More counties than ever in Tennessee will hold Republican primaries next month as the state party has been pushing to have more influence on local governments. But there’s still some resistance within the GOP.
Several county commissions have fought against the primary push merely because of the expense of putting on another election. But some local officials also don’t see a need for introducing partisanship into county governments.
“It’s not necessary, I don’t think,” says Maury County Commissioner Jerry Dickey, who tends to vote with Republicans.
Dickey says he has good friends in office who are die-hard Democrats. They are running Independents so they have a chance at winning in a region that tends to lean heavily Republican. He sees a power-grab.
“The Tea Party here – I was at their meeting the other night, and I like a lot of them and I think they’ve got some good things going,” he says. “They’re hand picking who they want in the commission.”
Still, Republicans only qualified to run in half the commission races in Maury County.
The state GOP is also responsible for local primaries in the Middle Tennessee counties of Coffee, Rutherford and White.
A spokesman defends the effort, saying Republicans have taken their policies to the state legislature and want to do the same on the local level.
“On the local level, candidates are elected without voters knowing that much about them,” says TNGOP deputy director Michael Sullivan. “But when you put an R or a D next to their name, you know at least a general idea about where a candidate stands.”
While Tennessee Republicans are campaigning to have local election primaries held throughout the state, they can’t touch city councils like Metro Nashville’s. State law specifically requires those elections to be non-partisan.