On the eve of the special Democratic primary election in state House District 89 to determine a successor to city council member-elect Carol Chumney, both contestants stood to gain important adherents:
Jeff Sullivan and his wife Maura were due to have their first child -- to be named Jack -- on or about the time of Tuesdays election.
Beverly Robison Marrero was a more immediate beneficiary, however. She gained the support of city councilman E.C. Jones, whose name and likeness have been used on Sullivans literature in his support.
Jones appeared with Marrero at a Monday afternoon press conference at the resident of her chief supporter and campaign strategist, state Senator Steve Cohen, and made public his change of heart.
What follows is the text of a letter he had hand-delivered to Sullivan earlier Monday spelling out his reasons:
I want to thank you and Maura for your support ever the years and friendship we have had, both socially and politically.
When you announced that you would be a candidate for House Seat District 89, I certainly felt this was a great opportunity for you. At the time you ask [sic] me to support your effort and I told you that 1 would certainly be glad to support you, I was not aware that you were not a resident of the District
As you know in my recent re-election campaign for the City Council, I was plagued with residency issues and addresses being used that I felt were not true.
I am now faced with some questionable issues as to where you live.
Due to my position during my campaign and one of my opponents using an address of a mini-storage, you are aware I campaigned against him, feeling that a person should live in the district at a real permanent address.
I feel that I must withdraw mv endorsement for you and your bid for House District 89. I request that my name not be used on any campaign material.
If you are elected to serve the citizens of Tennessee as Representative for House Seat 89, 1 will certairn!v support you and look forward to working with you
I hope you understand my position concerning your campaign. I want to wish you the best in your endeavor.
cc. Mr. David Upton
Ironically, the letter was addressed to Sullivan at the 791 N. Graham address which lies within the limits of District 89.It is this address, a rental property specified by Sullivan for early-voting purposes, which Marrero and Cohen have challenged as being fraudulent, alleging that Sullivan and his wife in fact still reside at a home they own on N. Reese St. just outside the district.
(Jones acknowledged that he, too, lives outside District 89. As a successful candidate for reelection this fall, he was opposed by Wyatt Bunker, who listed as his domicile an address which turned out to be that of a storage facility where, Bunker contended, his brother was a resident manager.)
At the press conference, Marrero said the issue was "not really a legal matter, [but] a matter of integrity." Cohen disagreed, contending Sullivan's listing the Graham address for voting purposes constituted a felony. As he pointed out, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, a Sullivan supporter, has recused himself and referred the matter to an East Tennessee colleague.