Image Credit: tngop.org
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
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.
Now, the Tennessee GOP’s State Party Chairman Scott Golden has threatened to declare Pulliam as “non-bona fide” and “vacate” his election even though Pulliam meets 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 states 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 have not heard back upon this article’s publication.
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 September 7th.
The email gave the background information as follows:
– 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
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.
In response, Pulliam said that the TCA 2-8-113C also states that “ “Such person shall only have votes counted in counties where such notice was completed and timely filed.”
“My deliberate failure to file in Bradley County (only a portion of which is included in District 2) does not disqualify my write-in candidacy; it only prevents write-in votes from being counted in Bradley County,” Pulliam said.
The official election results from the Secretary of State show that Pulliam received no write-in votes in Bradley County regardless, so this would appear to be a non-issue.
The Secretary of State’s website also states that, “If you are running for an office in a district with multiple counties, you must file an original form in each county within the district where you want your write-in votes counted.”
Pulliam said, “As things now stand, I am in complete limbo. I have read the bylaws carefully and there is not a shred of a basis to object to my write-in candidacy. Whatever ‘concerns’ are being voiced are totally pretextual.”
Meanwhile District 2 voters are voicing their own concerns about why the TNGOP is considering disregarding the votes they cast on August 4th.
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