TNDP Revolt?

Executive Committee member calls for Mancini's resignation

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini took a vacation this week, and her timing probably couldn’t have been better. On Wednesday, former Tennessean intern Kirk A. Bado published a National Journal piece on why Democrats are struggling in Tennessee that ended with quite the kicker from Mancini:

State party chair Mary Mancini, who was elected to her third term in January, admits that her party has struggled to build a bench, failed to make Tennessee competitive, and acknowledges the dire straits the party faces. Yet she promised that Democrats are rebuilding in the state.

“We’re building a Democratic Party for the future, not just the elections coming up next November,” she said.

When asked what she will do differently to change Democratic fortunes, she seemed taken aback by the question, pausing for several silent seconds.

“That’s a really good question,” she finally said. “That’s something I’m going to have to think about a little bit.”

Mancini overwhelmingly won her third term over Williamson County Democratic Party chair Holly McCall in January. “We will have the best two years of the Tennessee Democratic Party in its history,” Mancini said at the time. But apparently several state executive committee members already have “buyer’s remorse.” Committee member Charlie Clark, who represents part of Davidson County in District 19, sent an email to Mancini on Friday asking her to resign. And according to one party insider, over 10 other members could be doing the same as soon as this week.

Ten or 11 people on a 66-person committee (with vacant seats, currently at 59 members) is hardly enough to force change, and it’s highly unlikely that Mancini will voluntarily resign either. (Mancini did not respond to a request for comment, presumably because she is on vacation.) But however small the rebellion, it looks likely to become vocal this fall — possibly setting up a grim situation for struggling Democrats in 2020.

Clark released the following statement about his request for Mancini to step down:

Yesterday I asked for the resignation of our Tennessee State Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini. This request was brought on by many issues over my time as an elected member of the TNDP executive committee.

First, the state of the TNDP financial affairs is abysmal and shows no signs of improving under Chair Mancini’s leadership. At the very least, the Chair’s pay should be commensurate until this improves.

Second, Chair Mancini went rogue when she called our entire state racist. Are there racist elements, and are some of our lawmakers and their actions complicit? Yes. But to call — on behalf of the entire TNDP executive committee, party chairs, activists, and volunteers — the entire state racist is detrimental to us all.

Third, Chair Mancini has held meetings across the state and told group after group that we cannot win in rural areas. Chair Mancini has done little to nothing to address this issue outside of telling our supporters and activists that we cannot win. This is not a strategy for success.

Fourth, members of the executive committee have repeatedly requested a long-range plan since late last year and have received no hint of a plan from Chair Mancini. Any successful organization must have a long-range plan. 

Fifth, when asked by a national publication what she would do differently to change Democrats’ fortunes, she said, “That’s something I’m going to have to think about a little bit.” Not only did she embarrass us with this answer, but the publication described her reaction in detail as “she seemed taken aback by the question, pausing for several silent seconds.” This lack of media know-how along with her less than appropriate preparation for national interviews hurts our fundraising and demeans our supporters’ morale across the state.

All of this and more has caused strained relationships with what should be our natural allies and has borne splinter activist groups who have no confidence in the TNDP.

We should all be working together as one and fighting for our common causes. Under the current leadership, is it impossible for us to effect change in Tennessee's sorry state of affairs by electing people who will work for us all.

I fully realize these problems did not start with Chair Mancini. However, she is now in her third term with no discernible plan or ability to rectify our ills.

Unless we make dramatic change, we will not succeed in rebuilding this party. 

It is our job, as elected members of the State Executive Committee, to be good stewards of our Party. That means we must take control of our destiny and do what is right by the people who elected us. We all took an oath, and it is something we must take seriously. Changing direction starts with us.

I do not take this action lightly. If I thought there was another option, I would choose it. However, I see no way to improve our Party with the current Chair, who has lost the trust of our county parties, donors, volunteers, and partnering groups. I am calling on my colleagues and Democrats across the state to take this information and consider major change before it is too late.


In a brief follow-up, Clark said he was calling for Mancini to step down because there was “no time to waste” before 2020.

“The issues I address in the letter are the same issues I and others have asked Mary about time and again. Sadly, we have not received satisfactory answers to any of them,” Clark said. “If we do not take action now to course correct, we will continue to lose ground in this state and I am unwilling to sit by and let that happen.”

The party insider, who is not on the executive committee, says there is increasing pressure for an outside audit of TNDP finances, which have been questioned by party members since at least March 2018, as I reported at the time.

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