tennessee democratic party

Read the Democratic lawsuit seeking to halt the GOP’s redistricting plan

Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), left, walks to look at a proposed House redistricting map on Dec. 17, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Tenenssee Democrats seeks to to halt the Republican redistricting plan for state House and Senate.

“From the very beginning, we doubted that the Tennessee redistricting process would be open and fair,” said state Democratic Party Chair Hendrell Remus. Unfortunately, Republicans also violated the law while gerrymandering our state. We’re proud to be supporting these individuals in their efforts to ensure equal representation for every Tennessean.”

Read the complaint here:

IN THE CHANCERY COURT OF TENNESSEE FOR THE TWENTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

AKILAH MOORE, TELISE TURNER, and GARY WYGANT v.

BILL LEE, Governor, TRE HARGETT, Secretary of State, MARK GOINS, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections; all in their official capacity only)

COMPLAINT

Over the course of approximately two weeks in January 2022, the Tennessee General Assembly engaged in an unprecedented reapportionment of voters, redrawing state House and Senate maps to ensure maximum partisan advantage for the incumbent Republican supermajority. Redistricting decisions were made largely out of view of the public and largely without input from representatives of the minority party. These one-sided decisions denied voters any real opportunity to participate in – much less stop – fundamental changes to the process through which Tennessee voters choose their elected representatives.

Crucially for purposes of this lawsuit, the Tennessee General Assembly supermajority and Governor Bill Lee ignored the plain, unambiguous text of the Tennessee Constitution in order to enact their partisan redistricting scheme. They did so in two ways: first, by dividing more counties than necessary to create House districts with roughly equal populations, and second, by numbering state senatorial districts nonconsecutively. These actions both contravene the language of the Tennessee Constitution.

Regardless of the supermajority’s motives, the Tennessee General Assembly’s and Governor’s redistricting maps are facially unconstitutional according to the text of our state’s founding document. The above-named Plaintiffs – on behalf of all voters of Tennessee – file this action seeking a swift declaration and injunction requiring that the Tennessee General Assembly and Governor immediately adopt maps that conform with the Tennessee Constitution.

INTRODUCTION

1. This lawsuit challenges the Tennessee General Assembly’s recent reapportionment of the Tennessee House of Representatives and Tennessee Senate for violating two provisions of the Tennessee Constitution.

2. First, the legislature’s reapportionment of the House of Representatives divides more counties than necessary to ensure that all districts have roughly equal populations.

3. Second, the legislature’s reapportionment of the Senate fails to consecutively number the four senatorial districts included in Davidson County.

4. County Divisions: The Tennessee Constitution prohibits legislators from dividing individual counties when creating multi-county legislative districts, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution requires the creation of legislative districts with roughly equal populations. The Tennessee Supreme Court has reconciled these two provisions by holding that the General Assembly must create as few county-dividing districts as is necessary to ensure that all legislative districts contain roughly equal populations.

5. The General Assembly’s reapportionment of the House of Representatives violates this constitutional mandate by creating significantly more county-dividing House districts than necessary to maintain districts with roughly equal populations. The newly-enacted House apportionment plan crosses 30 county lines, despite the fact that significantly fewer county divisions could have been achieved while also maintaining roughly equal populations in each district. The legislative history illustrates this constitutional violation, as one alternate map submitted to the legislature contained just 23 county divisions, while also achieving closer population parity than the plan that the General Assembly approved. The General Assembly’s failure to reduce county divisions in its House plan violates the Tennessee Constitution.

6. Senate District Numbering: When a single county contains more than one senatorial district, the Tennessee Constitution requires the districts in that county to be numbered consecutively. This requirement ensures that half of a large county’s senatorial districts will be on the ballot in presidential election years and half of a large county’s senatorial districts will be on the ballot in gubernatorial election years, given that even-numbered districts are on the ballot in presidential election years and odd-numbered districts are on the ballot in gubernatorial election years.

7. The General Assembly’s new Senate map creates four senatorial districts within Davidson County, including three districts that are entirely within Davidson County and a fourth district that includes a portion of Davidson County along with all of Wilson County. The General Assembly numbered these districts 17, 19, 20, and 21, ensuring that three districts will be on the ballot during gubernatorial elections and just one district will be on the ballot during presidential elections. Before enacting this map, an amendment was proposed that would have corrected this deficiency by properly numbering Davidson County’s senatorial districts. The General Assembly rejected this amendment.

8. The General Assembly’s Senate apportionment map violates the Tennessee Constitution’s express requirement that senatorial “districts shall be numbered consecutively” in counties having more than one senatorial district. Tenn. Const. art. II, Sec. 3.

