Chattooga County Democratic Chairman Tim Shiflett reached out to us to explain what happened with the decision to expel county Commissioner Jason Winters from their Democratic Party. Tim and I may oppose each other politically, but I believe in fairness. He said that the Chattanooga Times Free Press was wrong in their article, and we want to share with you his side of what transpired. You can read his letter below the fold:
This issue first came up about 2 years back. At that time, and with no previous warning, I was confronted with a local story in the newspaper that the Commissioner was to be the speaker at a Tea Party Meeting, up here. I expressed my opposition to this via email to the Commissioner, who was out of town at the time. So, it’s not like he didn’t know that similar actions could be a problem, as he is now saying.
Fast forward to this Spring. Our State Senator, Jeff Mullis, was facing opposition from a Tea Party supporter in the GOP Primary. No Democrat qualified to run. Commissioner Winters was photographed putting out signs for Senator Mullis, by employees of the Summerville News. When they questioned him, he said that he was just doing a favor for Senator Mullis. He also said that he would not have been doing so if the Senator had Democratic opposition. I was not happy, to say the least. I told that to the newspaper. They did not publish my response. It was also discussed at our local Democratic Party Meeting. The Party decided to take no action at that time, because there was no Democratic candidate involved, and the Commissioner had said as much.
Then, about a month before the Election, I received a call from someone who told me that they had witnessed the Commissioner putting up signs for Governor Deal on Highway 27, our main road, here. As we all know, the Governor had Democratic opposition. I decided then and there that it was time to have a talk with the Commissioner about this. I did not get to his office the following day, as I had intended. I now regret that decision. I could have made time to go, and did not. That is my fault, and leaves me to accept part of the blame for what unfolded after.
The day after that following day, our newspaper published its’ weekly issue. In that issue was a story, in which the Commissioner announced his endorsement of Governor Deal. All members of the Chattooga County Democratic Party were stunned. Not one of us knew anything about this, until we read it in the paper. It was at this time, and not at any previous time, that we began to have discussions on how to respond. So, the very first sentence in the article from the Chattanooga paper is totally untrue.
I felt there was a need to resolve the matter immediately, right then. However, some members asked me to wait on any action until after the Election, because they were trying to convince some local Republican and Independent Conservative friends of theirs’ to vote for some of our statewide candidates. They didn’t want this matter to overshadow the Election. I agreed to do so.
On the day following the Election. I called the members of our Executive Committee to poll them on this matter, as our By-Laws instruct me to do. Each member was called individually, so that no member would influence the vote of another. The vote was unanimous as to how to proceed. I did not cast a vote. Again, our By-Laws instruct me to take a “special action” with the approval of the Executive Committee. That is exactly what I did.
I drafted a letter of our intentions and presented it to the Commissioner at his office. He was informed in that letter that he would not be allowed in the future to qualify to run in Chattooga County elections as a Democratic candidate, and why. He was also informed about the possibility of his expulsion from the Party, to be voted on by the entire membership of the Party. I also presented a copy of this letter to the Summerville News, and to 1180 a.m. radio. You can read the text of the letter on their sites or FB pages.
Commissioner Winters is a dues-paying member of the Chattooga County Democratic Party. As a member, he is bound by our By-Laws. When “The Party is mentioned in our By-Laws, it is with the understanding that this reference is to every member. In Article II, Section II of the By-Laws it states, “The Party shall not publicly endorse or support any candidate from any other political party”. So, the Commissioner’s actions were a blatant violation of the rules he was bound to uphold as a member of this organization. And, he was expected to live up to these rules when he signed papers to run for office. Individual members are all expected to do so, regardless of who they are. Or, as our By-Laws instruct, we may take action for just cause. And, that is what we did.
The story you all read in the Chattanooga site was poorly done. My own words were chopped up and delivered in pieces. Half of what I said does not even appear there. In some cases, that totally changes what I was even saying to that reporter. Some of the story, as I have already mentioned, is not even true. I have just given you the truth, to the best of my ability.
Now, some have stated that I could have made more of an effort to talk to the Commissioner. That is true. I could have. I was wrong for not being more proactive, in that case. And, some have mentioned the curious timing of our decision; that it looks like the action of a beaten party lashing out in search of a scapegoat. That is absolutely not true, as I mentioned earlier. But, anyone can believe what they wish to believe. That includes the editorial writers in our local newspaper. Long ago, I gave up the notion of caring what they thought about anything.
One more thing. there was some talk in a post on this site about some “Democrat machine” up here. What machine are they referring to? I founded the Chattooga County Democratic Party in 1996. I wrote those By-Laws that I mentioned. Before, there was only an elected committee, that the voters elected on the ballot. This organization was started so that the average person could be involved. There was and is no “machine”. That is just silly. And, what “good old boys” are they referring to? A Country song? This Party? We are an organization, just as the Chattooga County Republican Party is. Again, that is silly.
I wish to thank Nathan, Charlie, and the readers of Peach Pundit for the opportunity to present this response. I hope it has cleared some things up.