Gay couple protests TNGOP use of wedding photo in attack ad; more media reporting on Senate District 14

A direct mail attack ad against Democratic state Senate candidate Gayle Jordan uses a picture of her with two gay men – she officiated at their marriage – who have consulted a lawyer because the photograph was lifted from a Facebook page and used without their permission, reports WSMV.

Shane Morgan, an Air Force veteran who suffers from PTSD, said he and his husband, Landon, were married by Jordan in December as private citizens and didn’t sign up to be caught in mudslinging. The attack mailer has a headline over the picture saying, “Liberal Gayle Jordan will destroy the fabric of American society. Take her word for it.”

Both of the men’s faces are blurred, but Morgan said their faces can still be recognized.

“To see our picture on our wedding day being used in such a vile manner, it’s taken that special moment and ruined it,” Morgan said. “Ruined it. Very hurt. Very hurt.”

The mailer was paid for by the Tennessee Republican Party. A rep for the group said the mailer is only meant to highlight Jordan’s Facebook post, accompanying the picture, which says, “Doing my part to destroy the fabric of American society.”

The rep said the comment is very serious, even if made in jest, and the mailer doesn’t have anything to do with the gay couple or have anything negative to say about them.

…Morgan and his husband have hired attorney Sunny Eaton of Eastside Legal, who said her clients were exploited for political purposes and their rights to privacy violated.

“It’s just sad anyone would use someone’s wedding photos, which represent one of the happiest days in their lives, to attack somebody,” said Chris Sanders of the TN Equality Project. “It’s fine to hit the candidate, but it’s not right to sling mud on others in the process. That’s what we’re seeing here. It is just so emotionally unsettling to see your wedding photo, that happy day, used in that context.”

“I’m under a lot of stress, and with my PTSD, it’s just flaring up even worse,” Morgan said. “I hate it. Don’t use people’s private personal pictures to smear your opponent.”

Notes: There’s ample mainstream media coverage of the race otherwise. Joel Ebert writing for Gannett-owned newspapers, for a leading example, has a lengthy overview story, including observations that the contest ‘is making Republicans sweat in ways that once seemed inconceivable” and that Jordan got more than 18,000 votes in losing by a 3-to-1 margin to former Sen. Jim Tracy during the widely ignored 2016 general election — probably far more than will be cast in a special state Senate election. The article also includes a mention of campaign finances:

Among the criticisms (Senate Speaker Randy) McNally leveled against Jordan were that “out-of-state liberals” her campaign and were backed by “out-of-state liberals” who were “spending thousands of dollars” to get her elected.

An analysis of Jordan’s campaign finance disclosures indicates that roughly $9,050, or 30 percent, of her $29,000 in itemized contributions came from people outside of Tennessee. Meanwhile, $10,600, or 3 percent, of Reeves’ $335,000 itemized contributions came from non-Tennesseans.

Overall, Reeves has made $568,000 in expenditures, spending 26 times the amount of money Jordan has so far in the race. (Note: As reported in the article Reeves had a primary while Jordan did not.)

See also WPLN’s report, which includes a description of Reeves as “frantic” in a social media message and has comments from the candidates:

“If any Republicans out there right now in this climate are not taking serious that the Democratic Party is mobilized and mad,” Reeves says, “then they’re making a big mistake.”

…”I think there are a number — including the folks in District 14 — of good, good people that are members of the Republican Party who believe in the things that the Republican Party used to stand for,” she (Jordan) says. “And I think they’re frustrated.”

Jordan believes a platform focused on issues like expanded health care, better schools and improved broadband in rural areas can win back voters who’ve drifted from the Democratic Party.

“It’s critical, I think, for us to have our Democratic voices out there saying, ‘There are other ways to do this.'”

And another recent mailer to district voters, headlined in bold letters “CONSERVATIVE SHANE REEVES NEEDS YOU” has a letter signed by state GOP Chairman Scott Golden and some Republicans living in the district, including former state Rep. Donna Rowland of Murfreesboro. Excerpt:

In a recent debate, Democrat nominee Gayle Jordan said, ‘If you are conservative or support Trump then don’t vote for me.’ We needed no extra motivation but we certainly got it with that statement. We feel like she and the Tennessee Democrats have thrown down the gauntlet in this race and conservatives need to rise up to take this challenge seriously!

If we fail to elect our Republican candidate in this special election, we run the very real risk of this district being represented by values contrary to those we have all grown up with and firmly believe in today.

“Make no mistake, the Democrats are eager to win this Senate seat. They came close in another recent state Senate special election, in a historically strong republican area, where we held the state by a mere 308 votes. This close vote was not due to ideology, but to the dogged determination of the Democrat party to turn out their voters. Republicans felt their candidate couldn’t lose, so no urgency was felt to make the extra effort to follow through to the general election. Complacency is a huge mistake.

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