Former Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Stuart James said Friday that current chairman, Paul Smith, should resign for an attack on Jim Hall, longtime Democratic Party activist and former National Transportation Board chairman.
He said at a party meeting in East Lake on Thursday Mr. Smith pushed for the expulsion of Mr. Smith from the party, saying he had made a contribution to the campaign of Republican Chuck Fleischmann, who is trying to hold onto his Congressional seat.
He also said he has "heard rumors" that Mr.
Smith plans to back former state Senator Ward Crutchfield in a race for Chattanooga City Council. He called that "a serious misstep," citing Ward Crutchfield's guilty plea and conviction arising from the Tennessee Waltz sting.
Mr. James called Mr. Smith "a political boss who prefers the corruption of the past over the chance of building political integrity for the future."
Mr. Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mr. James said, "As many of you know, I have been involved in politics for many years. I served as the Chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party during one of the best elections in Tennessee history. Since then, I have engaged political commentary and assisted candidates in their run for office.
"Recently, I posted on Facebook that I was "retiring from politics." I was going to move on to doing other things, but I have been drawn back in because I think Paul Smith, the chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, should resign. His performance in office and his recent attack on former NTSB Jim Hall is angering me...it is an unjustified attack against a great man and a great American - who happened to work for President Bill Clinton.
"Mr. Smith should resign because on May 24 2012 at a function in East Lake in Chattanooga Tennessee Smith proactively pushed for the expulsion of Jim Hall from the Democratic Party. He had another person, the rules chair, read a report alleging Mr. Hall gave to Republican U.S. House candidate Chuck Fleischmann. Mr. Smith then strongly suggested that Mr. Hall not be allowed to vote in the Democratic party primary and that Mr. Hall be expelled from the Democratic Party. Despite several ejections Mr. Smith quickly adjourned the "meeting."
"I have talked to several reliable sources whose jaws dropped to the ground over Mr. Smith's actions. For those of you who do not know, Jim Hall is the former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board. He was appointed by the Democrat's number one President, Bill Clinton. Jim Hall, moreover, is one of the few people who is responsible for electing one of Tennessee's most popular Democratic governors--Ned McWherter. I could write a book on his involvement in the McWherter election and in the election of Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen. Moreover, the current chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party is a friend of Mr. Hall's and was taught much of his political know how by Mr. Hall.
"During my term as Democratic Party chair in Hamilton County Tennessee Jim Hall, and his wife Annie, were staunch supporters. I, personally, have not known a more loyal and more democratic man than Jim Hall.
"I know he is not as involved in politics as he used to be because he is working with the private sector. However, I know his service to the state of Tennessee and to this country is unmatched by many who have served. Jim Hall's service to Democratic President Bill Clinton is unmatched by many who served in the Clinton Administration. Both he and Annie’s service to me as Democratic Party chair is unmatched by many in Hamilton County Tennessee. To suggest his expulsion or to bar him from voting in a Democratic primary based upon one contribution is ludicrous. Even if it is true, it does not erase the years of service this man gave to our country. Even if it is true, this does not erase the years of service he gave to Democratic candidates in Tennessee and in this nation.
"To add insult to injury, Paul Smith is rumored to be supporting former State Sen. Ward Crutchfield for political comeback after his guilty plea and conviction arising from the Tennessee Waltz. Rumor has it that former Sen. Crutchfield is thinking about a run for city council in Chattanooga Tennessee. If this is true, this is the second serious misstep Mr. Smith is making. Instead of moving the Democratic Party forward he is returning the Democratic Party in the days of old. Mr. Smith is promoting an image of where political bribes and smoke filled rooms rule the politics of the day. If this is true, he is contributing to the destruction of the Democratic Party.
"Republicans will, justifiably so, attack Democrats for running a former Tennessee Waltz felon for public office. Republicans would be justifiable in questioning the role of Democrats in the political process, and Republicans would be justified in questioning the ethics of the Democratic Party and its candidates. Moreover, the negative impact of a Crutchfield run for office will spread; it will impact other Democrats running for office.
"Regardless of whether Mr. Crutchfield should be forgiven for what he did wrong, politically speaking any run for public office by Mr. Crutchfield is a bad move because it returns the party to the days of old. A Crutchfield run for office suggests that the party is as corrupt as many Republicans claim it to be.
"Obviously, Mr. Smith is acting in his own best interests over the interests of the party. Practically speaking, Ward Crutchfield should be asked to stay at home and not to be involved with the political process. He should be asked to take a backseat and let newer and brighter candidates run for office, candidates who were above ethical questions from the opposition. If Mr. Crutchfield runs for city council, the Democratic Party will have a black eye and a Democrat will lose the seat. A Crutchfield candidacy will negatively impact the democratic candidate running for Mayor, City Council, County Commission, County Mayor and the U.S. House.
"Moreover, Paul Smith's management of the party is questionable. The party receptionist recently resigned from the party because Mr. Smith did not leave up to his promise to pay her. When she came on board she said she would volunteer some of her time but told Smith that she needed to be paid for her time. Mr. Smith promised to pay her. He told her he had to raise the money so that he could pay her for the valuable services that she performed. This receptionist resigned because she never got paid. Perhaps it is because Mr. Smith chose not to pay her and chose to hire a public relations specialist for $1400 a month.
"If Mr. Smith is trying to expel and destroy Jim Hall's reputation helping his state, his nation and his party than Mr. Smith needs to resign. Paul Smith does not have the character, the commitment, and the strength of integrity that Jim Hall has. Paul Smith is a speck of sand in comparison to the accomplishments of Jim Hall. On this one point, Mr. Smith needs to resign, step aside, and let a reasonable man or woman lead the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
"Otherwise, Hamilton County Democrats are in trouble. It would behoove the executive board and committee of the party to ask for Mr. Smith's resignation. They should ask him to step aside and let newer, younger, and more objective leadership assume the reins of the party. They should do so before it is too late for Democrats in Hamilton County Tennessee.
"It is time that the public knows Mr. Smith is a political boss, a political boss who prefers the corruption of the past over the chance of building political integrity for the future."