Members of the state Democratic Executive Committee, led by Knoxville's Gloria Johnson and Harold and Sylvia Woods, overcame an effort to dump state chair Chip Forrester and have instead reinstalled him for another two-year term.
The local party members from around the state defied an effort by big donors and Gov. Phil Bredesen to elect Forrester two years ago. After huge losses by Democrats last November there was a concerted effort, headed by Knoxville developer and former party chair Doug Horne, to replace Forrester when his term expired.
But the executive committee ignored calls for Forrester's ouster and gave him the votes Saturday to win on the first ballot. Forrester got 38 of 65 votes, forestalling a second round of voting. Heavy-handed lobbying for Matt Kuhn and a round of tough e-mails and blog posts in recent weeks prompted executive committee members to rally to Forrester. Kuhn got 17 votes and Wade Munday got 10 votes.
Forrester had been leading in the number of commitments throughout the process, but was not believed to have the majority for a first-ballot win. But in the closing days before the vote, the undecideds shifted to his side.
The date of the vote had been moved up and Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball had already scheduled a three-week vacation in Hawaii, leaving him no time to solicit votes, effectively dropping him from the race.
In past years, with Democrats in firm control of the state, the position of party chair was usually left to the discretion of a U.S. Senator, a popular governor, or even the vice-president, who told the executive committee whom he would like to have in the post. But the Democratic Executive Committee now consists of party leaders at the local level, and they have asserted their independence for two consecutive elections.