It's OK for Hamilton County school board candidate Tom Decosimo to call himself a Republican on a billboard even though the race is nonpartisan, District Attorney General Neal Pinkston has determined.
A Decosimo billboard on Signal Mountain Road called him "a Republican for school board District 2," drawing several complaints from citizens.
The Tennessee State Education Code states, "All elections for school board members shall be conducted on a nonpartisan basis, and no person seeking a position on a board shall campaign as the nominee or representative of any political party."
Pinkston's office put out a news release on Monday saying, "After reviewing applicable Tennessee law and a sample Hamilton County voter's ballot, candidate Decosimo is seeking office for the local school board on a nonpartisan basis and isn't campaigning as a nominee or representative of any respective political party."
Pinkston noted that there seems to be no penalty under Tennessee law for violations of the law in question.
"Of course there's no penalty," Decosimo told the Times Free Press. "There's nothing that keeps a candidate from their First Amendment right of free speech to identify as a Republican. There's nothing wrong with that."
The campaign of Decosimo's opponent, Marco Perez, told the Times Free Press on Monday afternoon Marco's focus "has always been on our students, teachers, and schools and moving forward in Hamilton County."