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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / "I Voted" stickers are set out for voters at the Joe Glasscock Red Bank Community Center in Red Bank on May 3.

Political insanity appears to be contagious. We should have known that from the first moments of Donald Trump's earliest campaign rallies. Tell people mistruths and deny truths and you have a recipe for contagious fandom. Follow all that up with outrageous claims of a stolen election and you have fandom gone off the deep end. Now we have it all here, with two GOP mayoral candidates and a GOP school board candidate contesting their May 3 losses because of so-called "illegitimate crossover" votes.

Thank you, colleague Jay Greeson, for drawing the perfect comparison Saturday: "I used to think the people who seriously followed sports were walking the lunatic tight rope. They are after all called fans, which comes from the word fanatic. Well, sports fans and practitioners of politics are every bit that out there. Don't like a final vote tally? Cry foul. Don't like the outcome? Claim the system was rigged. ... [P]olitical folks may be worse than sports nuts. At least sports nuts see the final score and deal with it, win or lose."

We saw all this in recent days with our disgruntled GOP county mayoral losers filing papers with the Tennessee Republican Party to contest the Republican primary election win of Weston Wamp, who now in August faces Democrat Matt Adams.

Now we learn Hamilton County school board candidate Cindy Fain, of Chattanooga, also filed an election challenge last week over her May 3 loss to represent District 6.

Fain, one of three Republican contenders who sought to represent Lupton City, Northshore, Red Bank, North Chattanooga, Riverview and Stuart Heights, took second place in the primary election to winner and retiree Jon Baker, who moved to Red Bank from Florida. Baker, with 1,142 votes compared to Fain's 1,094, won by 48 votes.

As Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times posits on this page: "To win a Republican primary in 2022, you'll probably need to support a coup attempt." Bouie's premise is chilling. Republican election denialism has been growing since at least the 1990s.

"For many Republicans, theirs is the only legitimate political party and their voters, irrespective of their actual numbers, are the only legitimate voters — and the only legitimate majority. Democrats, from this vantage point, are presumptively illegitimate, their victories suspect," Bouie writes.

Beware of that word "legitimate" (or its antonym) when used with a party or candidate name. It — like any other party "litmus test" pertaining to Trump or Democrats — is just another code word. Smedley's, Hullander's and Fain's contest wording borrows it. Democratic votes are "illegitimate."

"What happened to me is happening elsewhere," Fain told the Times Free Press 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."

Did we mention that Tennessee has open primaries? Did we mention that any of us can vote for whomever we want to? Did we mention that secret ballot provisions would make their claims — or similar ones from Democrats if the shoe fit — impossible to verify?

It makes us — at least on this page — regret that we endorsed Fain's candidacy for those pulling Republican ballots. For Democrats, we endorsed Ben Connor. Spoiler alert, the conservative Free Press page also endorsed Cindy Fain.

As for litmus tests, you may recall moments from the first few mayoral debates — one in particular when, after local political ads brought President Joe Biden into the county mayor's race, the three mayoral candidates were asked: "Do you believe President Biden won the 2020 election fair and square? And if not, explain why."

Hullander didn't answer the question, but said, "I'll just say I do not want Hamilton County to turn into what Washington is right now. And I think it's broken and I think Biden is part of the problem, and I won't allow that if I'm mayor of Hamilton County."

Smedley expressed shock that one of the candidates (Hullander) brought up Biden in his ads then said, "Um, I DO [emphasis hers] think in some areas across the United States we should question the integrity of the election." (Was that a no?)

Only Wamp had the backbone to say he had "utmost confidence that the May 3 election would be fair, and "based on the research I've done, while you've got some things that may look unusual here or there, they're not the type of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the presidential election." (For this and other answers, he won our endorsement, while Smedley won the nod of the conservative page.)

These challenges filed with the Republican Party also call for changes in the law to seek more closed primaries with "gatekeeping" to require voter oaths of allegiance to a party. Really?

A measure was introduced in 2019 that would have required voters to choose between being registered as a Democrat, Republican or unaffiliated with a statewide party or other to cast a primary ballot.

Voters who chose to be unaffiliated would have been barred from voting in any primary elections.

House Bill 2073 belly-flopped in the House Local Committee, where Republicans and Democrats killed it on a 14-2 vote.

Let's hope they stay sane and unaffected by today's wave of Republican denialism.

 

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