Hamilton County school board candidate Cindy Fain, of Chattanooga, filed an election challenge Wednesday with the Tennessee Republican Party Primary Board over the May 3 loss of her bid to represent District 6.
Fain, one of three Republican contenders vying for the seat to represent Lupton City, Northshore, Red Bank, North Chattanooga, Riverview and Stuart Heights on the school board, took second place in the primary election. Jon Baker, of Red Bank, won with 1,142 votes compared to Baker's 1,094. Delores Gross Vinson, of Chattanooga, came in third with 649 votes.
Fain's challenge came the same day as mayoral candidates Sabrena Smedley and Matt Hullander challenged their primary loss to Weston Wamp via the Tennessee Republican Party's State Executive Committee, seeking to void their election results. Fain, Smedley and Hullander all said they were defeated as a result of Democratic voters picking up ballots to vote in the Republican primary — a practice known as crossover voting.
"What happened to me is happening elsewhere," Fain said in a Friday phone call. "And by filing my contest, I'm asking the Republican Party to rectify illegitimate crossover voting by bona fide Democrats, not only in my election but in the future Republican primaries."
In Tennessee, voters do not register in a particular political party, and they are able at an "open primary" to select the primary ballot of their choosing when voting.
Fain said both Baker and Vinson support her challenging the election results based on alleged abuses of that system.
Baker said that while he found the contest document compelling, he doesn't think Fain should have w0n.
"I support her right to challenge the results, but I am preparing to run in the general election in November," Baker said.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press attempted to contact Vinson for comment but was unable to reach her Friday.
As in Smedley's complaint, Fain's claimed Red Bank Mayor Hollie Berry and Vice Mayor Stefanie Dalton had made posts on their social media accounts explaining to the public how to pull a Republican ballot.
Dalton said her social media post was an attempt to educate voters, not sway the election.
"It really came down to educating people in my community about what the options were and letting them know information, things that I didn't know, until the past couple of years starting to dig into local politics," Dalton said. "It does seem like certain candidates are upset because people had information and made certain decisions at the polls. And [the candidates] weren't in favor of people being educated."
The Times Free Press reached out to Berry for a comment but did not receive a response.
If his primary victory is upheld, Baker is set to face off in the November general election against Chattanooga Democrat Ben Connor for the District 6 school board seat.