As a business owner and someone very much invested in the future of Hamilton County, I was excited to get involved in the county mayoral race to support my good friend, Weston Wamp. I just watched him run a winning campaign on a frugal budget with a load of supporters I respect. He overcame the criticism of being too young and “inexperienced” by working hard and presenting a real plan to move the county forward. I left a small gathering of his friends and family on election night excited for my friend, but most importantly excited for Hamilton County.
It’s time for fresh blood and perspective.
That excitement faded a bit this week with the news that the election results are being challenged. I have concern for a few reasons, but the most glaring issue is that this is becoming a widespread issue across our democracy. We can’t call foul or claim fraud just because we don’t like particular results. Not only because it undermines the core of the foundation of our country, but because, frankly, it’s exhausting. This is off-putting politics and an overreach that will also deter the involvement of people like me who have shied away from participating more deeply in our electoral process. It’s a huge distraction from what should be a catalyzing time for the county and the next generation of leaders.
The millennial generation is constantly belittled and told we’re “soft.” We are often the butt of jokes about being coddled and recipients of participation trophies. Those jokes have their place and there may be some merit to them at times, but in this instance I think I speak for the majority of Hamilton County when I say: “Ms. Smedley, it’s time to move on.”
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Nobody is calling foul for the reasons you described.
Unlike certain other baseless fraud accusations, we have hard facts that nobody denies.
First, I should say that while I did not support him, I certainly do not have a problem with Mr. Wamp. In fact, I happen to know some who work on his campaign. When I met him, I was impressed with his passion for education and his honesty on issues that affect us today.
But let’s take a step back for a moment.
Almost all polling data we had leading up to election day had Matt Hullander on top, with Ms. Smedley in close second and Wamp in a distant third. The data is out there for anyone to see.
Then, the Sunday before the election, all of a sudden, you’ve got wildly different polling data. All this after allegations surfaced that Mr. Wamp had been indirectly involved in some nasty mailers. It didn’t (and still doesn't) make sense to anyone who had been paying attention. Not to mention that the Times Free Press was pushing the story awfully hard - interesting.
Election Night - early voting results come in around 8:20, with Smedley on top, Wamp in second and Hullander in very close third. At Hullander HQ, nobody panicked, we could make up the difference, right?
Then, day-of results come in and all of a sudden, the candidate who was third in every single solitary poll up until two days prior was on top. And it held steady. How?
Fact: Registered Democrats were texted and told to vote for Wamp. That info is out there as well.
Fact: The rules of the Tennessee Republican Party state that in order to vote in a Republican Primary, you must be a “bona-fide” member. This means, if I remember correctly, that you’ve voted Republican in at least three prior general elections.
The problem, however, is that poll workers don’t have the proper resources to confirm that any given voter is in fact a bona-fide Republican/Democrat. Not their fault, just a failing of the system. So any voter can waltz into the polling place and vote without having to prove they’re bona fide.
This is why Ms. Smedley is challenging. It’s not simply that she didn’t get the desired results or that a couple Democrats innocently happened to pick up a Republican ballot. No, this is a coordinated attempt to influence the choice of the Republicans of Hamilton County in order to achieve the best chance for the Democrats to win in August.
If we want true election integrity, we have to draw the line somewhere.
I believe we are doing the right thing, and I hope the SEC has enough sense to see the same thing.