Details on Republican caucus revealed

But according to caucus committee chair Alex Stillwell, there are rules and vetting involved, and some of the delegate slots were previously filled at the Wilson County Republican Party Convention in March 2017.

Stillwell said the convention, required by state Republican Party rules to take place every two years, was held to select, vet and vote on precinct delegates and to have those delegates vote on a new slate of executive committee members.

“At that time, the caucus alternative had not been officially voted on, but it was actively under discussion among members of the [Wilson County] Republican Party,” Stillwell said. “During the delegate vetting process, delegate candidates were informed about the possibility of the change to the caucus model and were asked if they would agree to be a delegate to the caucus in 2018.”

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Fast forward nearly a year, and now that the executive committee decided to caucus, Stillwell said some of the delegate positions will need to be filled prior to the caucus due to absence or lack of interest from some prior delegates. He said some delegate seats simply need to be filled that weren’t during the March 2017 convention.

A precinct convention will be held March 17 at 9 a.m. prior to the caucus, Stillwell said, to pick the remaining delegates needed. Stillwell said anyone who is a resident Republican may attend.

“After the meeting is called to order, under new business, the open delegate seats will be filled by nominees who volunteer and/or who are nominated by people attending who reside in the specific precinct,” Stillwell said. “The nominated people will be vetted by the precinct captain, validated by the caucus committee and voted on by the vetted Republican residents present from their precinct.”

Stillwell said vetting is done to ensure potential delegates comply with the state Republican Party’s rules, which require them to be a resident of a Wilson County Commission district or precinct, voted in the last two out of three Republican primaries and demonstrated they are active in the party.

“Once elected, the nominees will fill empty seats, as well as replace elected delegates who cannot attend the March 17 caucus or simply do not show up,” Stillwell said.

Stillwell said the caucus will begin at 1 p.m. or as soon as precinct voting is voting is finished. He said a location for the caucus wasn’t yet determined but would be announced soon.

According to Stillwell, the Wilson County Republican Caucus Committee was formed several months ago. He said the next step in the process would be to identify precinct captains in each of the county’s 25 precincts, which should take place in January.

Stillwell said the number of votes cast for President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election in each respective precinct would determine the number of delegates in that precinct. He said some precincts could have seven or eight, while others could have 20 or more. A total number of delegates and a breakdown of the number of delegates in each precinct weren’t immediately available, according to Stillwell.

Once the delegates are selected, the potential candidates would have some time to campaign to become the Republican candidate on the ballot in their respective race.

Prospective candidates in Wilson County’s first caucus have until Feb. 15 to send in applications. Once the applications are received, the prospective candidates will meet with the Wilson County Caucus Committee during scheduled interviews from Feb. 15 through March 15, according to Stillwell.

Stillwell said any prospective candidate who wants to appear as a Republican on the Wilson County General Election ballot in August would need to submit an application and a petition with 25 signatures of bona fide Republicans who support his or her candidacy. All applicants’ qualifications will be vetted as to compliance with Tennessee Republican Party rules, Stillwell said. Prospective candidates may get applications and petitions from Stillwell by emailing aestillwell@aol.com.

Since the executive committee chose to caucus and Wilson County has more than 100,000 in population, state Republican Party rules mandate the caucus be delegated, Stillwell said.

At the caucus, prospective candidates will be given a chance to address the delegates prior to voting. Delegates will select commissioner and constable candidates in their respective precinct, and all delegates will vote on countywide offices by secret ballot.

Potential Republican candidates for Wilson County mayor, all 25 county commission seats, trustee, sheriff, circuit court clerk, county clerk, register of deeds and constables will participate in Wilson County’s first caucus.

Wilson County Board of Education seats in Zones 2, 4 and 6 and a Lebanon Special School District at-large board member will also appear on the August ballot. The offices are non-partisan by state law, so candidates cannot identify with any party and won’t be included in the caucus.

Stillwell said the caucus is expected to save county taxpayers about $100,000 with replacing the primary with a caucus, which is expected to cost about $5,000 and paid by the political party. Wilson County Administrator of Elections Phillip Warren verified the savings. Warren said the deadline for parties to call for a primary for the 2018 county elections was Aug. 21.

No Democrat candidates will be on the August county election since the Wilson County Democrat Party didn’t call for a primary and doesn’t plan to caucus, according to Wilson County Democrat Party chair Kelly Kline.

Since neither party will hold a primary, a list of all candidates who will appear as Republicans on the ballot must be submitted to the Wilson County Election Commission on April 5 by noon. All Republican executive committee members must sign the list. The post deadline for sheriff is March 22.

The qualifying deadline for independents and school board candidates in the August county election is also April 5 by noon.

If a potential candidate isn’t selected by delegates to be a Republican candidate on the ballot, he or she won’t be allowed to register and appear on the ballot as a Democrat or independent candidate. According to Warren, that’s due to the state’s so-called “sore loser” law, which prohibits a candidate to switch parties or run as an independent after losing in the caucus, since the caucus will serve as a replacement for the primary.

Stillwell did say any potential county office candidate who wants to be considered as a Republican on the ballot should immediately contact him or Wilson County Republican Party chair Terri Nicholson.

Stillwell may be reached at 615-773-2774, aestillwell@aol.com or P.O. Box 827, Hermitage, TN 37076. Nicholson may be reached at 1303 Camelot Bay, Mt. Juliet, TN 37122 or terrinicholson@comcast.net.

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