Failed Senate Candidate Sues Democratic Party

     NASHVILLE (CN) – Failed U.S. Senate candidate Mark Clayton, who was disowned by his own party, sued the Tennessee Democratic Party, claiming it violated state laws by undermining his campaign and encouraging voters to write in another candidate.
     Clayton won the Democratic primary in August 2012, but the party rebelled, citing his association with an anti-gay group called Public Advocate of the United States.
     The day after Clayton won the primary, the Tennessee State Democratic Primary Board posted on its blog that he was a member of a “known hate group,” Clayton says in his lawsuit in Davidson County Court.
     The Democratic Party claimed that Clayton won the primary because his name was listed first on the ballot.
     The bad blood between Clayton and the Tennessee Democratic Party culminated in police forcibly removing him from party headquarters in October 2012.
     Clayton sued the Tennessee State Democratic Primary Board, its chairman, communications director, spokesperson and a long list of board members.
     He claims the defendants violated eight Tennessee laws and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “through fraud, intimidation, misrepresentation and violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings statute.”
     Tennessee Code Annotated 2-13-108 requires that state primary board meetings be open to the public. Clayton claims that the party board discussed in its meetings “how to disavow” his candidacy.
     He claims the board refused to provide meeting records and “instructed police to forcibly remove plaintiff from the Tennessee Democratic Party Headquarters using police force” on Oct. 12, 2012.
     State code 2-19-103 refers to interference with another person’s duties or rights. Clayton argues in the complaint that he had a right under 2-13-108 to receive “any notes of any meetings” and the board therefore violated 2-19-103.
     The Tennessee State Democratic Primary Board violated Tennessee Code Annotated 2-19-102 by failing “to timely act on the removal of” its chairman “despite being shown his disregard for Tennessee election law”, the complaint states.
     State code 2-19-114 relates to manipulation of election results by an election official or board member. Clayton argues that the board and its members “voided his primary victory by publicly stating that they disavowed him as the nominee” and “treating his nomination as if it did not happen”, according to the complaint.
     Clayton argues the defendants violated Tennessee Code Annotated 2-19-104 by purposely making “false and misleading statements for the purpose of causing others” to not treat Clayton as the party nominee and violated state code 2-19-113 for willfully or fraudulently violating election law, the complaint states. 2-19-112 states that each person in violation of election statutes shall pay a fine of $500, which Clayton claims is the case.
     He also states in the complaint that the party board committed false improvement under state code 39-13-302 by forcibly removing him from their headquarters “for no other reason than he was demanding to see records that are required to be made public” under open meetings law.
     Finally, Clayton alleges the board violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by denying his nomination “based in part on their allegation that voters for the plaintiff were unable to read, write, understand, or interpret” the ballot, according to the complaint. This violation refers to the defendants claiming Clayton “only won because his name was on top of the ballot”, the complaint states.
     The Washington Post reported on Clayton’s campaign in an October 2012 article under the headline: “2012’s worst candidate? With Mark Clayton, Tennessee Democrats hit bottom.” The Post reported that his fundraising drive was “stuck at $278.”
     Clayton seeks declaratory judgment that the defendants violated state law, and wants $500 from each of the 72 defendants, totaling $36,000.
     He is represented by John M. Drake in Nashville.
     Clayton lost the general election to Republican Bob Corker by more than a 2-to-1 margin: 1,506,443 votes (64.9%) to 705,882 (30.4%).

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