The Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (SEC) in a meeting held via conference call Wednesday evening voted to affirm the August 6 results of the House District 18 primary that was won by Eddie Mannis, potentially in violation of state law.
The vote was 43 to 18 by the SEC, which functions as the State Primary Board (SPB) in a primary contest.
The contest was brought on by Mannis’ challenger in the Republican primary, Gina Oster, because of evidence that there was crossover voting by Democrats in numbers that exceeded Mannis’ 99-vote margin of victory, The Tennessee Star reported.
While the SEC had a meeting on Saturday, the issue wasn’t taken up at that time due to timing requirements after a contest is declared as laid out in state law.
Oster attended Saturday’s SEC meeting, and some of the documents that each candidate submitted to Chairman Scott Golden were provided in hard copy form to the SEC members for their review prior to the conference call.
Oster, however, had submitted a cover document along with 10 exhibits referenced in her cover document, and none of those were included with the information provided to the SEC members Saturday.
During the conference call meeting Wednesday, set specifically to address the contest, each of the candidates was allotted five minutes to make their case to the SPB.
Oster spoke for herself first, then Mannis made his case followed by his attorney from the high-powered law firm Baker Donelson.
Immediately after Chairman Scott Golden declared that the meeting was moving to the discussion phase, SEC member Matthew Coleman made a motion to transmit the disqualification of Mannis to the coordinator of elections to comply with T.C.A. 2-5-204, removing Mannis as the Republican nominee from Tennessee House District 18 and naming Oster as the Republican nominee as required by the Rules and Regulations of the Tennessee Republican Party and T.C.A. 2-17-104.
Coleman went on to explain that the SEC made a mistake when they voted back in March disqualifying Mannis from the ballot by not transmitting it to the coordinator of elections in accordance with T.C.A. 2-5-204.
Under that section, the SEC has the exclusive right to determine disqualifications, but the TRP bylaws allowing the chairman to make the determination of a candidate’s Republican bona fides, are in conflict with the law.
Despite a recent history of Democrat voting and political contributions, Golden overrode the SEC vote and determined that Mannis was a bona fide Republican based on vouching from Congressman Tim Burchett, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and state Senator Richard Briggs.
Under Article IX, Section 5 of the TRP bylaws, Coleman went on, anytime there is a conflict with state statute, the bylaws are automatically amended to mirror the statute.
Therefore, Mannis had already been disqualified by virtue of the SEC vote in March, but they needed to remove him as the nominee or he would go forward as a disqualified candidate.
“Honestly, if we allow him to continue forward, we will risk him being challenged after the general election. I’m willing to gamble, but I’m not willing to lose a seat based on a procedural error,” Coleman concluded.
Discussion amongst the SEC members went on for a little over a half-hour.
While additional evidence and reasons to support the motion were cited, opponents primarily made the case that the will and voice of the people of House District 18 should not be overturned.
Due to the technical challenges with taking a roll call vote on a phone call, it took more than 20 minutes to get to the 43 to 18 ruling of Oster’s contest being denied.
To make it official, a final motion to nominate Mannis as the candidate for House District 18 passed by voice vote.
Mannis will go on to face Democrat Virginia Crouch in the November 3 general election.
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