, it remains largely unenforced due to the lack of party affiliation requirements in the state.

States across the country including Florida, South Dakota, Kentucky, and many others have operated efficiently under affiliation requirements for years now.

“If we’re gonna respect the laws we pass, we need to uphold them and this does that,” said Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) of Rep. Keisling’s HB1045 before it was killed in committee on March 7th.

About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at adelia@tennesseeconservativenews.com.

9 thoughts on “Local GOP Groups Disagree With RINO Vote Allowing Democrats To Vote In GOP Primaries

  • March 24, 2023 at 4:43 pm

    I am sincerely disheartened with the Republican majority. They are acting just like the Democrats when they were in control. There will be no positive change until this issue is remedied.

  • March 24, 2023 at 4:47 pm

    Great article – thank you.

    It is stupid to let Dems vote in Republican primaries. I can’t have any respect for anyone who claims to be a Conservative but allows the Dems to vote in Republican Primaries – How can they be trusted? They are like traitors. We need to oppose them and vote them out of office. They are either stupid or Libs pretending to be Conservatives. Vote them OUT!!!!

    The Dems are clever and unethical and will take advantage of that to try to manipulate elections.

    I’m in Williamson and last year a well-known Leftist who is in favor of CRT, DEI, etc. was allowed to run as a Republican because he paid $35 to join and had voted in the prior Republican Primaries. Estimates are that about 300 Dems voted for him in the Primary – he defeated a conservative by about 40 votes. The Dems here actively encourage Dems to vote in Republican Primaries. The result was that instead of our School Board being 6 Libs and 6 Conservatives, it has 7 Libs and 5 Conservatives.

  • March 24, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    There is a way to solve this problem though it will take a little time. Conservatives who read the Tennessee Conservative News should create a line item in their family budget to create a fund that will support primary opponents to the Open Primary Six and others in the 2024 Republican primary. Then let the Tennessee Conservative News begin directing us to the primary races where these opponents have the greatest prospect of success. Let’s make voting against closing Tennessee’s primaries the third rail in the General Assembly!

  • March 24, 2023 at 6:05 pm

    TNGOP is LARGELY to blame for letting RINOS run as Republicans.
    I encourage all to STOP supporting them and use funds to support the REAL republicans they oppose.

  • March 24, 2023 at 11:51 pm

    Allowing democrats to vote in Republican primaries is insane!!!! I am extremely disappointed in Esther Helton-Haynes’s voting against this!!!! I will no longer support her!

  • March 25, 2023 at 12:50 am

    Please let me offer a contrary opinion. I too am disappointed with the RINOs in the state legislature, but I don’t believe this is a defining issue. I grew up in Tennessee when there was almost no Republican Party. Whoever won the Democrat primary won the election. If I was to have any voice in the election, I had to vote in the Democrat primary. So I voted for the most conservative Democrat in the primary.

  • March 25, 2023 at 1:10 am

    We could also let the illegals vote, telling them the Democrat party, and supporters,

    are trying to create the same kind of Government they walked over a thousand miles to get away from,

    and if the Democrats win, might as well head back South.

    These Illegals could prove to be the savior of this country, they have the same burning desire for freedom/prosperity that our forefathers had and most Americans have lost.

  • March 26, 2023 at 10:22 pm

    It is time to educate more people on how the federal, state, and local governments work, whose on first, whose on second. Who actually represents them, etc. How bills are passed. It is amazing how many people are clueless. The “Republican Party” is clueless as to how to move forward and win. Set up some free classes to educate people. If you know how it works, educate someone else. Provide clear info on how reps vote–all in one place. Provide info on how specific judges rule–all in one place. The last time I voted, there was a long list of judges to vote on, and I was clueless. Shame on me.

    It is time to put all those who represent us on full display that is easily accessible.


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