In the September 26 edition of the The Chronicle, Jennifer King who had recently been named chancellor over the 24th Judicial announced her resignation. She stated some of her reasons for resigning just nine days after she was appointed to the job by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.
But in her resignation letter to the governor, which has since been obtained and published by multiple media sources, King points squarely at actions taken by Rep. Bruce Griffey of Paris and his wife, Rebecca, as the primary cause of her resignation.
King accuses the Griffeys of actively cooking up “back door deals” to force the Republican parties of the five counties in the judicial district to reverse an earlier decision to hold public primary elections and opting instead to determine who will be the party’s nominee for her position in the 2020 election by caucus.
Rebecca Griffey was among the applicants for the chancellor spot, but she was not selected as a finalist for the job.
King states in her letter that the Tennessee Republican Party violated its own bylaws in forcing the caucus, which she says will make it easier for a select few to pick a preferred candidate, rather than leaving the choice up to the district’s voters.
“I became an attorney to serve the people, the real people who work hard every day to support families,” wrote King. “The same people deserve more from this flawed system than having their county judiciary be a pawn in the hands of a few individuals.”
Records provided to the media by Lee’s administration reveal that Rep. Griffey sent a letter to Lee earlier this year urging him to choose his wife as chancellor, and when she did not get selected as a finalist, Griffey sent a second letter to the governor warning that picking one of the top two male candidates would “look sexist and misogynistic.”
On Tuesday, Rep. Griffey fired back, “Ms. King’s allegations are inaccurate and appear based on innuendo and hearsay.”
He continued, “As an initial matter, the 24th Judicial District has historically nominated Republican candidates by way of caucus. For example, a caucus was held in 2014 to nominate Carma McGee for the Chancellor seat, Vicki Hoover for the Circuit seat and Matt Stowe for District Attorney. A caucus was held in 2017 to nominate Tas Gardner for the District Public Defender seat. Holding a caucus to nominate Republican Party candidates is nothing new to this judicial district, and has many benefits, including, but not limited to, allowing candidates to conserve funding for the general election.
Secondly, despite Ms. King’s unsupported allegation that the decision to caucus was made to somehow keep her from being selected as the Republican nominee, the decision to caucus had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Ms. King.”
Griffey furthered, “The decision to caucus was made to ensure all five counties in the judicial district could participate in the nomination process. If a primary as advocated by King was held, the two largest counties in the district (my home county of Henry and Hardin) would have been entirely excluded from having any voice whatsoever in the process due to a notification deadline to local Administrators of Elections that was regrettably missed by the GOP organizations in both Henry and Hardin. For this reason, discussions regarding holding a caucus were already being held long before Ms. King was nominated by the Governor.”
Griffey said, “It was a matter of fundamental fairness in allowing all 5 counties in the district to participate and was done in accordance with the TN GOP Bylaws. Ms. King was aware and had knowledge that the counties in the district were discussing caucusing before she received her appointment and she accepted the appointment.
In my opinion, Henry County as well as Hardin County deserved to have a voice in the process of selecting the Republican nominee for Chancellor, and the primary for which King advocated would have stripped any voice from Henry and Hardin Counties. I felt my constituents would prefer having some voice over no voice at all, and I advocated for a voice for my constituents. In short, I advocated for a caucus to protect the interests of Henry Countians in my district. Ultimately, however, neither I nor my wife had control over the decision that was made. The decision was made by the majority of GOP organizations in the judicial district by vote. Neither I nor my wife had any vote in that process.
Ms. King could have chosen to participate in the caucus just as with a primary; however, in either instance, it is my understanding that King’s Republican status would have been challenged inasmuch as she did not qualify to run on the Republican ballot under TN GOP Bylaws based on her voting record.”
Griffey finished with, “I did not create the Tennessee Republican Party Bylaws, and I certainly did not try to manipulate them. However, I did hear speculation there were efforts by King and her supporters in the Governor’s Administration to convince TNGOP Chair Scott Golden to declare King a bona fide Republican despite her voting record and override the majority decision of the GOP organizations in the judicial district to caucus and force a primary. There has also been speculation that there was a “back door deal” to seat King in the Chancellor position before the application period for the judicial seat even opened. Ultimately, if King was unhappy with the decision of the Republican organizations in the district to caucus, an additional option for King was to run on the ballot in the general election as an Independent. However, instead of campaigning and participating in the election process, she chose to instead quit when she didn’t get her way. More importantly, instead of Ms. King being open and forthright, and acknowledging her inability to qualify to run as a GOP candidate based on the TN GOP Bylaws and her voting record, and that she only joined the local GOP party in Carroll County earlier this year around the time period the judicial position was coming open, she decided to lay the blame on me and my wife, which is unfair and misplaced. Since her resignation, her story has taken on different colors as she has attempted to shift blame for her decision to quit across various individuals – the Chairs of the GOP organizations in the district, Chairman of the TN GOP Scott Golden, other applicants for the judicial position Brent Bradberry and Vance Dennis, former Chair of the Carroll County GOP Daniel Williams, etc. At the end of the day, however, only Ms. King is responsible for her decision to quit.”