Skullduggery? Trustee's exit from race extends deadlines

Gary B. Gray • Mar 1, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Washington County Trustee Jack Daniels’ withdrawal as a candidate in the May 6 Republican primary on Thursday put into effect a state law known as the Anti-Skullduggery Act of 1991, which extends both the qualifying and withdrawal deadlines.

A seven-day qualifying extension for the trustee position will begin the day after the original qualifying deadline, and a new withdrawal deadline is to be set four days after the qualifying deadline, placing the new qualifying deadline at noon March 6 and the new withdrawal deadline at noon March 10.

Former Washington County Administrator of Elections Connie Sinks telephoned the Johnson City Press on Friday to inquire whether an announcement had been made.

“They should have gone to the media immediately,” Sinks said. “It is one of the most important laws.”

The county’s Election Commission met Thursday to certify candidates, and the Press spoke with Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart later that day. She did not offer any information about the change.

Daniels, who withdrew at 11:22 a.m. Thursday — about a half hour before the noon deadline — said he would be throwing his support behind current Washington County Republican Party Chairman Michael Hartman, who along with Pamela Fitzgerald are the two remaining candidates. Daniels has defeated Fitzgerald for the spot in the last five elections. One additional candidate, Monty Treadway, former Washington County assessor of property, picked up petitions to seek the trustee position in the primary Friday. Treadway is the husband of Connie Sinks.

T.C.A. 2-5-101(i) requires county Election Commissions to extend the qualifying for each party holding a primary for the specific office (Republicans); parties authorized by law to nominate candidate by means other than primaries (Democratic Party); and persons qualifying for the nonpartisan (independents) general election (Aug. 7).

“We need to get a story out about what happened,” Stewart told the Press about 1 p.m. Friday. “The commission met Thursday, but nothing was discovered that we felt was suspicious. I though the withdrawal deadline was over and it was over. It just came up this morning.”

Stewart said she spoke with the state Elections Commission and was told this only extends the deadlines for candidates qualified for the trustee position.

“This has happened before in several different counties,” Blake Fontaney, Tennessee Division of Elections spokesman, said late Friday, initially indicating that the process would only apply to the Republican primary.

Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins later called to add, however, that Democrats could call for a caucus for the trustee’s race during the extension period.

Stewart also called to clarify the issue, saying the extension would not apply to independent candidates.

Sinks was fired by the Election Commission in February 2012 after more than 28 years at the helm and five days away from the start of early voting. She was dismissed without warning following a 3-2 vote.

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