David J. Luciano, author of this article, is an APSU political science student who testified at the Kurita/Barnes September 13 Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee Hearing and was present for the entire process. Luciano is the former president of the APSU Democrats. This is his version of the hearing events as they occurred and is a response to the article published today (9.17.08) on Clarkville Online by author Debbie Boen.
As someone who witnessed the entirety of the Democratic Party’s Executive Committee’s hearing of Tim Barnes’s challenge of the 22nd district senatorial election, I must respond to Debbie Boen’s misrepresentations of the facts of this event.
Although she states that Joe Schiller “told the officials in the room that ‘they had been instructed to vote based on the evidence and facts, not on retribution and revenge,’” and was then asked to leave the room, this was not in fact what happened. The rules of the meeting stipulated that while spectators and the media were welcome to attend the event, only committee members were allowed to speak. Schiller did not make this statement; a committee member made a similar statement and Schiller then yelled loudly, “here, here!”. When executive committee members reminded him that he was not allowed to speak as a non-committee member, he continued to get increasingly louder, yelling, “But I’m a voter!” Again, he was asked to stop, and refusing, was escorted from the room.
This incident came after members of the Kurita camp had been admonished by committee chair Gray Sasser for laughing, hooting, and making derisive comments during the hearing.
Also, Boen quotes Beth Robinson as saying, “There was no proof,” and calling the hearing, oddly, a “Scopes monkey trial.” Tim Barnes’s case was presented by noted attorney George Barrett, whose reputation throughout Tennessee is legendary. Barrett was assisted by four experienced and respected attorneys who also are highly regarded. Does anyone seriously think that the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee listened for eight hours to a case with “no proof?”. Rosalind Kurita’s attorney had ample opportunity to put on a defense, and yet offered not a single witness or affidavit to dispute the evidence offered by Barnes’s attorneys. Does anyone seriously think the party would have made its decision without careful thought and deliberation? Without ample evidence and legal underpinnings on which to do so?
Although Rosalind Kurita has been saying to the media since Saturday that she was “cheated” out of an election that was “certified,” the facts are this:
- That the election was certified means that the numbers on election day show that Kurita had 19 more votes than Barnes. No one disputes this and this was not part of the election contest.
- George Barrett and the other attorneys for Tim Barnes put on evidence, including sworn affidavits and three witnesses, attesting to the fact that a precinct captain had instructed voters who stated that they wanted to vote for Tim Barnes to vote in the Republican primary. This precinct captain was shown to have ties to Rosalind Kurita.
- It was proven that a significant higher number of voters who historically vote in Republican primaries switched over to vote in the Democratic primary in this election. The suggestion is that Rosalind Kurita used her ties to Ron Ramsey, who had pledged openly to “help her in any way [he] could” to turn out Republican voters to vote for her in an attempt to maintain Republican leadership of the Senate.
- Rosalind Kurita violated the law by going into a polling place, along with her deputy campaign manager. Although she stated she went into the building to “use the restroom,” Tim Barnes’s attorney produced four affidavits and a witness stating that she clearly violated the hundred-foot boundary. It is unclear for what purpose Kurita entered the building, as this polling place is surrounded by public restrooms. One of the affiants was from a school-board candidate who was at the polling place from before the polls opened at 7:00 a.m. until after they closed at 7:00 p.m., and who got in her car and left the premises to go across the street to use the restroom several times throughout the day so that she would not violate the law. Kurita’s attorney did not produce a single witness or affidavit defending her actions or corroborating her story.
Rather than feeling that the events of Saturday were a “Scopes monkey trial,” (whatever that may mean), many people feel that on Saturday, the Tennessee Democratic Party followed Tim Barnes’s lead and acted with bravery and courage, knowing they would be criticized. They did the right thing in that they followed the rules that were set before them to set right a wrong and send the party and the state of Tennessee back in the right direction.
In Clarksville at 7:30 p.m. (9.17.08) the Executive Committees of the affected counties are meeting to determine which name will be on the the Democratic ballot in November.