Live from Music Row, Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Misrule of Law blog creator and California refugee Mark Pulliam to the newsmaker line to discuss his write-in candidacy for TN-02 State Executive Committee position and the need for a more effective grassroots organization to farm conservative teams for public office.
Leahy: We’re joined on our newsmaker line by our good friend Mark Pulliam, a blogger at Misrule of Law, a chronicle of legal and judicial mischief, and a write-in candidate for the Republican State Executive Committee. Good morning, Mark.
Pulliam: Good morning, Michael.
Leahy: How goes your campaign?
Pulliam: I’m on pins and needles, that with the election coming up on Thursday, August 4th, I’m just really racked with anxiety about whether I’m going to win this race. I’m kidding, of course. There is no candidate on the ballot, and I’m the only write-in candidate who’s qualified.
So as the administrator of election said when I turned in my paperwork, if I get a single vote, I will win. And I already voted for myself, so I’m guaranteed that I’m going to win. (Leahy chuckles)
Leahy: So just to be clear about this, there are a couple of processes to go through. You can either go through and be part of the official process, which you missed the timelines on that.
And when you found out that the male state executive committeeman from your State Senate district that no one had applied for it, you went through the write-in process. Tell us a little bit about that.
Pulliam: Qualifying for the ballot, depending on which office you’re trying to qualify for, can be a little bit complicated. You have to collect signatures in some positions. You have to have quite a few signatures.
You have to make a filing fee and so forth. Regardless of whether people do qualify, there’s an alternative way that you can technically be eligible to be elected at an election, and that is you file this write-in certificate 50 days before the election. It doesn’t require any signatures, there’s no filing fee. In this case, most of the time write-in candidates have an extreme disadvantage, because … their name technically is not going to appear on the ballot. They don’t have the letter R or D after their name. The voter literally has to write it in, which with this computer voting, you have to type it in.
So you’re at a big disadvantage. But, in a race like this one, where there was no qualified candidate, write-in candidacy empowers voters to select somebody that didn’t go through the normal process and have them fill a position. And in this case, the position is an important position, the State Executive Committee of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Leahy: What would you do? It looks like since you voted for yourself and there are no other qualified candidates, it looks like you got the gig right?
Pulliam: Yes, and I’m sure I’m going to get more than my own vote. I’m hoping to win in a landslide with at least 100 votes.
Leahy: (Chuckles) So what are you going to do when you’re on the State Executive Committee? Do you know anybody on it right now, and what’s your agenda going to be?
Pulliam: I’m going to have to learn the lay of the land I know what you can learn from afar. There are 66 people on this executive committee, two from each State Senate district. They’re all Republican, obviously, and I know slightly the incumbent female from District 2, which is the district I’m running for.
But District 2 was redrawn as part of reapportionment, so she is running against the incumbent from District 9, which was merged with what was District 2. So it’s a toss-up who’s going to actually become the committeewoman. So I don’t know any of these people personally.
And there are some candidates running who would be fresh faces: Randy Pace from Knox County, I know him. Hopefully, we’re all on the same team because we’re all Republicans and we’re all interested in promoting the Republican Party in the state of Tennessee.
My goal will be and this is something that I bring with me from all the decades that I lived in other states, Texas and California, to make Tennessee more grassroots-friendly. And by making it more grassroots-friendly, it will make it more effective. What we have in Tennessee is a large number of conservative Republican voters, but what we lack is an effective grassroots organization. So most county parties do not have precinct programs. They do not have get-out-the-vote programs. They do not aggressively recruit and train candidates.
And this is why I had to write-in, because our local county party failed at the job of having a farm team to move people up to the majors for these kinds of elective offices. So we need to develop our farm team.
And these are techniques that are well established in most other states. For whatever reason, Tennessee does not have a tradition of strong grassroots organizations. But I think this is going to be very important to the future success of the Republican Party nationwide and in the state of Tennessee.
Leahy: Will you favor the elimination of the vouching element in terms of determining whether a candidate is a bona fide Republican?
Pulliam: I don’t. I sort of agree that if you have an open primary, you need to have some way of distinguishing who’s a real Republican from who’s a poser. And the ultimate problem, and the one that we need to focus on solving, is to get rid of the open primary. In Texas and in California, where I used to live, you could tell who’s a Republican because you registered to vote.
Leahy: The last point on that, though, Mark, because we’re running out of time here, but they’ve tried that. It’s not the purview of the State Executive Committee. It’s the General Assembly. The General Assembly won’t do it. So that leaves it in the purview of the State Executive Committee.
Pulliam: I agree that the bona fide Republican test that’s currently in effect, three out of the last four Republican primaries, is a decent surrogate for party registration.
Leahy: Mark Pulliam, thanks so much for joining us. Sorry we have to go so quickly. Good luck on August 4th.
Listen to the interview:
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