UPDATE: proposed changes increase size of the Executive Committee

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Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee members were recently alerted to a move afoot in Nashville that would reorganize the state party's Executive Committee and eliminate popular election of committee members.

According to sources, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Lowe Finney (Jackson) and Rep. Jason Powell (Nashville) will propose legislation as early as this week to designate the Democratic House delegation as the Executive Committee, and let the House and Senate each appoint five other members from around the state.

According to current state law, two members, one male and one female, are elected from each Senate district in the August primary preceding gubernatorial elections. The changes being considered would eliminate this process and reduce the size of the Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee elects the party officers, including party chair, treasurer and regional vice chairs among others. The Executive Committee is also responsible for adopting the party bylaws and operating budget.

The purpose of the proposed reorganization is not clear. According to sources, the sponsors feel the executive committee is too large. We are also told that they feel the unpaid volunteer executive committee members are not donating money, are not actively campaigning for candidates, are not responsive to elected officials, and are only interested in attending the DNC national convention.

Sources also say the proposed legislation would be written so that it doesn't apply to the TNGOP if they so choose. It would be introduced as an amendment to a caption bill, possibly SB297/HB898.

The implications of the proposed changes are also not clear. It would certainly reduce the size and makeup of the committee. There are currently 66 elected members, two from each Senate district. Under the proposed changes, the committee would be made up of 29 House Democrats plus 10 members, five each appointed by House and Senate Democrats.

Some areas would be underrepresented. For example, the Knoxville area would have two committee members (Rep. Johnson and Rep. Armstrong), as compared to the current ten.

It would also eliminate the democratic process of electing party representatives independent of elected officials, putting more power in the hands of a few insiders. Another consideration is whether already underpaid elected officials have the time and/or inclination to take on unpaid volunteer work on behalf of the party, including Democratic voters in districts they don't represent.

Inside baseball aside, it appears there is yet another internal power struggle in the TNDP. The movers and their motives are not particularly clear at this point.

NOTE: Contrary to early reports, it appears the reference to the Democratic legislative delegation referred to Congressional districts, not state House and Senate districts. See update.

Average Guy's picture

Herron's take should be

Herron's take should be interesting. I wonder how long members of the TN congress have felt this way?

R. Neal's picture

I suspect this goes back a

I suspect this goes back a while. I seem to recall talk about a secret shadow party apparatus run by legislators, Bredesen and wealthy Nasville insiders who didn't like Chip Forrester's style.

Anonymousloser's picture

Chip Forrester's style

What style, exactly, did Forrester have - besides losing?

Andy Axel's picture

Something's got to give, though

This is bred of continued frustration with the EC and the membership that has an average tenure of "sometime during the Nixon administration." (Love ya, Will Cheek, but 40 years? What have you done for us lately?)

vibinc's picture

TN Democrats have created Unhealthy Ecosystem

This move isn't that surprising. The State Executive Committee has been seen, in some quarters, as completely out of touch and creating its own "good ol boys" club for some time. The fact that only 9 of the 66 seats were contested in 2010 furthers that idea. These contests are not only not competitive, but show the overall stagnation of the party.

That said, its not as if the "good ol boys" in the Legislature have done any better. The losses we have experience over the past 3 cycles aren't the fault of the TNDP alone, they are the fault of systemic failures all around and a lack of recognition of changes on the ground...nevermind trying to actually, you know, address real issues.

As a result, we got our asses kicked in rural areas, where communication isn't necessarily more difficult, but takes more effort than any of these "leaders" were willing to give.

On top of this, Tennessee Democrats have done a piss poor job of engaging and creating opportunities for young people to "move up the ranks". This has further caused problems for the party, and is how state Republicans have won.

I did a post a while back that looked at the average age of the House GOP and Dem caucuses. Dems were around 62, GOP was 45. This was before the 2010 landslide.

Healthy ecosystems have life in all stages of development that grow, thrive and eventually die in support of furthering the good of the whole. The entire Tennessee Democratic establishment has ignored this, preferring to hold on until they die, and are then replaced by nothing...or worse, a completely different beast...a Republican.

