By Horatio Bunce
This post is Part 3 in a series of posts evaluating the 2016 Tennessee Republican Party convention delegate slate produced after closed-door meeting and vote by the party executive committee. The state GOP has a convention delegation consisting of 58 members. There are also Alternates in addition to the 58 Delegates. The party leadership selects 17 of the 58 delegates. Three of these 17 are the existing state party chair, the RNC committeeman and the RNC committeewoman. The other 14 are selected by the state party leadership. This represents 29% of the total state delegation being selected by the established party leadership – not the Republican primary voters (or as RNC committeeman Curly Haughland refers to them: “the general public”). Getting to select where 29% of the delegation fits is a pretty good head start, wouldn’t you agree?
Since the delegate slate is disputed behind closed doors and you are only presented with a “final slate”, this requires an autopsy to determine just whom the party leadership chose as their 14. The party peppers the ballot both with at-large and congressional district delegates committed to various candidates. Some of these are incumbents that will carry name recognition, others are state executive committee members that apparently are not satisfied with choosing themselves in the 14 and also appear on the ballot. Covering enough of the candidates with party loyalists ensures an additional level of control post-election that can extend beyond 29%. Part 1 of this series identified a number of people on the delegate slate who did not appear on any Republican primary ballot. These obviously seem to have been selected by the party leadership and represent a total of 8 Delegates and 4 Alternates. Not only did party leadership choose these people (many among themselves), they also can dictate which candidate they “support”. Three of the 8 delegates are Haynes, Lambert and Ryder as expected automatically in, but still controlling which candidate they “support” (Cruz, Trump and Trump).
Part 2 of the series identified a number of people on the delegate slate who actually were on a Republican primary ballot and had declared themselves as “committed” to a candidate (or uncommitted in one case), and were subsequently rejected by primary voters, but now are listed as a delegate for a different candidate. These also obviously seem to have been selected by the party leadership and represent an additional total of 4 Delegates and 9 Alternates. Now at a total of 12 Delegates and 13 Alternates chosen by party leadership with their “support” dictated/changed as necessary. Why is this declared “support” important? After the elections only certain candidates are eligible for delegates. If you want certain people, who backed a loser the voting public wanted nothing to do with, to go to the convention…well, PRESTO! just change them into a delegate “committed” to the winner. More of these selections can be weighted to the winner of the primary, so if the establishment candidate “won” you have a commanding lead with hand-picked loyalists. If the establishment “lost” (see Single Digit Jeb, Rubio, et al) then you can poison the well of the not-supposed-to-win delegation with the same loyalists and displace delegates that supported that candidate. It’s a win-win scenario – for the established.
So there are at least five more Delegates and one Alternate owed to the party’s prerogative. This post will examine the At-large voting results to identify some more. The At-large delegates appeared on every Republican primary ballot in Tennessee. You could select any 14 of them, mixing and matching between “committed” candidates if you chose. Thus, the voting for the at-large delegates are a pretty good reflection of the statewide will of the primary voters. You would naturally expect the top 14 delegates in the at-large voting results to appear on the delegation slate. When are you going to learn Charlie Brown? Here are the at-large voting results presented in order by votes received and indicating the status of those top 14, along with some additional names highlighted that are part of the delegate slate that cannot be there except by choice from party leadership, because the voters did not choose them:
You will notice three of the top 14 did not make the slate as Delegates, only Alternates. In the case of #13 Rep. Shiela Butt, this is possibly understandable as there are no other committed Cruz at-large Delegates with less votes, only additional Alternates. However, in the case of Sen. Stacey Campfield and Martha Ruth Brown, both finished in the top 14, are not in the state party’s slate as Delegates, yet others found well down in the voting made the slate as Delegates for Trump (see #41 Sen. Bill Ketron and #60 Kay White). This, despite both Campfield and Martha Ruth Brown individually acquiring more votes than Bill Ketron and Kay White combined. Incumbent Ketron leapfrogged seven other Trump supporters that received more votes than he did. White jumped past 10 others. These are apparent party selections for delegates, bringing the total identified to 14. You will also note highlighted in red #59 Kelsey Ketron, party SEC member and daughter of incumbent Sen. Bill Ketron. She also appears to have been chosen by the party as there were many Trump supporters receiving more votes that could have been chosen as Alternates (or arguably were chosen by voters). This brings the party-selected Alternate count identified to 14. Also highlighted in red are #86 Rep. Gerald McCormick as a Rubio Delegate, #106 Nathan Buttrey, formerly “committed” to Single Digit Jeb, now as a Rubio Alternate and #116 Rob Ailey, formerly “committed” to Huckabee, now as a Trump Alternate. These are obviously party selected, but the last two were counted in Part 2 as changing candidates. Thus, as all the other Delegates and Aternates allowed to switch candidates, they are double-dippers. They provided noise in the at-large ballot, displacing delegates that may have actually been “committed” to Jeb or Huckabee and now displacing delegates that actually still are committed to Rubio and Trump. Now the score is 15 Delegates and 14 Alternates. Perhaps you could argue all four of the Rubio Delegates chosen from the at-large results are party-selected as no Rubio delegate finished in the top 25. Perhaps the explanation is that these are awarded proportionally also. However the at-large delegate award is Trump 9, Cruz 4 and Rubio 4. Maybe it’s Common Core Math. At the most, there are two Delegates to go. In Part IV, I will attempt to identify any additional party-selected delegates appearing on the slate from the Congressional Delegates.