Election officials: TN Dems missed chance to remove Clayton - WSMV Channel 4

Election officials: TN Dems missed chance to remove Clayton

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Tennessee Democrats are pledging to do a better job of vetting candidates who want to run under the party name in the aftermath of the primary victory for Senate candidate Mark Clayton.

The party officially disavowed Clayton last Friday, one day after his win in the state primary, for his apparent radical views and associations.

Now, other candidates have called for a new primary, but election officials said that is not going to happen. State election leaders said Democrats had a chance to remove Clayton from the ballot, but they didn't take it.

Clayton once again insisted Tuesday he is a legitimate Democrat and that the anti-gay group he leads is being cast in a bad light.

"Mark Clayton does not belong to a hate group. Mark Clayton belongs to a love group," Clayton said.

The candidate is even offering himself up to speak at the Democratic National Convention in support of traditional marriage.

"We're not asking for a prime speaking spot or anything like that. We're just offering to be there as a support and speak for these values," Clayton said.

Larry Crim, who came in fourth during last week's Democratic primary, has asked for a redo of the primary vote, but State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said that is not going to happen.

"We can't hold another election. That's off the table. At this point, it is up to the Tennessee Democratic Party to sort through its mess," Goins said.

Goins added Democratic Party Chair Chip Forrester had seven days after the April filing deadline to notify the state election commission that a candidate wasn't a bona fide Democrat and remove them from the ballot. But that didn't happen.

"We were not notified from Chairman Forrester that this person should not be on the ballot," Goins said.

While Forrester did not comment Tuesday, a member of the Democratic Executive Committee is pledging to change the way candidates are vetted, saying the party owes it to its members to make sure extreme candidates don't end up on the ballot.

Party leaders said Forrester didn't have unilateral authority to remove a candidate's name from the ballot, rather they said a county must first lodge a challenge.

Nonetheless, they said they want to make sure they never get in this position again.

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