Maury County GOP primary raises concerns - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Maury County GOP primary raises concerns

COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

Maury County will hold its first-ever primary Tuesday, and that's not sitting well with some who say it's a waste of taxpayers' money and others who are worried the open format could sabotage the general election.

The Republican Party requested the primary, but Maury County Republican Party Chairwoman Pat Junkin believes if Democrats and Independents vote in Tuesday's GOP primary, they could intentionally weed out their stronger candidate.

"In an open primary state, you are opening the door for anyone who are offering to vote. And therefore, it is more susceptible to vote for a weaker candidate to run against," Junkin said.

When a person registers to vote in Tennessee, he or she doesn't have to declare a party. That's done during primary elections.

"Once you sign that document saying 'I want to vote,' you are pledging your allegiance to the party," Junkin said.

Only the county mayor's race is being contested, so the idea of a Republican primary was controversial from the start and will cost roughly $45,000.

"The parties have the authority to call for a primary for local offices, so it's something the taxpayers had to foot the bill for," said Maury County Elections Administrator Todd Baxter. "How long does that affiliation last? Until they get outside the polling place or until the next primary. That's the bigger question."

Maury County Democratic Party Chairman Greg Hanners said the primary is a waste of money.

"We question whether taxpayers are getting any value in this money that they are spending, and they have no say so in whether or not there is a primary," Hanners said. "We feel like this introduces the kind of party ranker that has characterized our national elections."

Rumors started to spread that if non-Republicans vote in the GOP primary, they would receive a bill in the mail for membership into the Republican Party.

"Absolutely not. That was a misunderstanding," Junkin said. "We are happy to have new members in the party, and so assuming their intent was to associate with us, then we would send the membership application."

Even if the Maury County Republican Party decides to send those membership bills to Democrats or Independents voting in Tuesday's primary, election officials said they are not obligated to pay.

There are around 46,000 registered voters in Maury County, and only 2,200 have voted early in the primary race.

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