Gibson County Democrat Party Saves Turncoat Mayor From Potential Violation of State Voting Law

Last week The Tennessee Star reported that the Williamson County Election Commission has referred materials related to an investigation into a report that seemed to show at least two Democrats – both of whom are currently running for elected office – voted in the Republican primary to the District Attorney for further investigation and possible prosecution.

Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon, twice elected as a Democrat on the party’s ticket, was included on GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd’s July 2017 list of county mayor endorsements. Witherspoon credited Randy Boyd for helping “Gibson County stay in the race to land the Tyson Foods plant” and suggested that his vote for Boyd was payback for that assistance saying, “[t]hat man kept his word with me and I’ll keep my word with him.”

Witherspoon’s endorsement of Boyd was followed with his confirmation on Facebook that he would he would vote for Boyd in the Republican primary election because he “votes people, not parties.” Shortly thereafter, Witherspoon filed his petition to run for a third time as a Democrat candidate for mayor.

Nine days after Witherspoon filed his petition to run for re-election as a Democrat, Keith Cunningham, chair of the Gibson County Democratic Party announced that he would run for Mayor.

When asked by The Star about his decision to run against Tom Witherspoon and his view of Witherspoon’s public endorsement of Randy Boyd, Cunningham said, “Mr. Witherspoon has the right to vote for whomever he wants. But out of respect for the Democratic party of which he claimed to be a ‘lifelong member’ I believe he should have kept his endorsement for Randy Boyd private.”

Witherspoon’s public repudiation of the party that supported him in prior elections, apparently did not sit well with its members resulting in Witherspoon changing course and now running for mayor as an Independent.

The case in Williamson County, however, should serve as a cautionary flag to both Witherspoon and Cunningham and  many other voters in Tennessee who believe that the state’s voting law allows for casual crossing of party lines in primary elections. A careful reading of the state law which operates more like an honor code, counsels otherwise.

TCA 2-7-115(b) states that a registered voter is entitled to vote in a primary election for offices for which the voter is qualified to vote at the polling place where the voter is registered if:

(1)  The voter is a bona fide member of and affiliated with the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote; or
(2)  At the time the voter seeks to vote, the voter declares allegiance to the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote and states that the voter intends to affiliate with that party.

Similar to past legislative sessions, this year a bill was introduced to close the primary elections by requiring a voter to declare a party affiliation before voting in a primary election. As in years past, no bill was passed.

Having left the Democrats behind as a newly declared Independent, Witherspoon may be able to vote for Boyd without violating the state’s voting law. Returning to the Democrat party or even flipping to the Republican party may be a tougher move for Witherspoon who has discarded all allegiances to either political party.















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3 Thoughts to “Gibson County Democrat Party Saves Turncoat Mayor From Potential Violation of State Voting Law”

  1. Stuart I. Anderson

    While we are on the sordid topic of Democrats’ participation in Republican politics I’ve got another one for you. You know the Bone family are the heaviest of heavy hitters in the Democratic Party. There’s Charles W. Bone who started the Nashville law firm of Bone McAllester Norton who has been described by The Tennessean as someone “. . .who has long been a player in Democratic fund-raising.” and his son, Charles Robert Bone, who is married to Sacha Bone, who was a major Obama “bundler.”

    QUESTIONS FOR VOTERS IN THE SIXTH DISTRICT: Why would Charles W. and Sacha Bone have each contributed the maximum $2,700 to John W. Rose who is running in the Republican Primary to replace Diane Black as your next U. S. Congressman? Under these circumstances why would you dream of voting for John W. Rose?

  2. Stuart I. Anderson

    Oh, come on Democrats, give the guy a pass. We can be reasonably certain that there is simply nothing that Randy! Boyd will say or do while serving eight years in office that a mainstream Tennessee Democrat will find that objectionable. Witherspoon’s and other Democrats determination to vote for Randy! in the Republican Primary should make Republicans stop and think again if they have any inclination to vote for Randy! and adopt the ANBODY BUT BOYD strategy.

    1. Robert Forbus

      Well, I think many of us – me included – are both “No Boyd!” and “No Black!”.

      This leaves us with a (soon to be) former Speaker with her own history as well as HVAC businessman who, in spite of being a good and God-fearing man, seems to have little knowledge of the housecleaning he must do – or at least he does not want to talk about it.

      August is not too far from us. Maybe a couple of these people will make, or have exposed, a major item to derail their campaign.