Sandy Lusk 's picture

TNDP should be expanding not reducing its size

The Democratic Party is the Party of the masses. We need to increase representation of the people rather than reduce it, as this bill would accomplish. Any and all of you are free to run for Executive Committee office, and I hope you do. We need more activism not less.

When I first heard of this proposal as a caption bill, I thought this was something that would suit the Republicans well. The Romney's, Bushes, Koch Brothers and Haslams would have the elitist Party they desired. This is not a good thing for the Democratic Party. We are the Party of the middle class, diversity and poor. These groups will lose their voice if this bill comes to fruition.

Years ago in the 1970's, we had this type of arrangement. We did away with it to ensure everyone had a voice. The African American community needed more representation; thus, our State E.C.s were increased. Please let's not go back to the days of old.

Sandy Lusk
East Tennessee Regional Vice Chairwoman, TNDP

Joe Democrat's picture

An idea

As a passive political watcher, maybe this is a good idea.

Think of it, all of these incredibly experienced and capable executive committee members who find themselves out a volunteer position could start investing all their efforts on rebuilding county parties.

They certainly need the help.

Old dog's picture

Worth Looking Into...

This proposal, though it has some big flaws, is worth looking into, if only because it would be a change from what we have now. The Dem EC ceased to be a reasonable deliberative body a decade ago, and now simply exists in order to embarrass the party, waste time, and give its members the chance to dress up and attend something they think is important. Watching one of their quarterly meetings is as entertaining as Nashville night court.

Keith Ribbon's picture


Oh please!!! This is just another example of Lowe Finney throwing a temper tantrum. He's mad that he didn't get his way when Dave Garrison was defeated for Party Chair. Now he's working to eliminate those members who voted for Herron. This is politics at its best folks.

Perry Aubric's picture

Finney's Fit

Or politics at its worst. Not to say that the TNDP Executive Committee is the cream of the crop all the time, and we could use some better quality membership. But Finney and Powell would do better to recruit candidates for it (they would probably win against the folks he is frustrated with) than to do something like this. A quality candidate would do well in almost every district, especially since they have been mostly unopposed. Whose fault is that? How about Loew Finney's for not getting some better candidates on the ballot.

The House Democrats? Really? We want to trust them to run the party? And you have to wonder what Rep. David Shepard might have to say about this; his wife is a member of the Executive Committee.

This speaks very poorly of Lowe Finney and Jason Powell. Their buddy didn't win the chairmanship (nor should he have won it), so they want to change the rules to give them a victory. Sound very much like what the Republicans want to do with voter eligibility and the electoral college.

Lowe Finney and Jason Powell should show some leadership. Instead, they are showing some breathtaking pettiness.

Local Citizen's picture

EC Members

As everyone should know, the EC of both parties do not represent the average citizen. First and foremost, it is a so-called volunteer position that is a very highly political position. It takes money, and plenty of it, to be a EC member of both parties. From the cost of running a campaign to attending all of the party functions to making expected donations, only the well connected can serve. The current EC of both parties are extreme of center. The GOP seems to be okay with the right-wingers running things but a lot of the big money Democrats are to the center of the previous state Democratic leadership. I do not support the take over of the EC by the politicians in Nashville but the current is not working either. Something needs to change but not a power grab that leaves out the rank and file members.

Perry Aubric's picture

Finney and Powell and Giving

I just checked the Federal Election Commission and the Tennessee Secretary of State's sites, and it appears to me that neither Jason Powell nor Lowe Finney have anything to brag about as far as making financial contributions to the party or to Democratic candidates is concerned, eith at the federal or state levels. Finney gave $500 to a U.S. Senate candidate in Florida in the last cycle, and that is all. Noting to the TNDP, nothing to other candidates that I can find. Powell didn't even do that much.

So they have a right to bitch about the Executive Committe members givng money, why?

I welcome someone else checking these sites to see if I missed something. But I don't think I did.

I think they can consider some term limits, some pretty tough rules on participation once elected, perhaps some other standards for election to teh Executive Committee. But this particular proposal is bullshit.

LeftWingCracker's picture


I am hearing that the Caucus is meeting about this bill at 4 PM CT today.

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