Van Buren County voters went to the election polls on May 4, 2010, to cast their votes in the County’s Democratic Primary. In the race for Van Buren County Mayor, current Mayor Kelly J. Dishman and Herbert P. Davis were the two candidates. It was a close race, however at the end of the evening and with the votes counted, Mr. Davis managed a win with 39 votes.
Immediately following this win by Davis, rumors began to circulate regarding everything from re-counts being called for to violations of candidates being inside the voting areas while votes were continuing to be casted, to sour grapes pushing different actions and movements. Regardless of the many rumors, a fact has surfaced with the following letter being obtained:
May 14, 2010
Chip Forrester, Chairman
Tennessee Democratic Party
223 Rosa L. Parks Ave.
Nashville, TN 37203
Dear Mr. Forrester:
I represent Kelly Dishman, a Democratic candidate for the office of County Mayor in Van Buren County, Tennessee. Mr. Dishman lost the primary election held on May 4, 2010, to Herbert Davis. Pursuant to T.C.A. 2-17-104, this letter shall serve as notice as a challenge to the results of that election. There are five (5) grounds for this challenge:
1. Herbert Davis, the other candidate for this election, was not a resident of Van Buren County for at least one (1) year prior to election, as required by law. Upon information and belief, Mr. Davis owns no property in Van Buren County, and in the year preceding the election had been a resident of Putnam and White Counties.
2. Upon information and belief, several non-residents of Van Buren County voted in the election.
3. Herbert Davis failed to include the required disclaimers set forth at T.C.A. 2-19-120 in his campaign materials.
4. Herbert Davis failed to properly disclose in-kind contributions in the form of newspaper advertisements in his financial disclosure reports, in violation of T.C.A. 2-10-107.
5. On the day of the primary election, a campaign worker gave improper instructions to voters at the first and fifth district polling stations.
These are the grounds upon the challenge is based at this time. Should further grounds come to light, this challenge may be supplemented to include those grounds.
Very truly yours,
John P. Partin
Partin is with the law firm Galligan & Newman and the former Van Buren County’s attorney. It was noted letters were sent to Mr. Forrester as well as two letters to Mr. Davis at addresses in Cookeville and Moneyham Lonewood Road in Spencer and Mrs. Ann McCormick.
In an effort to learn more about the steps in the process of challenging a Democratic Primary, the State Democratic Party in Nashville was contacted. Communications Director Keith Talley provided the following information.
*Any candidate may contest the primary election of the candidate's party for the office for which that person was a candidate.
*To institute a contest, the candidate shall, within five (5) days after the certification of results by the county election commission, file a written notice of contest with the state primary board of the candidate's party and with all other candidates who might be adversely affected by the contest. In the notice the candidate shall state fully the grounds of the contest.
*The state primary board shall hear and determine the contest and make the disposition of the contest which justice and fairness require, including setting aside the election if necessary.
[Acts 1972, ch. 740, § 1; T.C.A., § 2-1704.]
The following link was also provided where the complete law is located for review. http://www.michie.com/tennessee/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=main-h.htm&cp=tncode
Davis was contacted and gave the following statement regarding the claims being made by Dishman.
“I haven’t received a letter yet from them, but this is all just not true,” said Davis. “About me not living here, well I had a period of illness and the doctor didn’t want me staying by myself for awhile, so for about a month or so I stayed in Cookeville with my daughter. She’s a nurse and it was either that or a rehabilitation center. She said she wanted me to come stay with her till I recovered to make sure I was eating and taking my medication right. That was the only time I wasn’t living at home. What did they want me not to get well and rehabilitate?”
McCormick gave the following statement.
“I did receive a copy of this letter,” said McCormick. “I don’t understand why however, because I wasn’t on the Democratic Primary ballot. But I am continuing to campaign and seek support, regardless of the candidate or candidates I will be facing on August 5th.”
Dishman was also contacted and declined to comment on his actions of contesting the results.