Brent Leatherwood who is the Executive Director of the Tennessee Republican Party has announced he is running for the Party chairman position. The current chairman, Ryan Haynes, has announce he will not be seeking reelection. The new chairman will be elected by the State Executive Committee at the December SEC meeting. Leatherwood has served as Executive Director since December 2012, serving under both Ryan Hanyes and Ryan's predecessor Chris Devaney.
There is discontent within the TN GOP for several reasons. In October, instead of the Party enthusiastically getting behind Donald Trump's candidacy, Bent Leatherwood issued a statement saying Republican should vote their conscience. While that statement pleased me and other who were disappointed that the party had nominated a person who unnecessarily used vitriolic rhetoric, who lacked the temperament to be president, and who was a Republican in name only, it did not sit well with supporters of Donald Trump. "We’re encouraging people to vote their conscience. We view our job as one to continue the advance of the conservative cause by defeating Democrats. So we encourage Tennesseans to vote consistent with their conservative convictions,” said Leatherwood. (link)
There was also resentment that among the 14 delegates appointed by the Party sent to the Republican National Convention were those who were not Trump loyalist. Most delegates are elected but 14 are appointed by the executive committee. If we would have had a brokered convention, they would have not likely voted for Trump on the third ballot. This became very heated and generated national news coverage that establishment Republican were stealing Trump delegates.
Another recent conflict in the party as been that involving Walther Ferrell and Taylor Ferrell and an allegation that the Party was involving itself in primaries attempting to defeat some incumbent Republicans. Taylor Ferrell was a paid contractor with the TRP who worked to coordinate travel and other logistics for those delegates attending the Republican National Convention. She is also married to Walker Ferrell who is the TRP Political Director. Taylor Ferrell is also sole proprietor of Southland Advantage and Southland Advantage had clients who were running in the primary against incumbent Republican office holders.
Twenty-seven Republican office holders signed a letter calling for Walter Ferrell's resignation due to this conflict. Those who defended Taylor Ferrell said she was not an employee of the Party but was a contractor doing work for the Party and was not violating Party bylaws by having clients seeking to defeat incumbent Republicans. That to me appeared to be a distinction without a difference. Among those leading the effort to get Taylor and Walker Ferrell fired, there were also calls for the termination of Ryan Haynes as Chairman and Brent Leatherwood as Executive Director. For a lot more on this controversy, follow this link.
According to a recent story in the Tennessean, also seeking the position of Chair is Bill Giannini, a deputy commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Also, a potential candidate for the position is Scott Golden a member of the SEC. Several people who ran in 2015 such as SEC member Rebecca Burke and Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain are not running and neither is former State Senator Jim Tracy who has been mentioned as a candidate.