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VOL. 127 | NO. 153 | Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Disavowed Senate Nominee Preparing for November

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Senate candidate disavowed by the Tennessee Democratic Party said Monday that he's determined to show he's a viable challenger to Republican incumbent Bob Corker in November.

The party announced after last week's primary that it would not support Democratic nominee Mark Clayton because the 35-year-old belongs to an anti-gay hate group.

Clayton reported raising no money and campaigned little yet received more than 48,000 votes, twice the number of his nearest competitor, in Thursday's seven-candidate Democratic face-off to decide who runs against Corker in November.

Clayton is vice president of Falls Church, Va.-based Public Advocate of the United States, which calls itself a conservative advocacy group. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the organization an anti-gay hate group.

However, Clayton told The Associated Press on Monday that his supporters don't consider the organization to be a hate group and "like what Public Advocate is doing."

"I don't know if they just think that I'm a guy in a house that can't do anything," Clayton said of the Democratic Party. "There are a lot of people involved here with me."

The party acknowledged in a statement on Friday that many Democrats knew nothing about any of the candidates and suggested that Clayton won simply because his name appeared first on the ballot.

Tennessee's minority party is trying to figure out what it can do beyond condemning Clayton.

"We aren't taking any options off the table at this time," party spokesman Sean Braisted said in an email.

The party hasn't yet taken any action.

"In terms of doing anything official, at this point our current position is that we're just distancing ourselves, disavowing him of our support," Braisted told the AP last week. "He does not speak for the Democratic Party."

In 2008, the party stripped a state Senator who had sided with Republicans in a legislative leadership vote of her 19-vote primary win on the grounds that Republican involvement made the outcome "incurably uncertain." Last month, a federal court upheld the action.

The Democrats and the state attorney general's office argued that the primaries are a party function and not a state election, so courts generally cannot get involved in disputes over who is named as the nominee.

Friday's statement from the party began laying groundwork for a way to challenge Clayton, claiming he's not really a Democrat.

"The only time that Clayton has voted in a Democratic primary was when he was voting for himself," it said.

Clayton does not deny his anti-gay stance. Last year, he delivered a letter from Public Advocate to state senators in support of a proposal to ban teaching about gay issues to elementary and middle school students. The proposal, known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, passed the Senate 19-10. However, the companion bill failed in the House this year.

Clayton said he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, as stated in the Tennessee Constitution.

"If Public Advocate is a hate group, then the state of Tennessee is a hate group," he said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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