Dr. Jason Martin at his August announcement he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Tennessee governor. (Photo: John Partipilo)
A former member of the Shelby County Democratic Party Executive Committee is challenging the partisan bona fides of Dr. Jason Martin, candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Gabby Salinas, chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party, said Frank Johnson submitted a challenge to the county party based on Martin’s vote in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
Hendrell Remus, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, acknowledged he received the complaint, which must be filed with the TNDP by county parties. The TNDP Executive Committee’ will review the complaint and will vote on whether or not to banish Martin from the ballot on Saturday.
The vote will come two days after Thursday’s qualifying deadline for the August primary.
A spokeswoman for Martin’s campaign said the campaign has not received formal notice of the complaint yet.
Tennessee does not require voters to register party affiliation, giving them the opportunity to vote in either primary, but both the Democratic and Republican parties have a ‘bona fide’ requirement that states candidates must vote in a certain number of partisan primaries. The Tennessee Republican Party’s definition for a bona fide Republican includes the measure that candidates must have voted in three out of the last four GOP primaries, while the TNDP’s definition of bona fide calls for candidates to have voted in three of the last five Democratic primaries.
Neither are candidate challenges unusual from both parties. The TNDP Executive Committee voted to remove then-Rep. John DeBerry’s Democratic credentials in May 2020, citing his votes with the GOP supermajority. DeBerry subsequently ran as an Independent but was defeated by Rep. Torrey Harris, D-Memphis.
The Davidson County Democratic Party recently bounced several candidates from the May municipal elections ballot while Williamson County Republicans removed candidates both for county commissioner and state house of Representatives in 2018.
Martin is opposed in the Democratic primary by Memphis City Councilmember J.B. Smiley and Carnita Atwater, also of Shelby County. The winner will take on Gov. Bill Lee in November.
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