A hearing was held last Tuesday in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on the federal lawsuit brought by former Sen. Rosalind Kurita over her 2008 removal from the ballot by the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Democratic Party.
As expected, the central issue being argued is whether a primary election is a binding artifact of public will, or is equal to conventions, caucuses, and other means by which political parties nominate candidates, and thus subject to the party’s control.
The Washington Examiner reported on some of the positions presented by the two sides.
Kurita’s attorney, Joe Bopp, told the judges that under state law, political parties play no role in the primary election process; instead, it is an election held so voters of each party may select a nominee.
“The primary is a substitute for a caucus or a nominating convention,” Bopp said.
Tennessee Assistant Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter said … “We don’t consider primary elections to be elections. We consider primaries to be vehicles for the parties to select nominees.
This is no secret, but I would have to side with Kurita’s attorney. Yes, the primary election is the chosen vehicle by which two parties in this state nominate their candidates; but since doing it that way means being governed by state election law; and since the elections are funded by public means; and since they are attended by the general public, and not exclusive to party members, then I argue that a winner of such an election must be recognized. The parties can’t have it both ways.
However, I would not go so far as to demand that Kurita be seated in the Senate.
Due to her party’s actions, she did not run in, and therefore did not win, the general election. Senator Tim Barnes did. (I allow that it’s reasonable to assume that she’d have won; I’m just pointing out that she didn’t.) I would look to the Court of Appeals to rule that parties can’t decide to overturn elections. I realize that this is a fine line, and I welcome any and all differing opinions.
UPDATE: this post has been corrected by striking through incorrect statements in the above paragraph, and to add here that Kurita ran as a write-in candidate in the general election, but was defeated by Barnes, who ran as the Democratic Party candidate. Thanks to a kind reader who pointed out my error.
Hat tip: Ballot Access News