Even as the ashes are cooling from the protracted intra-party conflict that followed the victory last January of Nashville’s Chip Forrester as chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, the state Republicans are now engaged in a similar dustup — also involving a race for the chairmanship.
The GOP’s race is a three-way affair to succeed outgoing chair Robin Smith, who resigned this past week to run for the 3rd District congressional seat being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp. Smith’s would-be successors include former state GOP director Chris Devaney, state Republican treasurer Oscar Brock, and state Rep. Eric Swafford of Pikesville.
Weighing in on the contest this week have been two Republicans with Memphis connections — former Governor Winfield Dunn, who now lives in Nashville; and Memphian Frank Colvett Jr., state Republican Finance Committee chairman. Dunn endorsed the candidacy of Devaney, who has been serving as state director for U.S. Senator Bob Corker, while Colvett, in an email circulated to fellow GOP executive committee members, publicly took issue with charges he attributed to Devaney supporters.
In essence, Colvett defended Smith’s oversight of the state party’s finances and found fault with that of Devaney, one of Smith’s immediate predecessors. “…Mr. Devaney
dropped the ball,” concluded Colvett. “I wish we weren’t forced to deal with this during an important debate over the future of the party, but I can’t stand by and see a good chairman’s integrity questioned in the name of winning a campaign. We’re better than that.”
For his part, Devaney denied having anything to do with questioning Smith’s financial oversight and claimed to have “nothing but respect” for her.
The state Republican executive committee will convene on May 30 to select its new chairman.