Davidson County’s Juvenile Court clerk race has turned decidedly partisan, with the Tennessee Democratic Party chairman vowing his party is “fully engaged” to defeat the man he calls a “right-wing, nut-job Republican.”
In a recent email to supporters, Metro Councilman Eric Crafton, the Republican candidate for Juvenile Court clerk, tries to rally his conservative troops by citing $15,000 spent by the state Democratic Party on mail pieces on behalf of Democratic candidate David Smith.
“Despite everything they are saying and doing to defeat us, we are truly on the verge of something spectacular,” Crafton writes in the email.
Chip Forrester, the state’s Democratic Party chair, confirmed mail pieces were sent to voters on behalf of Smith through a party-led, coordinated campaign effort. Forrester didn’t shy away from his party’s position.
“We’re extremely interested and supportive of David Smith’s race for Juvenile Court clerk,” Forrester told The City Paper. “We see the potential of Eric Crafton, who is a right-wing, nut-job Republican, using this [seat] as a stepping stone for higher office.”
Early voting for Metro’s general election kicked off two weeks ago. Election Day is Aug. 5.
Crafton, who represents parts of Bellevue, has become a punching bag of sorts for Democrats after his unsuccessful English only push more than a year and a half ago.
“We feel, because Davidson County is an extremely important Democratic bastion for us, the state party, as well as the local party, has a strong interest in ensuring that David Smith is elected next week,” Forrester said.
Kimberly Ketchel, communications director of the Tennessee Republican Party, said the state Republican Party has not provided financial support for Crafton, but supports his candidacy.
Asked for his response to Forrester’s comments, Crafton said, “I wouldn’t know Chip Forrester if he were standing next to me.
“I guess when things aren’t going your way you can’t really criticize someone’s credentials, and all you’re really left with is name calling,” Crafton said. “Unfortunately, this liberal-activist wing of the Democratic Party, they seem to never be able to win a debate or issue based on the facts.”
Crafton, in an email to supporters, also used “liberal activist” to describe At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine, going on to say that Steine thinks the Juvenile Court clerk office and other local seats “belong only to Democrats.”
The remarks came in light of comments Steine made in a recent Tennessean article that explores the role Crafton’s failed English only initiative could play on energizing Democratic voters.
“I don’t think many people think there’s much doubt about the outcome,” Steine said in the story. “The question is if David’s margin is substantial over Eric, that sends the message to Republicans that perhaps they might want to invest their resources elsewhere in upcoming congressional and even legislative races.”
Responding to Crafton’s email, Steine told The City Paper, “I think what Eric’s doing is clearly trying to compensate for really the lack of work he’s put into his own campaign. He’s trying to use an outside comment to mobilize his base.
“On another level, I would say it actually confirms everybody’s thoughts,” Steine added. “When he says he just wants to be a clerk based on his qualifications, clearly using me with the label he wants to put on me, absolutely makes the case that indeed he’s going to pursue an activist agenda if he gets to be clerk.”