The little-known and rarely used “Anti-Skullduggery Act of 1991” has been invoked by Sumner County officials in the already contentious Republican primary in the 7th District of the Sumner County Commission.
The colorfully named law, enacted as TCA 2-5-101(h)(1) provides that if a qualified incumbent dies or properly withdraws on the last day for withdrawing, additional candidates may qualify within seven days of the original withdrawal deadline.
Effectively, the Anti-Skullduggery Act allows a seven day extension for new candidates to qualify and an additional four days after the new qualifying deadline to withdraw. According to Sumner County Administrator of Elections, Lori Atchley, the purpose of the Act is to prevent an incumbent from setting up their replacement with a last minute qualifying petition and withdrawal by the incumbent.
In the case of the Sumner County 7th Commission District, single-term incumbent commissioner JoAnne Kemp intends to move out of the county in a relatively short timeframe, and, as such, withdrew her name as a qualified candidate. Unintentionally, Kemp’s withdrawal occurred on the final day, thereby legally requiring the Sumner County Election Commission to extend a qualifying and withdrawal period limited to the 7th County Commission district.
The original filing deadline for the May 1 primary election was February 15. After the invocation of the Anti-Skulduggery Act, that deadline was extended to Monday March 5.
According to the Sumner County Election Commission report, no new candidates have pulled a petition or qualified as a result of the re-opening of petitions for the Sumner County 7th Commission District. The final day to withdraw from the re-opened qualification period is noon on Monday, March 5, 2018.
Coincidentally, this the 7th District of Sumner County’s Board of County Commissioners is the one in which first-time candidate, Lee Hord, was singled out of the then four candidates as a target of intimidation tactics in an attempt to get him to withdraw.
Additionally, Hord’s Republican credentials were called into question by Republican State Executive Committeewoman Melissa Gay, based on the new, but not widely publicized rules change requiring a candidate to have voted in three of the last four Republican primaries.
Hord successfully contested the challenge and will be appearing on the May 1 Republican primary ballot for Sumner County’s 7th Commission District. Two other Republican candidates in Sumner County were removed from the ballot due to a challenge against their “bona fide” credentials.
More recently, two declared registered Republican voters in the same Sumner County 7th Commission District signed a letter to State Party Chairman Scott Golden challenging the “bona fide” status of candidate Loren Echols.
The letter, dated February 27 and sent via Federal Express, reports to Golden, “Ms. Echols is not an active member of the Republican party, has never attended a Sumner County GOP meeting or joined the Sumner County GOP.” It goes on to say that Echols “only recently joined the auxiliary women’s GOP to run for office.”
Pointing to the recent controversial change to the Tennessee Republican Party Bylaws, Echols “has failed to vote in 3 of the 4 most recent statewide primaries as required by the TN GOP by-laws (Article IX).”
Perhaps equally as incriminating, “Ms. Echols has voted as a Democrat in two primaries within the last 10 years and is generally regarded as a Democrat in Hendersonville, i.e. District 7.”
The 2018 elections may prove pivotal to Tennessee’s Republican supermajority, given repeated warnings about disenfranchised Republican voters and energized Democrat voters, as Judson Phillips warned in this recent commentary in The Tennessee Star.
The recent scant 300 vote victory by State Representative Mark Pody in the State Senate District 17 special election against a relatively unknown Democrat was a potential local earning warning sign.
The March 13 special election in State Senate District 14 between Republican primary winner Shane Reeves and self-declared “hippie, liberal aetheist activist” and Recovering from Religion Executive Director Democrat opponent Gayle Jordan is the next local election to watch for potential GOP turnout problems.