By Steve Hunley

Commissioner Larsen Jay has put together a rather solid case for those Republicans who aren’t following the bylaws as written and approved by the Tennessee State Executive Committee. Let me quote from the Bylaws of the Tennessee Republican Party under Article 1, “Name & Purpose”, Section 3: “Neither the SEC as a body, nor the Officers, nor the TRP’s paid staff members, nor a County Republican Party or CEC (County Executive Committee) as a body, nor County Republican Party Chairmen shall endorse a Republican candidate in a contested primary election.” The state bylaws go on to say the forgoing sections “shall specifically govern the conduct of individual SEC or CEC members with respect to the endorsement of any Republican candidate in a contested primary election for State Senator or State Representative or other local or judicial offices in the District or County which he represents.” Republicans have rightly excoriated Democrats for refusing to enforce or follow laws in many instances; the GOP has rightly been profoundly opposed to the idea of defunding the police.

Larsen Jay, just as this newspaper has done, pointed to several examples where officers of our own local Republican Party have violated the state party bylaws and the rules which govern local party organizations. Add to that of then-chairman Randy Pace stating on the night of the primary election in 2018 that “the party” did not recognize Eddie Mannis as the Republican nominee for State Representative nor would it support Mannis in the general election. Not only did Randy Pace have no authority to make such a sweeping announcement, but he also had no authority to attempt to countermand the results of a duly conducted primary election. Pace was of course for Mannis’ opponent in the Republican primary, Gina Oster, who is off yet again running for the County Commission seat of Randy Smith who is term-limited. There is any number of people present at the GOP celebration that night who will swear in affidavits as to what Randy Pace said. Certainly, Eddie Mannis can personally attest to it. Pace’s statements that evening and since are a clear violation of the Tennessee Republican Party’s bylaws as written.

Amongst the other violations Larsen Jay detailed was Pace’s open support for Christine Cruz, a candidate against Jay for County Commissioner At-Large. Ms. Cruz had barely lived in Knox County when she was named as chair of the local party reorganizational meeting’s Credentials Committee. Ms. Cruz had only registered to vote in Knox County the previous September prior to the meeting in March. Pace actually introduced Cruz to the people attending her campaign kick-off, which the Focus detailed in a previous editorial along with a link to watch his comments. In those same comments, Pace said Cruz’s husband blamed him for having recruited Ms. Cruz to run against an incumbent Republican officeholder. That candidate recruitment had to occur while Pace was chairman of the Knox County Republican Party but if not, he was certainly a member of the local County Executive Committee. Daniel Herrera, Pace’s handpicked successor as party chair, attended Cruz’s kick-off as did one of the most notorious agitators against Rep. Eddie Mannis, Gary Loe. Neither Herrera nor Pace were anywhere to be seen when Larsen Jay kicked off his own campaign.

Jay detailed, as has this newspaper, Daniel Herrera’s business interest in the Angle Group, a self-described lobbying and political consulting firm. The Angle Group consists of Drew Lonergan, Allie Jeffries, and Justin Mash; Daniel Herrera has described himself as the “managing partner” of the Angle Group. Is it a mere coincidence the Angle Group is running Christine Cruz’s campaign against Jay? That is documented by a glance at Cruz’s financial disclosure which shows payment for $10,000 to the Angle Group. Allie Jeffries is Cruz’s campaign manager. Larsen Jay is certainly right; the entire setup smells of favoritism as well as a clear violation of the state party bylaws.

Larsen Jay wrote Herrera an email asking if Herrera or the local Republican Party had provided the Cruz campaign with the email addresses of those who had attended the reorganizational meeting. Certainly, as Jay suggests, Christine Cruz had access to all the folks attending who had to provide their respective email addresses, but to date, the Commissioner has yet to receive the courtesy of a reply from Daniel Herrera. That seems to be Herrera’s mode of doing business; one hears constant complaints he is either slow to return telephone calls or not at all. Larsen Jay has asked in the name of fairness that he should be given access to the same email addresses as Cruz. Jay has also advocated that information should be available to all GOP candidates locally.

Many of these complaints have been documented beyond all question. The remaining question is not in the hands of locals, but rather those of Tennessee Republican Party State Chairman Scott Golden. Either Republicans stand for fair play and following the rules or not. Either Republicans abide by their own bylaws or not. Randy Pace and Daniel Herrera have been doing exactly as they have pleased without the slightest comment from Nashville. There is no reason for anyone to pretend members of the state organization haven’t heard about this festering sore that is only growing larger and helping only one group of people: the Democrats.

So, here’s the only question remaining: will the state Republican party uphold and enforce its bylaws?