The Tennessee Democratic Party disavowed its own U.S. Senate nominee Friday, announcing that he is “associated with a known hate group” — in this case, a conservative advocacy organization.
Mark Clayton won Tuesday’s Democratic primary with 30 percent of the vote in a field of seven candidates.
“The only time that Clayton has voted in a Democratic primary was when he was voting for himself,” said the Tennessee Democratic Party in a statement. “Many Democrats in Tennessee knew nothing about any of the candidates in the race, so they voted for the person at the top of the ticket. Unfortunately, none of the other Democratic candidates were able to run the race needed to gain statewide visibility or support.”
“Mark Clayton is associated with a known hate group in Washington, D.C., and the Tennessee Democratic Party disavows his candidacy, will not do anything to promote or support him in any way, and urges Democrats to write-in a candidate of their choice in November,” the statement concluded.
The “hate group” referred to in the statement is Public Advocate USA, a group that, according to a description on its website, “has become a highly visible political organization and a model for other conservative activist groups in Washington D.C. and across the country.”
Public Advocate USA’s recent efforts include advocacy campaigns against same-sex marriage and in favor of pro-life legislation.
“Our members are often at the forefront of the defining political issues of our time, always defending the rights of fathers, mothers and children to live their lives free from government intrusions and the self-serving motives of liberal special interests and agendas,” the website says.
The “hate group” label, said Tennessee Democratic Party press secretary Sean Braisted, comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Our assumption is they’re going to try and use this to launch free media about their cause,” Braisted says.
The state party ended up having to disavow its nominee, he added, because it “didn’t really have anyone on our side running a well-funded, serious campaign, and so no one was able to gain the statewide recognition or support to overcome the top of the ballot phenomenon which is people just pressing the first name they see.”
Braisted said that was “pretty clearly why Mark Clayton was selected that night.”
After Clayton won the Democratic nomination, Braisted said, the party “found more information out about him and realized that’s not someone that could or should get the support of Tennessee Democrats.”