DeBerry sponsored 2010 bill to have courts — not parties — decide primary challenges

State Rep. John DeBerry, a longtime Memphis lawmaker appealing his removal from the Democratic primary ballot, once sponsored legislation aimed at eliminating political parties’ authority to decide primary contests.

The legislation would have sent primary challenges to administrative law judges, not party executive committees. The administrative rulings could have then been appealed to chancery court.

DeBerry’s 2010 bill was filed two years after Democrats declared then-Sen. Rosalind Kurita’s 19-vote primary victory “incurably uncertain” and awarded the nomination to Clarksville Democrat Tim Barnes. Democrats had been furious at Kurita for breaking ranks and voting for the Republican Sen. Ron Ramsey for speaker in 2007.

DeBerry was widely believed to have similarly agreed to vote for Rep. Jason Mumpower, the Republican nominee for House speaker, in 2009. But DeBerry ended up sticking with fellow Democrats to install Republican Rep. Kent Williams as the chamber’s leader. Williams was thrown out of the state GOP for the maneuver.

DeBerry insisted at the time his legislation was “not the Kurita memorial bill.” He said it was instead inspired by “some of the things said to me by some of my own colleagues in Memphis over the years reminding me who owns this office.” His goal, he said, was to enable all members of to be good legislators and party members “without being under undue pressure from any particular group.”

As DeBerry put it at the time, “when the taxpayers pay for an election nd somebody is elected, the election is over unless there is fraud.” Leaders of both parties opposed the bill because it would have weakened control over their own primaries and the bill failed.

Under the proposal, the parties would have retained their power to declare a candidate to be not a “bona fide” member and keep them off the primary ballot — as ended up occuring to DeBerry last week. The state Democratic Party is scheduled to take up his appeal on Wednesday.

2 Responses to DeBerry sponsored 2010 bill to have courts — not parties — decide primary challenges

  • Avatar
    David Collins says:

    Deberry did not do his homework on this subject. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled back in the 1950’s that qualifications for party membership is a political question to be addressed and answered by the political parties themselves, not the courts. This position has been reaffirmed over and over since then and is not likely to ever change as the courts have the good sense not to get in the middle of such controversies.

  • Avatar
    Perry Aubric says:

    The Democratic Executive Committee outright stole that election from Rosalind Kurita. It was just spiteful revenge because she didn’t vote their way on a speaker election. Now they are applying a litmus test. Shameful. Let the Democratic voters of that district pick their nominee. We need party registration and we don’t need the worthless, unproductive nitwits on the TNDP Executive Committee trying time be purity police. I have been and am a lifelong Democrat, but the EC has never been worth a tinker’s damn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *