The Establishment Strikes Back: Purging the MAGA Agenda in Tennessee

Thanks to Tennessee Conservative News (here) and the Ace of Spades blog (here)!

The unexpected election of President Donald Trump in 2016—and the electrifying GOP primary campaign leading up to his nomination—revealed the gulf between the longstanding Republican establishment and the conservative grassroots. Trump’s election, and his hugely-popular MAGA agenda, heralded a sea change in American politics. No President since Ronald Reagan so inspired conservative voters. Under Trump, the GOP attracted blue collar, working class, and even minority voters who traditionally leaned Democrat. In a historic realignment, the Republican Party became the champion of ordinary Americans in “fly-over country,” and the Democratic Party represented the coastal elites, special interests, and Wall Street.

Unfortunately, the Swamp is not limited to Washington, D.C.’s Beltway, and four years of President Trump did not permanently alter the status quo within the Republican Party. Already, the GOP establishment is working as hard as the Left to purge Trumpian influences from Republican ranks.

This is true even in solidly-red states such as Tennessee. The events described here occurred in Blount County, an exurb of Knoxville nestled in the foothills on the Great Smoky Mountains. My wife and I decided to relocate here in 2019 from Austin, Texas, due primarily to the area’s conservative demographics. Indeed, in the 2020 election, Blount County voted for President Trump by a margin of 71 percent to 27 percent. The county’s elected officials, although nominally Republican, are uniformly establishment in their orientation, serving the interests of the chamber of commerce rather than the citizens they represent. To our dismay, the local GOP is a Potemkin Village façade that creates the illusion of a Republican Party apparatus while actually preventing the type of grassroots organization that is evident in states such as Texas. As a result, crony capitalism abounds and progressives continue to make inroads—as documented in a series of blog posts on Misrule of Law entitled “Trouble in Paradise?”

My frustration with this situation, and inability to reform the local GOP from within, led me to run for a position on the Tennessee Republican Party (TRP) State Executive Committee (SEC) as a write-in candidate on the August 4 primary ballot. No other candidate sought the position, and the 302 votes I received made me the winner–or so I thought. The Blount County establishment, used to operating without opposition or criticism, decided to strike back. Our RINO county mayor, Ed Mitchell, urged the TRP to nullify my election, and succeeded.   

I have recounted elsewhere the details of the TRP’s retroactive nullification of my write-in election to District 2 of the SEC–on the risible grounds that I am not a “bona fide Republican”–even though my candidacy was endorsed by the Tennessee Conservative News and my unopposed victory had been certified by the Tennessee Secretary of State. I am not, however, the only MAGA conservative to be exiled from the TRP. A related, and equally egregious, episode of cancellation by the establishment is the subject of this essay. The details are important, so please bear with me as I proceed chronologically. In the interest of factual accuracy, I reproduce the relevant email communications in full.

A well-known conservative activist in Tennessee, Gary Humble (who founded the group Tennessee Stands in 2020) came to my defense following the outrageous nullification of my election on September 7, which was apparently orchestrated by TRP Chairman Scott Golden. It is fair to say that Humble is no fan of Tennessee’s GOP leadership, and vice versa. [1] Humble was a fierce and outspoken critic of Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s “emergency” response to the COVID pandemic, and the Republican legislature’s failure to intervene to prevent panic-induced infringements of personal freedom in the Volunteer State. (Humble also ran for the State Senate in 2022 and came within 700 votes of unseating the four-term Republican incumbent, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, despite being outspent five-to-one.) Using social media (both Facebook and Twitter), Humble harshly criticized the TRP for my election nullification, and in particular condemned Chairman Scott Golden (quotes are in italics):

Mark Pulliam, a lifelong Republican and conservative activist in East Tennessee recently won the election for his local GOP State Executive Committee (SEC).

The catch? No one pulled a petition to be on the ballot. So, Mr. Pulliam won as a write-in candidate. Mind you, he followed the letter of the law AND got over 300 votes for his write-in bid for the GOP SEC.

But the SEC did not want anyone to win the election. They wanted the election to go on with no candidate. Why? Because then the SEC would be able to APPOINT who they wanted in the seat. I mean, who needs elections anyway when those already in power can just appoint who they want?

Even though Mark won his election according to state law, the TN GOP has decided by a vote of 25-13 to nullify the election and kick Mark Pulliam off of the SEC.

Listen to me closely. The TN GOP is corrupt from the top to the bottom. The party is not fighting for conservative values. And the party is not on the side of the people. They are nothing but an establishment machine working for the elites and power brokers.

The SEC needs a complete overhaul. And the chairman, Scott Golden must be replaced immediately. We have absolutely no confidence in the leadership of the Tennessee Republican Party. 
(Emphasis added.)

Strong words, to be sure, but amply justified.

As it so happens, months before my conflict with the TRP, the President of the Blount County Republican Women (BCRW), Heather Fair, invited Humble to speak to her group in my hometown, Maryville, Tennessee. Humble, who is based in Middle Tennessee, was scheduled to speak at the club’s September 26 meeting. But in the wake of my nullification, and Humble’s outspoken criticism of the TRP’s action, the establishment decided that Humble must be silenced. Accordingly, the establishment tasked one of its RINO toadies and henchmen, a Trump-hating fan of Liz Cheney named Ted Boyatt (who is a former lobbyist for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, based in Nashville) to lean on Heather Fair in order to pressure her to rescind the invitation. [2]

On September 12, Boyatt wrote an email to Fair, with a copy to TRP Chairman Scott Golden [Why? Was he acting on Golden’s behalf?] and the President of the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women (which is the statewide group that chartered the BCRW). Boyatt’s email to Fair is set forth below, verbatim:

Hello Ms. Fair (or the responsible BCRW officer for this email account),

I was wondering if anyone in the leadership of BCRW had seen this recent post authored by Gary Humble, founder of Franklin-based “Tennessee Stands.”
[Attaching a screenshot of Humble’s social media post protesting my election nullification, quoted above.]

Is Mr. Humble still scheduled to be this month’s guest speaker at the BCRW meeting on Sept. 26? Does the leadership of BCRW feel it is appropriate to use its club to offer a platform to someone who calls our state party “corrupt from the top to the bottom,” and calling for the expulsion of the state party chair? Is Humble himself even a Republican? How does it benefit the members of BCRW to hear from a speaker who is so vocally adversarial to our state party and party leadership? How are BCRW members (or Republicans in Blount County generally) served by using their meeting to raise the profile of someone who clearly wants to spread hostilities with party leadership and separate himself from the goals and the mission of the Republican Party?

Perhaps now would be a good opportunity for BCRW leadership to send a message to its members (and to Blount County Republicans generally) that it sides with the decision of its local Republicans and state Republican leadership, rather than the tantrums of someone who just moved to TN 2 years ago and seems to be seeking an unearned crown for himself (and at the expense of our relationship with the state party).

I hope that BCRW will rescind Mr. Humble’s speaking invitation.
(Emphasis added.)

Keep in mind that Boyatt is not a member of the BCRW, had never attended any meetings of the BCRW, and had never met or spoken to Fair. Boyatt does not even live in Blount County! Fair, who is a conservative Republican who moved to Blount County from California in 2018–for some of the same reasons that my wife and I did–had invited Humble to speak because of his principled conservative message. Accordingly, she declined to rescind the speaking invitation or to censor the content of Humble’s remarks.

When the initial email to Fair (copied to TRP Chairman Scott Golden!) failed to elicit her submission, Boyatt escalated his campaign to silence Humble by communicating directly with BCRW members. Boyatt somehow managed to purloin a list of the club’s members (along with their email addresses) and on September 19 sent a heavy-handed (and defamatory) email to the BCRW membership, which I reprint below in its entirety:

Subject: Remembering our Obligation to Uphold Trust in our Local Republican Clubs

Dear friends and members of the Blount County Republican Women’s Club, 

I hope this email finds you well.  I am reaching out to you today to communicate a troubling development that has surfaced in our local party and to ask for your help in engaging with our local Republican clubs and organizations to ensure that we continue to expect responsible, good-faith guests and invited speakers in our local Republican auxiliaries. 

It has come to my attention that a particularly disreputable and notoriously divisive figure has been invited to be a keynote speaker at the next meeting of the Blount County Republican Women’s club on September 26.  This individual, Gary Humble, has a nomadic history of parasitically roaming from state-to-state and town-to-town, launching various crowdfunded businesses or donation-driven initiatives before moving to his next unsuspecting host community.  He reports having lived in at least eight other states in a ten-year span before moving to Tennessee from Texas just prior to the onset of the pandemic. 

