Inner-Party Fight Over Outcome Of Nashville Race Shows Divisions In Tennessee’s Democratic Party

Former chairman of the state's Democratic Party Chip Forrester sent an email to supporters suggesting that one candidate of his own party shouldn't have run. Credit: TNDP

Former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party Chip Forrester sent an email to supporters suggesting that one candidate of his own party shouldn’t have run. Credit: TNDP

Days after attorney Bill Beck landed a victory in the race over House District 51, an intra-party spat has taken off. The former head of the party has suggested that one candidate shouldn’t have run in the fight to fill Rep. Mike Turner’s vacated seat.

In an email now being circulated, Chip Forrester, the former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, wrote that Stephen Fotopulos ruined the race for Jennifer Buck Wallace.

“We suspected and worried that this might happen given the fact that Folopulus was drawing votes directly from Jennifer’s Progressive base,” Forrester wrote.

Forrester’s view is that District 51 candidate Stephen Fotopulos siphoned away votes from his endorsed candidate, Jennifer Buck Wallace.

Preliminary results show that Beck garnered 41 percent of the vote, compared to Fotopulos’ 24 percent and Buck Wallace’s 34 percent. The seat became open after Rep. Mike Turner retired after 14 years in office. The district encompasses parts of downtown, East Nashville and Old Hickory.

Unofficial Vote Totals:

  • Bill Beck — 1851
  • Steve Fotopulos — 1069
  • Jennifer Buck Wallace — 1545

Buck Wallace’s campaign raised more than $100,000, which was more than four times what Fotopulos put up. Still, the two were separated by 476 votes.

Forrester went on to write: “I am absolutely certain that had he not been in the race, Jennifer would have gotten 75%+ of the Fotopulos vote, giving her a strong margin of victory over Bill Beck. It was not to happen.”

One Democratic activist who read Forrester’s email but asked not to be identified wondered: “Why do Democrats continue to cannibalize their own?”

The current Democratic Party Chairman, Roy Herron, was not immediately available for comment.

In an email obtained by WPLN, Fotopulos told Forrester that he was disappointed by the narrative Forrester was spreading.

“The fact is that Bill activated his base effectively and ran a better race. I realize you have a lot of explaining to do to your donors, but I suggest you think harder about why your candidates lose campaigns. Perhaps your theory of the race should include from the outset the possibility of other qualified candidates.”

When asked for comment on the exchange, Fotopulos wrote in an email that “the primary is over, and now is the time for us to rally behind our Democratic candidate, not disparage him, his base, or others in the race.”

Forrester’s full letter is below.

From: Chip Forrester
Date: Fri, Aug 8, 2014 at 9:27 AM
Subject: Jennifer Buck Wallace Lost by 306 Voted

It is with a heavy heart and sadness that I send you this email.

Jennifer Buck Wallace lost her State House race last night by 306 votes.

The unofficial totals were:

 

Bill Beck                             1851

Steve Fotopulos               1069

Jennifer Buck Wallace    1545

We suspected and worried that this might happen given the fact the Fotopulos was drawing votes directly from Jennifer’s Progressive base.

There were two Progressives in the race—Jennifer and Steve—who both drew from the same Progressive East Nashville base while Bill Beck relied on the traditional Blue Collar, older, white voter in the Northern part of the district.

We saw the trending about 2 weeks ago and Jennifer worked hard to turn Fotopulos voters her way but just could not move enough of them by Election Day.

She out-raised the entire field, posting over a $100k raised and Fotopulos could never get north of $25K but he had just enough money to hold Progressive votes in East Nashville (where he lives) to cut into Jennifer substantially enough to cause her defeat.

I am absolutely certain that had he not been in the race, Jennifer would have gotten 75%+ of the Fotopulos vote, giving her a strong margin of victory over Bill Beck.

It was not to happen.

I wanted to thank you for all you did to help Jennifer.  Without what you did she could not have run the race she did.  Thank you!!

I do not know what Jennifer plans to do in the future but I am honored and proud to have helped her and know that we have not heard the last from this future leader.

Tennessee needs her and so does our nation!

Regards,

CHIP

Please keep your community civil. Comments will be moderated prior to posting, and Nashville Public Radio reserves the right to approve them at its discretion. Comments containing links promoting goods, services - even noble organizations - will not be published. Your comments may include external links, but all comments with links will be delayed as they are reviewed. Comments containing profanity will be rejected.