Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 12, 2014

Candidate removed from primary ballot after challenge

By Gary Nelson
Senior staffwriter

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County Election Commission held a special-called meeting last week and changed the ballot for the May 2014 county primary election, removing one candidate who was disallowed by a state political party to run as a Republican.

Michael Ingram of Fairfield Glade was removed from the ballot for the May 6, 2014, Cumberland County primary election after the Tennessee Republican Party sent Ingram and the Cumberland County Election Commission a letter stating Ingram was not a bona fide Republican.

The letter came from Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.

Ingram sought the Republican nomination for the May primary and to run for election to the office of Cumberland County Circuit Court Clerk in the county's general election Aug. 7.

"The Tennessee Republican Party, per authority given to it in Tennessee Code Annotated 2-13-104, requires candidates seeking the party's nomination for public office to be bona fide Republicans. These requirements can be found in Article IX, section one of the bylaws and rules of the Tennessee Republican Party ... A special committee of five state executive committee members was formed in order to review the challenge made to the bona fide Republican status of candidates," Devaney states.

"A challenge was made to the bona fide status of your candidacy for Cumberland County Circuit Court Clerk. The committee has met, reviewed the challenge, and made their recommendation. I have reviewed their recommendation and made the final decision to uphold the challenge to your bona fide Republican status. Therefore, you will not be permitted to run as a Republican in the May primary," Devaney concludes.

Suzanne Smith, Cumberland County administrator of elections, said the election commission had to meet under special circumstances and changed the ballot, since the state Republican party would not allow Ingram to run as a Republican.

The change on the ballot means current Circuit Court Clerk, Larry Sherrill, will run unopposed as a Democrat in the 2014 Cumberland County General Election.

The challenge was submitted by Matthew McClanahan, chairman of the Cumberland County Republican Party.

McClanahan said some of the local Republican party members had approached him asking who Ingram was and said he was unknown to them and the local party.

"We want to make sure we put forth a candidate who is going to represent the Republican party well," McClanahan said. "After checking into his voting record and seeing he hadn't participated in any Republican party activities, I questioned his bona fide membership of the Republican party and submitted the challenge."

Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, said the challenge was based on a couple of items, including Ingram had not participated in any county Republican party events and had no history of voting in Republican primaries.

"After reviewing the challenge, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney was given a unanimous recommendation from our state executive committee subcommittee on candidate challenges, to uphold the challenge and he agreed with that finding. As such, we sent a letter to Mr. Ingram and the Cumberland County Election Commission, disallowing Mr. Ingram to seek the Republican nomination," Leatherwood wrote.

The letter from Devaney was dated Feb. 27, which was the last day for candidates to withdraw their names for consideration from the ballot.

Ingram was not available for comment.