The voter fraud conspiracy that has permeated Donald Trump's thoughts and actions since the November 2020 election has tendrils that have twisted and twined down to Hamilton County.
A recent post on the Facebook page of grassroots conservative group Patriots Engage Chattanooga — which has 194 followers — links to a petition which suggests the Tennessee Republican Party should remove Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Arch Trimble IV from leadership "for malfeasance and incompetence."
So much for Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: "Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican."
It lists 11 reasons why the state party should take such action, including "openly promoting the contamination by Democrats of the Republican Primary by RAIDING the ballot with crossovers votes," "openly back[ing] and promot[ing] specific primary candidates over other candidates" and "degrad[ing the] Lincoln Day dinner."
The post offers little to no backing for the claims it makes, though it does link to a "leaked audio" of Trimble speaking to a meeting of the Hamilton County Republican Women.
We listened to the sometimes-hard-to-understand audio to determine if this was the main basis for the complaint and did not come away convinced. Indeed, we heard a local party chairman advocating for inclusion in the party of individuals who don't have to agree 100% of the time, for not ceding the party's "principles of small government and low taxes and treating your neighbor right," for wanting to grow the party and not shrink it, and for recruiting friends to become Republicans because "our message is the way forward."
A post on Patriots Engage Chattanooga that also links to the audio says "[Trimble] continues telling the Republicans to be more liberal citing the most liberal US Senator in Tennessee history, Lamar Alexander, not a conservative!"
Alexander the state's most liberal senator in history? Um, Albert Gore Sr.? Albert Gore Jr.? Jim Sasser? They might have been a wee bit more liberal than Alexander.
Trimble does mention the former governor and senator and calls him one of his heroes, but he only cites an Alexander maxim that says Republicans are "most successful when they drive in the middle of the right lane."
Radical stuff, right?
The post also suggests Trimble called "America 1st Republicans RINOs (Republicans in name only) if you don't support fraudulently elected UniParty [county mayoral] candidate Weston Wamp" and says he "openly endorsed spoiling the Republic[an] ballot."
The party chairman said neither of those things on the "leaked audio," though he did say losing candidates should "take your ball, and you go home" and that the results are "just the way it is."
However, Trimble did mention the only remedy that voters frustrated with the results in the recent county primaries truly have.
"Lobby your legislator to have closed primaries (where only registered voters cast ballots and crossover voting is forbidden), if that's what you believe in," he said.
One of those legislators, Rep. Greg Martin, R-Hixson, told this page Tuesday the GOP historically has stood fast on the rule of law.
"Our focus," he said, "needs to be our principles and not our personalities."
(Martin, coincidentally, was also the subject of one of the website's posts. The post claimed in a letter to the Hamilton County Election Commission it is a violation of state law for him to be on the August ballot twice, once for his former District 3 Hamilton County Commission seat — from which he could not withdraw — and once for the state House seat he currently holds. A reply from the commission cited state law that said a person could not run for two state, judicial or county offices on the same ballot, but it does not prohibit someone running for a county and a state post. Regardless of the answer, the Patriots Engage poster opined that "election integrity is still NOT a priority of the Hamilton County Election commission nor the Tennessee Secretary of State.")
Nonetheless, Trimble will finish the second year of his two-year term as GOP county party chair in March and has told a number of people he does not plan to seek re-election.
Further, the Republican State Election Committee has ruled on petitions challenging the primary election in which Wamp won the Republican primary for county mayor and in which Jon Baker won the Republican primary for the District 3 school board seat.
We don't believe the milieu around elections in Hamilton County needs to take on the type of conspiracy theories on which the former president thrives.
Elections in Hamilton County, specifically, and Tennessee, generally, have been as fraud-free and secure as any in the country. Individuals like the anonymous posters on Patriots Engage Chattanooga may not like the results, but alleging that activities of the county party leader and state party constitute malfeasance only drag the name of Republicans into the world of conspiracy where it has not generally been and is not conducive to continuing to grow the Big Tent party that Reagan often espoused.