Griffey defends caucus move after wife denied judicial post

Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) attends a meeting at the legislative office building in Nashville on Dec. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Freshman Rep. Bruce Griffey and his wife, Rebecca, were outraged when Republican Gov. Bill Lee selected Huntingdon attorney Jennifer King to become the chancellor for the judicial district covering Benton, Carroll, Decatur, Hardin, and Henry counties.

Rebecca Griffey had failed to make the list of three finalists for the position in June, but her husband had been lobbying the governor to choose her anyway — even offering Harvey Durham, the father of ousted former state Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin), as having particular insight over the matter. In a letter to Lang Wiseman, the governor’s top legal adviser, Bruce Griffey said it would be a “gross miscarriage of justice” if his wife didn’t end up on the bench, according to correspondence obtained by The Tennessee Journal under public records laws.

Despite those entreaties, Lee on Sept. 4 announced he had chosen King from the list of three finalists. Two days later, Rebecca Griffey took to Facebook to express her anger.

“Today was a big slap in the face to longtime, dedicated Republicans who have devoted blood, sweat, tears and money for years to the Republican cause,” she wrote.

Wiseman took note of the Facebook post, texting a copy to Bruce Griffey on Sept. 6.

“Why are you txt me this?” Griffey responded. Then the lawmaker sent him the copy of a news story about former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile saying she had “proof” that Hillary Clinton had rigged the presidential primary in 2016.

It’s unclear why Griffey sent Wiseman the link to that story, but it was then that King alleges the Griffeys and their allies began manipulating county Republican officials and the state GOP, where Rebecca Griffey is an executive committee member, to give them greater sway over who would be the party’s nominee for the chancellorship in 2020 — in other words, not King. So just nine days after her appointment to the bench, she quit.

The Republican parties in the five counties comprising the 24th District had been given the option of whether to hold a primary election for the chancellorship, or to plot the more unusual course of holding caucuses to determine their standard bearer. When the vote was tallied, the preference among the majority was to hold a primary.

Under party rules, the counties were bound by the decision of the majority to inform their respective county election commissions that they were going to hold a primary. Three county parties did, but those in Henry and Hardin counties failed to submit the notices by the June 17 deadline. King wrote in her resignation letter that what should have happened next is that the two counties that failed to submit their filings should have been excluded from the nomination contest.

But on Sept. 6 — two days after King’s appointment and the same day Bruce Griffey sent the cryptic text message about the “rigged” Democratic primary — the state party informed the county parties that a majority had asked to reconvene to reconsider its actions. This time the vote was 8-2 to abandon the primary and instead hold a caucus. King alleged in her letter to the governor that nothing in state GOP bylaws allowed for that redo. The party says it consulted with state Division of Elections before going forward with another vote.

Bruce Griffey in a statement said the decision to hold a caucus had “nothing whatsoever to do with Ms. King being appointed by Governor Lee.” Instead, he said, the decision needed to ensure that all five counties got a chance to participate in the nomination process.

But the timing of various votes has led to widespread speculation that GOP officials in Henry and Hardin counties purposefully withheld their filings so the case could be made later that that it wouldn’t be right to exclude them from the nomination contest.

Not so, Griffey said it in his statement.

“It was a matter of fundamental fairness in allowing all 5 counties in the district to participate and was done in accordance with the TN GOP Bylaws,” he said.

18 Responses to Griffey defends caucus move after wife denied judicial post

  • Beatrice Shaw says:

    Dumb statement by Griffey’s wife. The current and former administration prefer Dems over Republicans. A bit like Stockholm Syndrome.

  • Misty Pardner says:

    Bullshit, Bruce.

  • Trudy says:

    Blah, blah, blah….. Bruce is as incompetent and has no business in office.They are in this for the Griffey ‘s and not his constituents. Bruce and Rebecca owe the Governor and the people in his district an apology. Go back to Florida!!!

  • Cannoneer2 says:

    There should be a rule that if a District elects three crooks/incompetents/shady characters in a row, that they are without a Representative for the next two year cycle. I’d say we have Strike 2 here.

    • West Tennessee Skeptic says:

      who among Griffey’s immediate predecessors are “crooks/incompetents/shady characters” ? Live in the district. None of recent representatives (including Bruce) were anything special, but not sure your characterization is accurate.

  • Blue Lady says:

    Is it ethical for a state rep to presume to know more than the Governor? I do not know but it is highly rude I would assume.

  • Perry Aubric says:

    Griffeys = Grifters

    • Misty Pardner says:

      Ha, check out my boys Mylife score. The lowest I’ve seen yet and the Tea Baggers love em. I thought the GOP was the party of personal responsibility?

      • Stuart I. Anderson says:

        Oh dear, Misty were you aware that MyLife is subject to a permanent injunction that prohibits the company from engaging in false advertising and unauthorized credit card charges in California? Did you know that your source for evaluating politicians agreed to a judgement under which it paid $800,000 in penalties plus $250,000 in refunds to customers for violating California’s Anti-Spam Law? Speaking of scores, the Better Business Bureau which rates businesses on a scale of A+ to F rates MyLife as B- with no accreditation which means MyLife doesn’t meet the BBB’s “Standard for Trust” that the BBB expect business follow. Now to be honest, that miserable score is an improvement over the rating of D and later F that the BBB formerly “awarded” to MyLife.

        Misty, I was so upset by you’re relying on this sleazy organization for evaluating politicians that I stopped watching Tucker Carlson, my favorite television program, just to encourage you to look to another source for your evaluations. May I suggest the Heritage Action Scorecard that I and my fellow “Tea Baggers” find to be very reliable.

    • Trudy says:

      In a nut shell!

  • Gail West says:

    A question that needs to be answered is why did Henry County (county residence of Griffeys) and Hardin County (residence county of another of the three finalists submitted to the Governor ) did not comply with the June 17th deadline. That’s not coincidence. It is orchestration. Another question is why does a first term Republican State Representative get away with being so demanding and pushy to the Republican Governor. Judicial positions should be filled, whether by appointment or election, by character and experience qualifications rather than as partisan handouts to party leaders. I’m not going to use some anonymous sounding screen name. I’ll use by own. I am an attorney who believes that the practice of that profession is a commitment to the Constitution. People who work in the DA’s office should forego high level party politics and spend their time and efforts building the community’s trust in the fair and unbiased administration of justice. I am a proud life long resident of Carroll County and I resent our Chancellor’s seat being railroaded and traded as a pawn for political party favors. And, yes, I am presently a registered Democrat. But when you live in a substantially one party district, that party’s politics become the business of EVERY citizen no matter what the citizen’s party identification. The treatment of Jennifer King was reprehensible. Her resignation is a loss to the judicial system. Everyone should be wary of all those who manipulated this situation.

  • Brian Risner says:

    Griffey and Stuart both nuts!! Just like Joe Carr. when will the truth about Joe’s beliefs come out and scare Bill Lee?

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Oh yes, sort of reminds me of the last days of the Soviet Union when they put dissidents in “psychiatric hospitals” on the grounds that you had to be “nuts” to disagree with the government. Be careful Brian, your intolerance is showing.

  • TN Man says:

    The State GOP screwed up BIGTIME on this. Word on the street is that TRP staff were instructed to help Griffey and use the framework of the bylaws to do so.

  • James White says:

    Nothing new here, corruption in both parties, I mean, the party (as there is only one party).

  • Susan says:

    I hope that Griffey and his wife will not succeed in rigging this position for their own advantage. The whole enchilada smells fishy, the primary should still prevail. We do not need or want another Griffey in power.

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