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Tennessee election chief: No time for new Democratic primary

August 7th, 2012 1:46 pm by ERIK SCHELZIG,Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — There isn't enough time to hold another primary following the state Democratic Party's disavowal of its U.S. Senate nominee, State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said Tuesday.

The state party has said it rejects the vocally anti-gay platform of nominee Mark Clayton, who received nearly 50,000 votes, or twice the number of his nearest competitor in a field of seven little-known candidates to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Corker in November.

Goins, a former Republican state lawmaker, said in a letter to fourth-place finisher Larry Crim that state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester could have disqualified Clayton within a week of the April 5 filing deadline.

"Although Chip Forrester had the authority in April to disqualify Mr. Clayton, he did not do so," he wrote.

Goins said Crim wants the result overturned because Forrester had failed to properly vet the candidates.

"It is not within the state's purview to determine whether Chip Forrester is adequately performing the duties assigned to him by the party," Goins wrote.

It would be up to the party's executive committee to evaluate a challenge on those grounds and to decide if "justice and fairness" require replacing Clayton as the nominee, he said.

A spokesman for the state party did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Clayton, 35, is vice president of Falls Church, Va.-based Public Advocate of the United States. He denies assertions by the state Democratic Party and the Southern Poverty Law Center that the organization is a hate group.

Clayton told The Associated Press this week that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, as stated in the Tennessee Constitution.

"If Public Advocate is a hate group, then the state of Tennessee is a hate group," he said.

The primary election is not expected to be certified until later this month. Goins said there isn't enough time to hold another statewide contest because military ballots must be mailed by Sept. 22 for the general election.

The state Democratic Party's executive committee in 2008 vacated the nomination of state Sen. Rosalind Kurita after her 19-vote victory. Her opponent's attorneys had alleged wide scale crossover voting by Republicans and that his supporters had been told to vote in the wrong primary.

State Republicans in 2004 disavowed the nomination of a U.S. House candidate who espouses racist beliefs. In later contests the state GOP stripped him of his right to run as a Republican.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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