Hamilton County Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden said Monday that "frivolous lawsuits by Nashville lawyers" are costing local taxpayers money, and he said he "can't imagine" that a judge would invalidate the commission's action in allowing Robin Smith on the ballot.
He said, "This cake is baked. 2,760 people have already voted in House District 26 in early voting. We have got to stop these people from Nashville from filing these ridiculous lawsuits. It's much ado about nothing."
The commission voted to hire Chattanooga attorney Stephen Duggins to represent the commission in a case filed by the Tennessee Democratic Party in Hamilton County Chancery Court. The rate will be $290 per hour.
The commission is awaiting a bill from a Nashville law firm for defending the suit that was initially filed in Nashville, then was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
"Somebody is going to have to pay for all this," Chairman Walden said.
Ms. Smith, former state Republican Party chairman, was the only GOP candidate to come forward when Rep. Gerald McCormick decided to withdraw very late in the process. The state Democrats are contending there was no legal basis for the withdrawal and the Republicans should not be able to put forth a candidate. David Jones is running as a Democrat. The primary voting is Aug. 2 and the general election is Nov. 4.
Chancellor Pam Fleenor has set an Aug. 6 hearing on the case. She did not recuse herself, though Ms. Smith was a paid campaign consultant for her and wrote a letter in her behalf in her 2014 judicial election.
During the Election Commission session, attorneys and fellow commission members Jerry Summers and Chris Clem sparred over whether a meeting at which Ms. Smith was approved should have been delayed. Attorney Summers said he called election administrator Kerry Steelman the day before and got an agreement that the meeting would start at 8:45 instead of 8 because he had a doctor's appointment. Mr. Steelman said that was not agreed.
Attorney Summers said he got to the meeting at 8:25 and the other commissioners were gone. Lawyers for the state Democrats arrived at about the same time. Mr. Walden was not able to go to that meeting.
Attorney Clem said attorney Summers had never said specifically why the meeting should be delayed and only given vague information. He said state Democrats already had a lengthy lawsuit prepared by that morning, but had not raised any objection to the election office about Ms. Smith being on the ballot. He said they never called saying they were coming to the meeting.