NASHVILLE - A conservative group that led the move to reject former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Penny White in 1996 says it is backing current Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade in the Aug. 7 election.
At least four groups and Republican state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are trying to defeat Wade and fellow Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee.
But Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty's group issued a statement Wednesday decrying partisan politics in the court system.
"To allow such undermines the rule of law that is so vital to an orderly and civil society," the TCU statement said, and added tha Daugherty continues to endorse Wade.
"Justice Wade has kept his word that he would go by the Constitution no matter whether he agree or disagreed with it, including the death penalty."
The statement said nothing about Clark and Lee.
Daugherty's group in 1996 opposed retention of White, an appointee of former Democratic Gov. Ned McWherter, based on her opinion in a death penalty case. Then-Gov. Don Sundquist joined the fray and White became the only Tennessee Supreme Court justice to lose a retention vote.
"Honoring your promises is important to the TCU," the group said in its statement. "TCU backs conservative policies and fidelity to the state and federal constitutions. We have always looked favorably upon conservatives of all stripes, whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, who support and advance conservative policies and respect for the Constitution."
The TCU release called Ramsey a "dear friend ... [who] has accomplished an amazing amount for conservatives."
But, it continued, "We also recognize that when one party holds all the power, whether it is Republican or Democrat, problems will arise. Both George Washington and Lord Acton warned us of that."
The TCU, formed in 1976, opposed McWherter's 1991 and 1992 efforts to get a state income tax through the General Assembly. It has been generally friendly to Republicans but has been known to back Democrats it considers sufficiently conservative.
In 2012, the group backed Republican Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga in his state Senate GOP primary.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.