Attorney Mark Pulliam Announces His Candidacy for Blount County Republican Party Chair
Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed California refugee and an accomplished attorney, Mark Pulliam to the newsmaker line to announce his candidacy for Blount County Republican chair and why he’s qualified to do it.
Leahy: We are delighted to welcome to our newsmaker line, our very good friend Mark Pullium from Blount County, Tennessee. Good morning, Mark.
Pulliam: Good morning, Michael. I’m always pleased to be on the voice of reason in Nashville. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: Mark, you’re mixing it up again! You won’t quit. And just for our listeners, Mark is a very accomplished attorney writer and a refugee from California and then Texas who moved to Tennessee in hopes of finding freedom and liberty. Found something a little different, didn’t you, Mark?
Pulliam: Yes. I’m either very persistent or a sucker for punishment, (Leahy laughs) but I moved here hoping to find a vibrant Republican Party that was as conservative as I am. And we moved here to find out that the Republican Party was in the witness protection program, and I’ve tried different things.
I got elected to the state executive committee as a write-in, but then my election was nullified. So now I’m coming at it differently. And one of the people that voted to nullify my election and to discard the ballots of 300 Blount County Republicans who voted for me is SEC member Cindy Gaba-Hatcher.
She’s running to be chair of the Blount County Republican Party at the upcoming reorganization meeting, and I decided that Blount County needs to have a real Republican Party with a real Republican sharing it. So I’ve thrown my hat in the ring and I’m running to be chair at this reorganization meeting coming up on April 4th.
Leahy: This looks to be a lot of fun to me. I know there are some bad feelings and bitterness back and forth, but heck, this is politics, right? (Chuckles) I just admire you so much, Mark, for jumping into all this stuff. Now you have a little bit of an edge that our friend Scott Golden, he’s our friend. I don’t think he’s your friend, right? (Pulliam chuckles) The chairman of the Republican Party. He seems to have set the rules up to make everything as hard as possible for you. Do I have that right?
Pulliam: Because we’re an open primary state, it’s hard to tell who’s a Republican and who’s not a Republican because nobody registers by political party. And there were two bills that were introduced this session to fix that. They were both killed under very questionable circumstances in committee.
But as long as we’re an open primary state, there has to be some basis to determine who’s Republican and who’s entitled to participate in Republican politics. So they come up with this bonafide Republican test, which is very amorphous.
It’s poorly drafted and it’s susceptible to multiple interpretations, and it’s ridiculous. You have to have voted in three out of the last four statewide Republican primaries. So for a Tennessee resident…
Leahy: That could cover a lot. Let me get to this, Mark. Every two years, there are elections for the county chairman. And I know in Williamson County here, there will be, I think, March 30th or 31st there’s a general meeting of all Republicans in the county. They’ve got to get verified and go through that vetting process you talk about, and there is going to be a race between, I think it’s Cheryl Brown and Tracy Miller are the candidates here in Williamson County. But there will be one big meeting. But in Blount County, they’re breaking it down into six separate precinct conventions that are precursors of the April 4th overall meeting. Do you have to get elected in the precinct conventions? How does that work?
Pulliam: What you’re describing from Williamson County, and that’s the way most of the counties in Tennessee do it, it’s called a mass convention. And so everybody that’s eligible shows up on a day and votes on a new slate of officers.
Back in the old days, when Tennessee was a backward rural state, they came up with something called these precinct conventions if you had a lightly populated state spread out or a county spread out. But what’s happening, and under the bylaws of the Tennessee Republican Party, all counties are required to use mass convention unless Scott Golden gives you permission to do it otherwise.
And so Blount County has gotten permission to do this precinct convention, so the actual people that will be allowed to attend the reorganization meeting are selected in advance at this precinct convention.
Leahy: Mark, is this all designed to keep you from winning the election? I’m just wondering.
Pulliam: This is the way they’ve always done it. And it’s certainly easier for the insiders to control the outcome because you have to register in advance. And so they know how many people intend to show up and they can pack each precinct convention, but we, the grassroots, are beginning to wake up.
And so my group, the Blount County Conservative Coalition, is on this. There’s a group called East Tennessee Conservatives that’s on this. And what we hope is that the grassroots will show up at these precinct conventions and outvote these insiders that have been treating this party as a private club for so long and we can finally breathe some life into a more abundant county party.
Leahy: You mean it’s not a private club? I’m just kidding. By the way, let’s talk about this Cindy Gaba-Hatcher. I’ve never met Cindy, but she’s currently on the state executive committee. She’s running for the Blount County Republican Party chair against you. Where do the two of you differ in terms of how you would do the job?
Pulliam: I’ve published my platform. I tried to become a precinct delegate two years ago, but my wife and I were both blackballed at our precinct convention. Essentially, I am not sure that on the issues there would be a difference in that she’s a moderate and I’m conservative.
Fundamentally, I want the Republican Party to act like a Republican Party, to empower the grassroots, have monthly public meetings, bring in elected officials and talk to the voters and answer questions, and have a precinct program, register voters to get out the vote to do the things that Republican parties are supposed to do!
Leahy: Register voters and get out the vote. That’s the standard job of a county chairman. Do you think you’d do a better job of that than Cindy Gaba Hatcher your opponent?
Pulliam: I think I would do the job, and in Blount County, according to the standard playbook, it’s not being done. The role of the county party in Blount County is to be invisible and ineffective so that the Chamber of Commerce can really run things.
Leahy: Of course, East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee are different really, you got a lot more engagement of conservative grassroots activists in the party. In Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee traditionally has been run more by the Chamber of Commerce types, I think, right?
Pulliam: I think that’s what I’m learning in the three years that I’ve been here. (Laughter)
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Mark Pulliam” by American Institute for Economic Research. Photo “Paul Moreno” by Hillsdale College. Background Photo “Blount County Courthouse” by Brian Stansberry. CC BY 3.0.