9. These constitutional violations can be, and should be, corrected before the August 2022 legislative primary elections. This Court should provide the General Assembly with fifteen days to enact new apportionment plans that correct these violations, as required by T.C.A. § 20- 18-105(a). If the General Assembly fails to enact such new maps by the Court’s deadline, the Court should then “impose an interim districting plan,” as authorized by T.C.A. § 20-18-105(b). Such interim districting plan would only apply to the 2022 legislative election cycle. Id.

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Tennessee Democratic Party urges Senate not to oust Robinson

State Sen. Katrina Robinson confers with Rep. G.A. Hardaway (both D-Memphis) after the Sente Ethics Committee recommended Robinson’s expulsion on Jan. 20, 20222. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state Democratic Party is urging Republicans not to go through with ousting Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) from the chamber on Wednesday.

A jury has found Robinson guilty on two counts of wire fraud, but the senator has yet to be sentenced in federal court. Robinson also struck a deal for pretrial diversion in a separate case alleging she defrauded to pre-trial diversion on separate case in which the government alleged she conspired to cheat a man out of $14,470 by falsely claiming the money was needed to cover tuition for a student at her nursing school.

Here’s the release from the Tennessee Democratic Party:

Tomorrow, the full Tennessee State Senate will join a premature and ill-advised effort by a select few to remove duly elected State Senator Katrina Robinson from her seat in the Tennessee State Legislature.

Once again, we see Republicans rush to judgment on their Democratic colleague in a blatant attempt to ruin her career in the name of ethics. The ethical thing for the State Senate to do is provide her with the same due diligence that it has provided her male colleagues in the past. With impending court proceedings, she deserves the right to continue serving until this legal matter has reached its final outcome. 

This action sends a message to women seeking to serve, especially those of color, that State Legislators can deny you a fair process but, most importantly, show complete disregard to due process in hopes of scoring political points. We are encouraging State Senators to give Senator Robinson a fair opportunity and to not uphold the recommendation for expulsion. 

A preemptive decision to remove her from the Senate prior to the final outcome of her ongoing legal matter that has continuously evolved in a way that has favored her, would be a mistake and would set the wrong precedent for the future. 

Tennessee Democratic Party announces new staff hires

New state Democratic Party Chair Hendrell Remus has named his political and party affairs directors, along with a new operations manager. Announcements for other key positions, including executive director, communications, and finance are expected soon.

Here’s the full release from the party:

March 10th, 2021 (Nashville, TN)  – The Tennessee Democratic Party is excited to welcome and announce key members of our 2021-2022 leadership team. Chair Remus has vowed to build a diverse team that reflects our party’s big tent philosophy and that will help us to reimagine democratic politics in Tennessee. Therefore, he has selected Tamara Bates as Director of Political Affairs; Maria Brewer as Director of Party Affairs & Training and Arsenio Williams as Operations Manager.

 “In order for us to move the needle in our state, we have to be intentional about who is leading the charge and the experiences that they bring to their roles. We must ensure that we have the type of political engagement that will mobilize our base along with the type of operational and organizational knowledge to deliver results. This core team I’m announcing today, with the future additions to come in weeks, has the necessary skill and talent to turn Tennessee blue in 2022.” – Hendrell Remus, TNDP Party Chair

Tamara Bates recently helped to flip the senate as a Regional Field Director for Woke Vote during the U.S. Senate races in Georgia. With an abundance of campaign experience rooted in southern politics on the national, state, and local levels, she brings the type of political and strategic insight that will allow TNDP to expand its reach with its core constituencies through organizing, while building and strengthening our relationships with elected leaders and allied organizations, to win.

Maria Brewer has served as the Director of Party Affairs for TNDP since 2017. She will continue in her role while also leading our statewide training initiative. She has worked with and understands the complexities of the inner workings of our county parties, the DNC, and the Executive Committee. 

Arsenio Williams will bring a depth of operational experience to the day-to-day office operations of the TNDP. His knowledge in financial compliance and experience managing contracts and personnel will be an asset to ensuring that business operations flow seamlessly.

In addition, Joshua Karp will serve as Strategic Communications Advisor to the TNDP. He has served as the Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party as well as the Deputy Campaign Manager for Andrew Gillum. Karp most recently served as an Advisor to current DNC Chair Jaime Harrison while also helping to flip the Senate with Jon Ossoff as Communication Strategist.

In the near future we look forward to naming our Executive Director, Data, Communications, and Finance Directors.

Mancini won’t seek another term as chair of Tennessee Democratic Party

Mancini (Image credit: TNDP)

Mary Mancini won’t seek another term as a chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, a position she has held since 2014.

