Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Stuart James asked Democratic State Executive Committeewoman Charline Kilpatrick to deny rumors she is supporting Republican Bernie Miller for the District 5 County Commission seat.
Ms. Kilpatrick refused to sign a loyalty statement drafted by Mr. James, saying only, "I am not supporting anyone but myself."
Her son, Floyd Kilpatrick, a local political activist, responded by resigning from his post as Glenwood precinct Democratic chairman.
Floyd Kilpatrick said he was resigning "until such time that more capable leadership can be identified that will benefit the entire Democratic Party and not just the special interest of a select few."
He called the action against his mother "very offensive," saying she is a longtime loyal Democrat and community leader.
Mr. James said he became concerned after reports that Ms. Kilpatrick had posted a Bernie Miller sign in her yard in Glenwood. Rev. Miller is running against Democratic incumbent Greg Beck.
He said supporting Republican Miller is grounds for removing Ms. Kilpatrick from her post on the executive committee of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
He asked her to sign a "loyalty oath," which he prepared.
Mr. James sent this letter to Charline Kilpatrick on Thursday:
The New Hamilton County Democratic Party:
The Party of Opportunity, Values & Common Sense
Stuart James, Chair
Representative JoAnne Favors, Vice Chair
Alice O’Dea, Secretary
Debbie Colburn, Treasurer
June 29, 2006
510 Kilmer St
Chattanooga, TN 37404
Re: Support for Bernie Miller
I am writing you regarding claims being made by Democratic Party members that you are actively supporting a Republican candidate, Bernie Miller, for the District 5 County commission race.
We have recently learned that you have allegedly placed a Bernie Miller sign in your yard, and that the Bernie Miller sign was moved to a fence between your yard and a neighbor’s yard in order for you to claim that it was a neighbor’s sign. Additionally, I learned yesterday that Katie O’Bryan from the party came to your house to ask you to display three Democratic candidate signs - Congressman Harold Ford, Greg Beck, and Billy Long. Ms. O’Bryan states she came to your door and asked you if she could place the signs in the yard since you are an Executive Committeewoman for the local and state parties. She said she placed the three signs in front of your house.
Ms. O’Bryan, later that afternoon, came by your house and found that the Ford and Long signs remained in front of your house but that the Beck sign was missing. This afternoon, Miss O’Bryan came by your house and found that the Ford sign was moved next to the Bernie Miller sign.
Charlene, I have also received consistent complaints that you and your son are actively supporting Mr. Miller in his election. It is now come to a point where one must ask you to publicly declare or your support for the Democratic ticket in Hamilton County, including Mr. Greg Beck. You are running for State Executive Committeewoman for the Tennessee Democratic Party and you are current member of the Executive Committee of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
Pursuant to the bylaws, and the loyalty oath passed by our Executive Committee, as an elected leader of both parties it is your obligation to publicly support our Democratic candidates for office.
Supporting Bernie Miller as a Republican is grounds for removal from Hamilton County Democratic Party Executive Committee. If the allegations I am hearing are true, and Miss O’Bryan is correct in her observations then I feel obliged to ask that you step down from Hamilton County Democratic Party, resign your position with the Tennessee Democratic Party, and withdraw your name from the ballot for Executive Committeewoman with the Tennessee Democratic Party.
However, I am fair. I think that the solution to this problem is simple. I am attaching an endorsement for Greg Beck, County Commission District 5, which also endorses all of the Democratic ticket running as nominees which I want you to sign and return to me. Please call the Democratic Party at 266-4125 and that them know when they can pick up the endorsement.
I think the endorsement is the only solution to the issues facing you as a leader in the party. Because the number of people complaining regarding your support for Mr. Miller is increasing, I think that it is incumbent on you to go ahead as a member of the Democratic Party and sign enclosed endorsement. It is important we stop any further discussion on the subject.
If you cannot sign the enclosed endorsement, I am requesting that you immediately resign your Executive Committee position with the Hamilton County Democratic Party, that you resign your position with the Tennessee Democratic Party, and that you publicly announce that you are no longer a candidate for State Executive Committeewoman for the Tennessee Democratic Party.
Once you sign the attached endorsement and loyalty oath, it is my intention to post it on the web site for the party to stop all of the rumors surrounding your support for Mr. Miller.
I am also posting this letter on the Hamilton County Democratic Party Website, so that the members of the party know of my request, and that the members of the party also know that I have dealt with this issue.
Stuart James, Chair Hamilton County Democratic Party
23 Patten Parkway
Chattanooga, TN 37402
cc: Bob Tuke, Greg Beck, Terry Lee, JoAnne Favors, Alice O’Dea, Debbie Colburn
This is the loyalty oath Mr. James asked Charline Kilpatrick to sign:
I want to let everyone know that I support Greg Beck in his race for County Commission District 5. As a State Executive Committeewoman for the Tennessee Democratic Party and a member of the Executive Committee of the Hamilton County Democratic Party I wholeheartedly support Mr. Beck as our Democratic nominee for County Commission District 5. In addition to my support for Mr. Beck, I am also supporting all the Democratic nominees in the August election which include Billy Long, John Bailes, Warren Mackey, Brian Johnson, Tom Crutchfield, and Rodney Strong. I understand that as a leader of the party it is my obligation not only to endorse each of these candidates but that I must also give them my public support and work for their election either by volunteering for the party or working directly with either candidate.
