E-Mails Fly In Midst Of State GOP Chairman Contest

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Several testy e-mails have been flying in connection with the current three-man race to replace Hixson's Robin Smith as chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

Oscar Brock and Chris Devaney of Lookout Mountain and Rep. Eric Swafford of Pikeville are seeking the post.

The state party's executive committee will choose a successor to Ms. Smith next Saturday.

Mark Winslow, state GOP chief of staff, said in a Wednesday e-mail that was reported by the Nashville Post that he "needed to address a disturbing trend for the Tennessee Republican Party."

He said, "Over the past 72 hours, I have become concerned that the developing tone and direction of the race for chairman will negatively impact the party."

Mr. Winslow said he and Chairman Smith "have both received multiple calls from members asking for clarification of charges that have been leveled at the party by supporters of candidates for chairman."

He said the TRP is taking no stance on the chairman race, but he needed to speak out. He said, "When the candidates reach the level of attacking Chairman Smith's administration of the party, it's time to stand up and present the facts."

Mr. Winslow denied that the party is out of money or that a vendor has not been paid. He said certain of the accusations came from an unnamed female member of the executive committee.

Concerning a charge that the Gregory family from King Pharmaceuticals of Kingsport no longer is giving to the party, he said the Gregorys remain strong supporters of the state party. He said after the Gregorys "were mercilessly attacked" by Democrats for prior giving, they scaled back their donations and then closed their PAC.

Mr. Winslow said, "In addition to being the most successful chairman in recent history, I believe you will agree with me that Robin has also been the most respectful of the committee. She is always up front with the members and she has been very clear in her determination that this process will be fair and transparent, but we will move aggressively to counter any falsehoods or misstatements that endanger the health or reputation of the party. If there were anything wrong, she would tell you."

He also said, "We have before us the most important decision our party leadership has made in a generation. The next chairman will either seize the historic opportunity of 2010 or squander the chance of a lifetime for Tennessee Republicans."

Frank Colvett Jr., chairman of the state GOP finance committee, said in a Thursday e-mail printed by the Nashville Post that "I have to tell you that I am disappointed in what has happened in this campaign. I thought these kinds of tactics were the ones Democrats use when they want to win. I'm sad to see our people can do the same."

He said, "I'm pleased to tell you the party's finances are fine, but could be better and it falls on me to tell you why."

Mr. Colvett said, "Since the supporters of Chris Devaney have taken to questioning Robin's management of the party, I feel it's my duty to defend her actions, the integrity of my committee and make sure you know the truth."

He said a recent party conference call "was to inform the members of the two committees of serious accounting errors that occurred in 2006, under Mr. Devaney's watch as executive director of the party."

He said nearly $76,000 was placed into wrong accounts, and "in order to avoid a large fine from the Federal Election Commission, Robin chose to do the right thing and refund the money to the contributors - without taking out loans, knowing it would place a strain on the party."

He said a "second error involves the simple task of keeping good records. Robin and her staff have had to track down employees of the Victory operation from 2006 to have them fill out the employment forms that are required by the Federal Election Commission, two years after that campaign ended. These forms are required to prove compliance with federal law and could have led to a fine approaching $300,000. This is basic stuff, friends, and Mr. Devaney dropped the ball."

Mr. Colvett said, "I wish we weren't forced to deal with this during an important debate over the future of the party, but I can't stand by and see a good chairman's integrity questioned in the name of winning a campaign. We're better than that. And folks, let's remember something here. Under Robin Smith's leadership we WON. It seems some people have already forgotten that."

Chris Devaney said Saturday, "I definitely have the votes to win and, when you are in the lead, people shoot arrows at you."

He said he and Bob Davis were involved in significant fundraising in 2005-2006 and "raised $4.5 million in a very fast period."

Mr. Devaney said, "This was right after the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. Some errors were made and these were found and fixed. Robin Smith put in place some safeguards."

He also said, "My only agenda is making sure the Republican Party is in position for victory in 2010. I have the proven ability for fundraising, candidate recruitment and campaigning to help make it happen."

Oscar Brock said, "Members of the State Executive Committee should be a more deliberative body with limited controversy. In fact, we pride ourselves on being far more civil than our Democratic friends.

"It is disappointing when one of our members becomes overzealous in support of a given candidate and resorts to baseless attacks and accusations. But we will have an election next week, and we will come back together afterward with shared goals and a shared vision, and we will all commit to support our new chairman."

The Tennessee Republican Party’s State Executive Committee is comprised of two members elected from each of Tennessee’s 33 state Senate districts.

District 1
Fred Myers Jr. Newport
Nancy Wilson Greeneville

District 2
Kenneth Hill Bountville
Betty Hodge Bristol

District 3
Sara Sellers Johnson City
Kelly Wolfe Jonesborough

District 4
Henry DeVault Blaine
Cecile Testerman Rogersville

District 5
June Landrum Sweetwater
Bill Landrum Sweetwater

District 6
John Dance Knoxville
Angela Huddleston Knoxville

District 7
Karen Brown Knoxville
Steven Buttry Knoxville

District 8
Tom Kate Kodak
Peggy Lambert Maryville

District 9
Linda Higdon Athens
Dr. John Stanbery Cleveland

District 10
Oscar Brock Lookout Mountain
Chrystal Horne Chattanooga

District 11
Debbie Harris Soddy-Daisy
Bobby Wood Harrison

District 12
Liz Holiway Harriman
Jerry Sharp Newcomb

District 13
Sarah Black Fayetteville
Tim Rudd Murfreesboro

District 14
Betty King Monteagle
Reuben Watkins Pikeville

District 15
Mike Callahan Monterey
Ronda Rader Alpine

District 16
Barbara Blanton Shelbyville
Lance Frizzell Lascassas

District 17
Albert McCall Carthage
Susan Witcher Red Boiling Springs

District 18
Jamie McClary Hendersonville
Debra Maggart Hendersonville

District 19
Karen Bennett Nashville
Mark Winslow Antioch

District 20
Nathan James Hermitage
Betty Cannon Nashville

District 21
John Ambrose Nashville
Beth Campbell Nashville

District 22
Pat Allen Clarksville
Wayne Oldham Clarksville

District 23
Steve Allbrooks Franklin
Margaret Ann Miller Brentwood

District 24
Christi Cross Paris
Dennis Doster Dresden

District 25
Mary Littleton Dickson
Bob Rial Dickson

District 26
Shirley Curry Waynesboro
Charles Lee Jr. Selmer

District 27
Scott Golden Jackson
Nancy Strawn Jackson

District 28
Frank Colvett Jr. Memphis
Ann Edmiston Bartlett

District 29
Kelly Hankins Memphis
Terry Roland Millington

District 30
John Ryder Memphis
Annabel Woodall Memphis

District 31
Jean Drumwright Cordova
David Lillard Germantown

District 32
Linda Roberts Dyersburg
John Wilkerson Lakeland

District 33
Layne Provine Collierville
Beth Webb Collierville



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