The Metro Pulse this week published a trio of articles as part of its coverage of the special election in the 6th Senate District.
Knox County Democratic Party chair Gloria Johnson announced her candidacy for the Senate District 6 race, and almost immediately fell into a swirl of controversy over her eligibility to hold the seat.
Records published by the Knox County Election Commission show that Johnson resides on Brice Street, which is in District 7, not District 6. (District 7 is currently represented by Sen. Stacey Campfield.)
Multiple online posts by supporters and detractors indicate confusion over applicable sections of state law on the matter. For example, TCA § 2-14-204 states:
Only a qualified voter of the district represented shall be eligible to succeed to the vacant seat.
However, Knoxville area blogger R. Neal points out that this may refer to county commission appointments, not special elections. This appears to be correct, as the preceding title (2-14-203) defines how interim successors are chosen, and the word “succeed” in 204 appears to continue the thought. (Sue Atchley currently holds the seat on an interim basis after being appointed by the Knox County Commission.)
But Neal then cites TCA § 3-1-102(f):
A candidate for election to the office of senator shall be required to reside in the senatorial district from which such candidate seeks to be elected for one (1) year immediately preceding the election.
Sounds simple enough, but the confusion renews when considering districts that only partially compose a county. For members of the House of Representatives, the requirements are clear: the representative needs only to live in the county, not the actual district, when a county elects 2 or more direct representatives.
In those counties entitled to elect two (2) or more direct representatives and divided by § 3-1-103 into representative districts, a candidate for election to the office of representative shall not be required to reside in the representative district from which such candidate seeks to be elected, but shall be a resident of the county.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 3-1-104
There is apparently no such provision afforded to senators from multi-district counties.
Johnson says she plans to relocate into the district by the general election date, which is in early November. Such a move raises questions among political observers who contend that the 6th Senate District is unfailingly Republican, and therefore maintain that a campaign by any Democrat is arguably quixotic. It seems like a lot of trouble, under the circumstances.
That said, any citizen who wishes to seek office and is serious about it should be encouraged to do so—and to follow all applicable rules in the process. Johnson is not a seasoned political veteran, and it seems that those counseling her in making this choice, including officials at the Knox County Election Commission and state Democratic Party chair Chip Forrester, could have provided better advice regarding the procedure.
UPDATE: See clarification from Mr. Neal in the comments, and follow his link for a legal opinion that holds TCA § 3-1-102(f) as unconstitutional.
Knox County Democratic Party chair Gloria Johnson has decided to enter the special election for the Sixth Senate District seat vacated last month by former Sen. Jamie Woodson.
Three Republican candidates are running in their party’s primary. Victoria DeFreese, Becky Duncan Massey, or Marilyn Roddy will face Johnson in the November general election. The special election coincides with municipal races in the City of Knoxville.
According to quotes in the linked news article, the search for Democratic Party candidates seems to have turned up nothing until Johnson decided, at nearly the last minute, to jump in.
The press release follows:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Chuck Fleischmann voted against The Budget Control Act of 2011.
“I applaud Speaker Boehner, and our entire leadership team, for bringing a strong Conservative voice to the negotiating table. They were faced with a Democratically-controlled Senate and a Democratic White House, yet they were able to continue turning the conversation in this country to how much we will cut spending instead of how much we will increase spending. However, I was not able to support the bill that was put forward,” Fleischmann said.
“I have said all along that a debt ceiling raise must be accompanied by a Balanced Budget Amendment and significant budget reforms. While ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’, and an earlier version of the ‘Budget Control Act’, did these things, the bill put forth today did not do so. As Senator Marco Rubio said this weekend, ‘Compromise that is not a solution is a waste of time.’ Unfortunately, the bill today did not provide real, long-term solutions.”
My, how time flies. Two years ago this month, a new blog was added to Chattarati.com called, simply enough, the “TN03 Election Blog.” Its solitary purpose: to track the candidates and issues in the election of a new U.S. Representative for Tennessee’s Third District, which former Congressman Zach Wamp resigned in order to run for governor.
But really, not that much time has passed. Only one year ago this month, on August 5th, the corner of 7th and Market Streets in Chattanooga exploded with celebration as Chuck Fleischmann squeaked past a double handful of other Republican candidates to win the primary, while just down the street at the Sports Barn, hope turned to anxiety to stinging dejection as the Robin Smith campaign team watched the returns come in.
Make no mistake: that night, revenge was sworn. Specifics were likely not determined, nor even a general plan per se; but the seed was planted. Smith had given the local party twenty years of sweat equity, and, it would seem, some felt that this congressional seat was to have been her dividend.