The chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party said Monday legislation to make all municipal elections in the state partisan contests is seeing some pushback on Capitol Hill.
“We are working on it,” Scott Golden told members of the East Tennessee Republican Club meeting at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City. “I will tell you the lobbying array is against it.”
Golden said he and other GOP officials are “pushing” for passage of a bill that is now winding its way through the Republican-controlled state General Assembly to require candidates for elected government offices in cities and towns to declare themselves as Republicans, Democrats or independents.
Doing so will allow political parties to hold primaries to select their nominees for municipal offices. Under current law, candidates seeking those offices are listed on the ballot as independents.
“Right now the voters don’t have a good feel of who they (municipal candidates) are with an ‘I’ (for independent) beside their names,” Golden said. “They could be a communist or a fascist.”
The GOP chairman said both his party and the voters “gain” by making municipal elections partisan. Even so, Golden said there will be “complications for the groups that lobby on behalf of organizations” that are against making the change.
“So there are winners and losers in this. That’s the push and pull,” he said. “There’s many people who are saying, ‘Do this,’ and there’s people meeting with our legislators saying, ‘We don’t need to do this.’”
City leaders across the state, including those in Johnson City and Kingsport, have gone on record in opposition to making municipal elections partisan.
Golden told local Republicans, who have been encouraged by GOP leaders to contact their state legislators to to voice support for ending nonpartisan municipal elections, that his party was “fortunate” a few years ago to convince lawmakers to make all school board elections partisan contests.
As a result of that change, Golden expects Republicans will soon control most school boards in Tennessee.
“It’s coming. There’s no question,” Golden said of partisan municipal elections. “I hear the refrain all the time of: ‘What happens if we elect a Democratic mayor of Memphis, Nashville or Knoxville?’ My response is we already elect a Democratic mayor of Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, but we just pretend because they have an ‘I’ next to their name, the voters aren’t doing that.”