“It has been an honor of a lifetime to work with Democrats across the state and serve the Tennessee Democratic Party as chair for the last six years,” Mancini said. “I am excited to see what’s next for the Party and I look forward to helping the new chair in whatever capacity is needed.”

The move comes as state Democrats have made net gains of only one legislative seat in each of the last two election cycles despite favorable national political conditions.

Potential candidate to succeed her include state Rep. London Lamar of Memphis, Democratic National Committee member Wade Munday, and two-time congressional candidate Renee Hoyos from Knoxville.

Mancini won her most recent election by a 48-19 vote by the party’s executive committee.

Report: Democratic congressional nominee bounced checks to Biden, state party

Christopher Hale, a candidate for the 4th Congressional District who won the Democratic nomination despite fraud allegations dating back to his time as the head of a Catholic nonprofit in Washington, bounced checks to presidential candidate Joe Biden and the state party, according to the Tennessee Lookout.

According to Lookout reporter Nate Rau, Hale bounced a $2,000 check to attend a Biden fundraiser last year. Another $2,500 to the Tennessee Democratic Party didn’t clear in July 2019. Haile issued a series of denials about failing to cover his checks. He told the Lookout he had been invited to the Biden fundraiser by host Bill Freeman without being required to pay. He said he was unaware of a problem with the check to the state party.

After losing a previous bid for the Democratic nomination in the 4th District, Hale proposed launching a political action committee to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support campaigns. While he did found the Our Tennessee PAC, it has since shown no fundraising activity, according to campaign finance reports.

State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said Hale told her he planned to raise between $150,000 and $200,000.

“He told me, and he told a lot of people, he was going to raise all this money and he never did,” shesaid.

Read the full report here.

DeBerry to challenge Democratic ouster after all

After the state Democratic Party’s executive committee voted last week to remove John DeBerry’s name from the primary ballot, the longtime state House member from Memphis sounded resigned to his fate

“The Tennessee Democratic Party has decided that a 26-year representative that spent 12 years as a committee chairman, conducted himself with integrity, served the party well, sponsored meaningful legislation and built bridges across the aisle to get bills passed is no longer a Democrat,” DeBerry said in a statement on Wednesday. “And so, I’m not.”

But come Friday, DeBerry seemed to have changed his mind, telling the Memphis Flyer’s Jackson Baker he plans to mount an appeal.

DeBerry said he had been “ambushed and blindsided” by the move to oust him from the ballot “after the filing deadline and in the middle of a pandemic.” DeBerry said the case against him was supported by “a group of people who don’t look like us.”

DeBerry said the deadline to file a challenge is Thursday.

Bush, Jones vow to fight ballot exclusion; DeBerry won’t

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Byron Bush and Democratic U.S. House candidate Justin Jones are vowing to fight their exclusions from the primary ballot in August. But longtime state Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis says he won’t challenge fellow Democrats’ decision to remove him.

Bush, who also ran for the Senate in 1994, was deemed ineligible to run as a Republican because he hadn’t voted in three of the last four primaries. Jones failed to submit 25 valid signatures for his effort to challenge incumbent Jim Cooper (D-Nashville). DeBerry was excluded by Democrats because of his pattern of voting with Republicans on issues like abortion and school vouchers.

“The so-called party of inclusion is everything but inclusive,” DeBerry told the Commercial Appeal . “It’s all about thinking with one brain, marching in step and following the company line, sitting there like a brainless idiot and letting them tell you what to do.”

Jones, who is best known for leading protests against the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust at the state Capitol, said hehe missed the cut by a single signature. He blamed the coronavirus pandemic for making it more difficult to collect the signatures.

“We have heard ‘no’ since we announced this campaign,” Jones said in a Twitter post.”We fought then. And will continue fighting now.”

Bush, who was also a Republican candidate for the Senate in 1994, was among five candidates running to succeed Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) this year who were deemed not to be bona fide Republicans.

Bush had used his current campaign as a platform for railing against state judges following his losing legal battle to prevent a property foreclosure in 2012. Bush, a Nashville dentist, drew a modicum of attention by running local ads during the Super Bowl.

(Bush’s full statement after the jump)

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When is the voter registration deadline? Don’t ask the Dems

Monday is the voter registration deadline for Tennessee’s Super Tuesday presidential primary. An email blast from the state Democratic Party sent out on Friday alerted supporters that that deadline was on March 3 — the date of the actual primary. The party sent out a corrected release the following day.

Graphic: Tennessee Journal.

The date of the voter registration deadline was correct in the body of the email blast, but not in the headline.

All the action this year is in the Democratic primary, given that President Donald Trump hasn’t drawn any serious opposition on the Republican side.

Here’s the graphic that accompanied both emails from the Democrats: