TNDP leadership elections 2019

Mary Mancini from her 2015 election

TNDP leadership elections were held yesterday. Mary Mancini was elected to a third term as Chair. Congratulations Mary!

According to The Tennessean, Mancini won 48 votes. Challenger and Williamson County Chair Holly McCall got 19 votes. Shelby County fake ballot distributor M. Latroy Williams got 2 votes…from his children…who both represent Dist. 33.

Leave it to Shelby County to introduce some weirdness to the process.

Challenger, Holly McCall mounted a robust, effort to win the TNDP Chair. Her support included nods from the Tennessee College Democrats, the House Democratic Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Those three votes combined with support from 16 Executive Committee members mostly from middle Tennessee, with a healthy mix of urban and rural districts.

The Tennessean reports Mancini made a call for unity after the election.

“Now is the time for all of us to come together,” Mancini said after being re-elected. “And I know we will do that.”

Despite the effort at unity, it seems at least one State Legislator may have other ideas.

Powell’s Play

Powell looks to upend the Executive Committee

Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville) represents the State’s 53rd district.

Hours after the vote he tweeted the following:

I’ll be filing another bill this year to get rid of the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee. Time to go!

– Rep. Jason Powell on Twitter

You should know, this isn’t the first time TNDP leadership has come into Powell’s crosshairs.

Back in 2013, Powell, along with former State Senator Lowe Finney, explored the prospect of rejiggering the TNDP Executive Committee by State Law.

I wrote three posts about it here, here and here.

You can find the relevant code in question here:Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-13-103

Powell hasn’t filed a bill yet. I’ve reached out to him on Twitter to find out what he has in mind. If its similar to the 2013 proposal, it will stack the deck on the Executive Committee with representatives of Caucus organizations and other elected officials (US House, US Senate, and Governor).

Just like before, there are problems with Powell’s proposal. Most notably, the TNDP Executive Committee’s ability to define its own membership and leadership.

Quick Look at the Bylaws

The bylaws of the TNDP are published online. As far as bylaws go, they’re pretty easy to read.

Article IV, Section 1 determines membership on the Executive Committee.

The Committee shall be composed of members chosen in accordance with State Law (TCA § 2-13-103). Consistent with TCA § 2-13-104, all members shall be bona fide members of the Democratic Party. A bona fide Democrat is defined as an individual whose record of public service, actions, accomplishment, public writings and/or public statements affirmatively demonstrates that he or she is faithful to the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic Party of the United
States and of the State of Tennessee. The State Party or a county party may make exceptions to this rule for requesting individuals in the spirit of an inclusive and a growing Party.

– TNDP Bylaws

It should be noted, these are the rules the Party has decided on. State government can amend the relevant section of law. The Executive Committee can respond by amending their bylaws.

Organizational Arrangements

State government can’t demand how the State Party organizes itself. It can provide a manner of composing its membership. The Party, in turn, can accept or reject that manner of composition.

So changing TCA. § 2-13-103 is really just inviting a shooting war between the House and Senate Caucuses and the Executive Committee…One the EC will ultimately win.

The State Executive Committee could do all sorts of things in retaliation: For instance, they could revoke the House Democratic Caucus’ membership. They could also change all Ex-Officio member status from voting to non-voting.

How? Organizations have a right to define their membership. There are a lot of options available.

It would take a 2/3 vote of the membership present to change the TNDP bylaws. If Powell is successful in pushing this change, he should be prepared for the fallout.

Why Can’t They Get Along?

For reasons that are too “inside baseball” for me to know about, the State Party and the legislative caucuses have been at odds for the better part of a decade.

That tension is borne of the losses the Party experienced in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

In those three elections, Democrats lost the State Senate, the State House, and the Governor’s race.

Its easy to be point fingers when you’re losing.

What’s the source of this friction? Since Chip Forrester was elected in 2009, state elected officials have felt the party wasn’t supporting them the way they wanted it to.

How should the party be supporting them? Outside of incumbency protection, I honestly don’t know.

Seems to me, the role of the party is to work on building the brand throughout the state with an eye on winning back competitive districts. The state party has been doing that generally, though not necessarily successfully.

Truth be told, the whole Party apparatus was in such disarray after 2008, its a wonder we’ve gained even one House seat since redistricting.

What Should the Party Look Like?

I’ve written about this before. Ultimately, the State Executive Committee should be composed of people who are willing to be active, and work with the County parties in their area to elect Democrats.

I live in the Shelby County bubble, so I can’t speak to all that’s happening across the state.

What I can say is with County re-organization coming up in March, there’s ample opportunity to bring new life to County Party organizations all over the state.

While Powell may be upset with the outcome of the election, he and folks who support his effort would be better off working with his colleagues to build up stronger County parties.

Those County Parties are where you could find the future leaders of the State Party and potential candidates to run for State office.


Despite what folks in Nashville may think…Nashville ain’t the state party.

Davidson Co. is about 11% of the electorate. Shelby is about 13%. Williamson, the state’s 6th largest County, is a little less than 5%.

The top 10 Counties in participation make up about 56% of the electorate.  Phil Bredesen and Karl Dean only won two of the 10 largest counties in November: Shelby and Davidson. They didn’t win a single county outside the top 10.

That’s what we’re up against.

You can be mad and try to change the rules, or look for people to blame. But if you’re being honest with yourself, you can examine how active you’ve been outside your bubble in building up talent and leadership that will bring new colleagues to the legislature and the Executive Committee.

Work ain’t as sexy as legislation. But without work, that legislation is all sound and fury signifying nothing.

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