I understand that there have been rumors and allegations regarding my support for Bernie Miller, I do not support Bernie Miller nor have I ever supported Bernie Miller. As a leader in the Democratic Party it is my obligation to support Mr. Beck to ensure that he is elected. I encourage all of the voters in District 5 to vote for Mr. Beck in August.
Ms. Kilpatrick refused to sign, instead making the statment "I am not supporting anyone but myself."
Floyd Kilpatrick had this response:
I find that the actions you have taken today, allegedly on behalf of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, with regard to my mother, Charline Kilpatrick, are very offensive. It would appear to any reasonable person that if your actions were intended to benefit the party you would have made some effort to contact my mother and discuss your concerns, and those of the party, with her directly. Instead you send a party member to her home and post a Greg Beck sign in her yard without permission. The fact is your Mrs. O’Bryan trespassed on private property. As an attorney, you should be aware that the right to acquire, own, hold, use, protect and defend private property from trespassers is a fundamental cornerstone of the Anglo American system of jurisprudence.
You suggest that Mrs. O’Bryan later came by my mother’s house and found the sign removed. First, Mr. Beck has been invited repeatedly to various forums in our community in order to allow him an opportunity to define himself with regards to issues of importance to our voters. On each occasion he has refused to meet with our voters. No one knows what he stands for politically, and as an undefined entity an endorsement of his candidacy for County Commission should not be forced on anyone simply because he says he is a Democrat. Second, Mrs. O’Bryan does not live in Glenwood and has not been known to frequent this community. Why suddenly does she find a need to monitor my mother’s home and what happens on her property? These actions are reminiscent of Nazi Germany and the Gestapo tactics employed by international war criminals bent on micromanaging the affairs of people they deemed unworthy of respect.
When I, Floyd Kilpatrick, removed that sign the following morning, that same individual appears with an ultimatum letter, drafted by you, asking my mother to sign or resign.
I personally advised her not to sign. Shortly thereafter I received a call from the Chattanooga Times, advising that this letter has been posted in the public domain on the County website. Again, without any prior discussion with my mother directly by you. You allege that you received numerous complaints. By whom, alleging what, and when? Does she not have a fundamental right to confront her accusers prior to having judgment passed against her? Should she not at least be allowed an opportunity to address these issues directly before adverse actions are taken against her designed to demean her character in the eyes of her peers?
To date my mother has not been on any radio program, television program, campaign literature, or made any public endorsement of any candidate for public office other than her own candidacy for re-election as State Committee Woman for the Tenth Senatorial District for the State of Tennessee. A position that she has held with distinction for several years. Yet you feel compelled to act in an arbitrary and capricious manner towards her urging her to sign documents under duress insisting that she relinquish the authority to control and use her personal property according to how she determines is in her own best interest.
For the record, my mother, Charline Kilpatrick is an active Democrat and servant of the community in which she lives. A Winner of the National Jefferson Award for Public Service, she has served as Democratic Party precinct officer; Assistant Executive Director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party; President of the Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women’s Club; Vice Chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party; Treasurer of the Hamilton County Foster Parent’s Association and President of the Neighborhood Watch. Charline is a member of Second Missionary Baptist Church and she is retired from the Electric Power Board. As Chairperson of the Hamilton County Democratic Party Kefauver Committee she raised over forty thousand dollars($40,000.00) for the party's use here in Hamilton County. She has worked vigorously to register and recruit new voters to the Hamilton County Democratic Party. When the precincts were removed from the Senior towers, in Downtown Chattanooga, an area that has the highest concentration of elderly and disabled voters in Hamilton County, the majority of whom are Democrats by the way, my mother was instrumental in successfully fighting to have a voting precinct relocated to that area. I don’t know about you Mr. James, but I think a person with her record deserves better treatment and more professional courtesy.
At a time when the Democratic Party is struggling to keep pace with the interest of voters all over this nation, one would think that the party would adopt a philosophy a bit more diplomatic and less offensive, especially towards those individuals that have exhibited sterling loyalty towards the Democratic Party year after year, often without any thanks or appreciation. Being taken for granted can be tolerated, however, being bullied and disrespected cannot and should not. Gorilla management does not work in employment, and it certainly has no place in politics.
I therefore regret that under the circumstances I feel compelled to tender my resignation as the Glenwood Precinct Chair for the Hamilton County Democratic Party until such time that more capable leadership can be identified that will benefit the entire Democratic Party and not just the agenda(s) of a select few.