The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports:
The rules for who can run as a Republican in deeply red Tennessee are getting harder.
State Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden said Friday that the GOP wants to remain welcoming to new supporters. But that doesn't mean they should immediately be able to become Republican nominees come election time, he said.
"This isn't saying that we don't want people to be Republicans — this is the standard that we have for people wanting to get the Republican nomination to serve in public service," Golden said.
Exceptions in the new rules will be made for candidates not old enough to have voted in the last four primaries, moved from another state or had an illness or military service that prevented them from voting. A letter from established Republicans to vouch for GOP newcomers could override the primary voting requirement, at the chairman's discretion.
Challenging a candidate's bona fide status requires a complaint from two Republican voters. But in another change, those complaints must be made from the same district the candidate is running in to avoid activists from trying to interfere with races outside their home areas.
Golden, who will have the final say over all challenges, said he expects successful efforts to oust candidates to be rare.
"Of the close to 1,000 candidates who might potentially run as Republicans, you're talking about a handful of people that might not qualify," he said.
But one Republican candidate could have a high likelihood of being excluded from the ballot. Three-time Democratic candidate Larry Crim filed federal paperwork in October to run for the U.S. Senate — this time as a Republican.
"If you were standing with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as recently as 12 months ago, it's hard to argue that you are now a dedicated Republican worthy of serving our nation at its highest levels as a Republican," Golden said.
Golden said any challenge will have to wait until state candidacy petitions become available in January. But should that challenge be filed, it's difficult to envision Crim withstanding the party's scrutiny, he said.
"I think that is something the political committee will look at and say, it's not that we don't want you in the Republican Party, but in order for you to seek office on our ballot with our stamp of approval we would like for you to be involved in the Republican Party for a decent amount of time," he said.
Crim ran for Democratic nomination for Senate in 2012, coming in fourth. He came in fourth again when he ran for the Senate nomination two years later. And in 2016, he ran against U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, even though Crim lives in Nashville. He received 406 votes, or less than 1 percent of the total.
So basically what you have here is someone like Neal Collins of Easley proving that he can’t win with his true loyalty to the “Democrat Party” - so in order to get votes, he runs as Republican in name only.
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