SEVIERVILLE — One candidate has been removed from the August Republican primary ballot due to the party’s requirement to vote in three of the last four primary elections, despite the fact she’s only had the chance to vote in two.
Mariah Bailey was set to be on a Republican ballot for the second time this year, but has lost a challenge to her bid to be on the August ballot to run for the state House of Representatives against incumbent Dale Carr.
Bailey ran for a seat on the Sevier County Board of Education, losing to incumbent Kevin Townsend. She had also returned a petition to be on the August primary ballot.
But — despite the fact she’d just been on a Republican ballot — she was the target of a successful challenge to her status as a bona fide Republican running against Carr.
“I’d already been in a ballot with an R next to my name for the school board,” she said.
“I don’t know what’s going on or why I was removed.”
Bailey said while she was eventually told she wouldn’t be on the ballot, she was never given details of the final vote, which involved state party chairman Scott Golden and the members of the party’s executive committee from her district.
The challenge came under a bylaw for the Tennessee Republican Party, which requires candidates to have voted in three of the past four Republican primaries.
That bylaw was updated in 2017, Party Chair Scott Golden said.
Several candidates in the state GOP have had their bona fide status challenged this year, including Jim Ripley, who successfully ran for chancellor here after overcoming the challenge to his status.
Bailey is 20. She’ll turn 21 before the general election, meaning she’s eligible to run for the position under state law.
But at the time of the challenge, she’d only had the opportunity to vote in two Republican primaries.
She acknowledges she didn’t vote in the two statewide Republican primaries she could vote in.
That was the reason Golden gave her for not giving her a waiver based on her age.
“Younger Republicans that do not obtain their voting record due to age would require a vouch from me,” he said in the email. “ However, you registered in 2019 and failed to vote in the March 2020 and August 2020 primary thus making you 2/4 if you were even credited with voting in the years when you were under age.
That left her with a two-part process, which Golden confirmed in his interview with The Mountain Press.
She needed to speak with the Sevier County Republican Party and get a “vouch for” letter, which she did.
Bryan McCarter, chairman of the local party, said they met with Bailey for a few hours and, based on that, sent their support on to Nashville.
“We basically said we interviewed her and she seemed to have the principals and values to be a Republican and a Republican candidate,” McCarter said.
So the vote came down to Golden and two members of the state executive committee — Cindy Hatcher and Rob Ailey.
Golden said they voted unanimously to accept the challenge and rule that Bailey didn’t qualify.
He explained that the bylaws start off by assuming that a candidate is qualified — which is why Bailey was able to run for the board of education.
But once someone issued a challenge to her candidacy, it triggered the review process, and ultimately the party ruled against Bailey.
Golden said the goal behind the voting requirement is to see to it that candidates who run on the Republican ticket really support the party and share its values.
“As an organization, we want two things,” he said. We want you to be active with the organizations and we want you to vote ...
“We want you to participate in voting. It’s not enough to say you’re interested in politics and I want to be an elected official but I don’t have enough time to go out and vote.”
That is why they focused on the fact that Bailey hadn’t voted, he said, and that was a key difference between her and Ripley — while Ripely hadn’t voted in some recent primaries, he had a record stretching back years of voting in party primaries.
He encouraged potential candidates to contact the organization ahead of filing the paperwork and paying the fees, so they can go over issues that might cause a challenge.
“Don’t let the last day of the filing period come before you call,” he said.
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