About sunset Friday, after the courts had closed for the week, gadfly Democrat Hooker filed a suit in the overnight depository challenging the constitutionality of the presidential election in Tennessee. Judge Robert Echols called an emergency hearing on Hooker's suit at about sunset Monday (Nov. 27).
The judge, after a thorough hearing on the matter, said he considered this a serious suit which raises serious questions. However, Echols said he felt he must deny Hooker's motion to enjoin Tennessee Attorney General Riley Darnell from certifying Bush as the winner in Tennessee. Hooker said the judge indicated to him that he was ruling from the bench so Hooker could immediately begin his appeal to the Sixth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Hooker's move delayed by at least a day the certification of Tennessee's 11 electoral votes for president. Unless Hooker prevails in his suit, those 11 votes go to George W. Bush, who received 1,057,586 votes to 978,189 for Vice President Al Gore in the Nov. 7 general election.
A supporter of Gore, Hooker asserts in his suit that the U. S. Constitution gives the various state legislatures, and only the state legislatures, the right to appoint presidential electors. Alleging that any certification of popularly-elected electors is null and void, Hooker asserts that a legislature cannot delegate to the people its responsibility to appoint the electors.
Although Bush carried the state in the popular vote, he would likely lose if the matter were left to the Tennessee General Assembly. Democrats control both houses in the Tennessee Legislature.
Hooker is hoping that his suit will be joined to the other presidential election suits now pending before the U. S. Supreme Court. If that were to happen, the election dispute could take on an entirely new dimension.
Across the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Democrats and Republicans control 17 legislatures each, and 15 legislatures are split with one party controlling the house and the other the senate. Nebraska has unicameral, non-partisan legislature.
The U. S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, reads: "Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the State may be entitled in Congress. . ." Hooker argues in his suit that since the early 1800s the state legislatures, in violation of the Constitution, took it upon themselves to delegate this appointment to the people.
Hooker asserts in his suit that the Legislatures did this "in direct violation of the plain language of the Federal Constitution, above cited, which circumstance has been ignored by both the State and Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States for all these years."
In recent years, Hooker has filed and lost a number of federal and state lawsuits attacking campaign financing and the retention election of judges on the Tennessee Supreme Court. Hooker has twice won the Democratic nomination for governor in Tennessee and lost each time in the general election. This past August in the Democratic primary for U. S. Senate, Hooker lost a close election to college professor Jeff Clark, who in turn lost in the general election to incumbent U. S. Senator Bill Frist.