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Tell Mary Mancini and the TNDP to kick DeBerry, Towns, and Windle to the curb

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We launch a formal challenge to the bona fides of three state democrats, Rep. John DeBerry, Rep. Joe Towns, and Rep. John Mark Windle.

This challenge was prompted by these officials’ votes in favor of House Bill 77, the “fetal heartbeat bill.” HB 77 would ban abortions after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The Democratic Party’s position is clear on this issue, and HB 77 stands in direct contradiction to that position. Regarding abortion, Mary Mancini, the Chair of the Party, has said,

The government should allow women to be free to make their own choice about receiving an abortion . . . We believe that no politician should insert themselves into what is always a very difficult decision . . . A woman should be left alone to make that decision in consultation with her family, her faith and her doctor.

Natalie Allison, Tennessee Democrats are conflicted on abortion. Why this House leader is crossing the state to talk about it, Tennessean (Feb. 28, 2019).

Rep. DeBerry’s comments are particularly troubling. See Natalie Allison, Democrat supporting heartbeat bill says ‘personal responsibility’ by women could prevent abortions, Tennessean (Mar. 13, 2019). Rep. DeBerry essentially shamed sexually active women and girls, saying, as to pregnancy, that women and girls should take “personal responsibility” and shouldn’t “get themselves in that position.” In addition to running afoul of the Party’s position on this matter, Rep. DeBerry appears to be confused about basic biology, considering women and girls can’t just spontaneously procreate.  

State parties have an unequivocal right under state law to choose their nominees for elected office. In fact, state law mandates that candidates running for election to the Tennessee General Assembly be bona fide members of the political party whose election they seek. Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-13-104. It also provides that "a party may require by rule that candidates for its nominations be bona fide members of the party.” 

The Tennessee Democratic Party has done just that. Under the Party's organizational bylaws, it is the Party's responsibility to determine whether a candidate who is seeking nomination as a democrat is indeed a bona fide democrat. In relevant part, Article III, § 2 of the bylaws states that “the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee shall insure [sic] that Party nominees for elected offices are bona fide Democrats as defined in Article IV, § 1[.]” Article IV, § 1 of the bylaws defines a bona fide democrat as “an individual whose record of public service, actions, accomplishment, public writings and/or public statements affirmatively demonstrates that he or she is faithful to the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic Party of the United States and of the State of Tennessee.”

While the bylaws provide that a county party may challenge a candidate for any office for failing to vote in at least three of the immediate prior five democratic primaries, the bylaws also make clear that being a bona fide democrat means more than voting regularly in democratic primaries. The bylaws do not, however, outline the process for challenging the general bona fides (as they are defined above) of a candidate. Accordingly, it appears that the bylaws allow anyone to bring such a challenge.

To that end, we ask Ms. Mancini to conduct a thorough investigation of these officials’ records, actions, accomplishments, public writings, public statements, and anything else deemed relevant to this inquiry. If it can be determined that these officials are not bona fide democrats—and their votes on HB 77 should make clear that they are not—they should be prohibited in the future from seeking election to the General Assembly as democratic nominees.

This is not just about adherence to the Party platform—it’s also about upholding the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the Tennessee Constitution mandates that every member of the General Assembly take an oath to do so. See Tenn. Const. art. X, § 2. HB 77 is more than “constitutionally suspect.” HB 77 flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, in which the Court held that a woman has the right to choose to have abortion before the viability of a fetus—without undue interference from state. 505 U.S. 833 (1992). These elected officials have violated their oaths, and the Party should not accept that.

Our tent may be big, but there is no room for elected officials who very clearly believe that women are no more than incubators. And there is certainly no room for those who trample on the rights and freedoms afforded to us by the U.S. Constitution.

Visit here for a complete list of TNDP Executive Committee Members: https://tndp.org/executive-committee/