First, it seems appropriate to briefly offer some background information about Mr. Humble and explain why he should not be considered an appropriate speaker to address our local Republican clubs.  Mr. Humble established a political organization known as Tennessee Stands in 2020 shortly after moving to Franklin, Tennessee, and true to his past practices, he immediately began soliciting contributions from local citizens and activists.  While Tennessee Stands purports to be a grassroots lobbying and activist organization founded to fight mask and vaccine mandates during the pandemic, Mr. Humble has refused to disclose his donors or financial dealings as an ostensibly nonprofit political entity.  In fact, Mr. Humble spent most of his time during the recent 2022 Tennessee General Assembly fighting against a campaign finance and ethics reform law that sought to require shadowy political organizations to disclose their donors and spending activities if they try to influence election outcomes.  Not surprisingly, Mr. Humble dishonestly sought to characterize the bill as an attack on “free speech,” yet the law contained no limitations or restrictions whatsoever on the types or contents of ads that candidates or PACs are allowed to run—only that their election spending be publicly disclosed, just as the law requires of any other candidate or PAC. 

Coincidentally, Mr. Humble now finds himself at the center of a campaign finance investigation into potentially illegal coordination with his dark-money group, Tennessee Stands, and his own unsuccessful campaign for state office in middle Tennessee earlier this year.  There is also suspicion that he may have violated state ethics laws by failing to properly register as a lobbyist.

Moreover, Mr. Humble’s time as the leader of Tennessee Stands has been marked by offensive and incendiary rhetoric, personally attacking state and local Republicans with whom he disagrees.  He even went so far as to demean parents in Franklin who chose to have their children wear masks during the pandemic, calling them “retarded bastards” and saying they should be exiled to an “island where you [will] sit and await judgement.”

While there are undoubtedly many strong feelings about masks (I know I certainly do not like wearing them), using that kind of language to insult parents (and those with special needs) for the choices they make on behalf of their own families and trying to raise their own children as best they know how is vile and unacceptable—and it is certainly not consistent with conservative values or the tenants of the Republican Party. 

Our party should expect better from the people to whom we offer our public platform.  Using the resources and reputation of our local Republican Women’s club to give an audience to such repugnant behavior is an affront to the hard work of all of the dedicated volunteers and Republican activists who have diligently built our local party over decades into the reliable and steady-handed institution that it has become.

Moreover, Mr. Humble has directly called for our state party leadership to be expelled and replaced.  [This is a reference to Humble’s comment about Scott Golden, quoted above.] Inviting him to headline a Republican Women’s Club event needlessly pits us against the leadership of the Tennessee Republican Party and gives the unseemly appearance that we condone or in some way endorse these attitudes.

In return, all local Republicans get is a besmirched reputation and antipathy from our own longtime neighbors here at home—including parents and family members who may have children that resemble Mr. Humble’s vulgar comments—with little else to show for it. 

I have been proud to work in the trenches for this party for over 16 years, and I have been blessed to meet some of the most decent, hard-working, honest people laboring alongside us in the Blount County Republican Party.  Our county party continues to have good leadership, and our clubs are still full of dedicated and loyal activists who provide the sweat equity that gives value to all of our efforts.   

It is undeniable that we have come a long way since the days when the beating heart of our Republican Women’s Club was held in the capable and wise hands of respected longtime leaders like Helen Webb, Bobbie French, Grayce Cabage, and, of course, Peggy Lambert.  However, I cannot help but feel as if they would be disappointed to see what we have done, in this instance, with the fruits of their labor.  These ladies would never have invited someone who has called the Tennessee Republican Party “corrupt from the top to the bottom” to come and address our local members.  [Ditto.] They would have supported the party, and they would have taken seriously their obligation to honor and uphold the trust of local Republicans in our own local organizations like the Republican Women’s club. 

I know that we are better than this, and I hope that we won’t forget the hard work of those folks who built a thriving local Republican Party and local Republican Women’s Club here in Blount County. I hope that more of us will find time to rejoin the local Blount County Republican Women’s club so that we can preserve the good reputation and trust that this party, and this community, has placed in it for many decades.  Finally, I hope that the Blount County Republican Women’s club will politely rescind Mr. Humble’s speaking invitation and instead invite someone from the disABILITY Resource Center, Helen Ross McNabb Center, or another mental health or disability advocate to come speak to members at the next meeting.

Sincerely, 

Ted Boyatt (Emphasis added.)

Needless to say, Boyatt’s vile email generated a storm of controversy, and statewide media coverage in the Tennessee Conservative News. It also prompted an immediate—and indignant–rebuttal by Humble, who replied to Boyatt as follows:

Mr. Boyatt,

I hope this email finds you well.

What is sad is the lengths that you and people like you to through to spin narratives with half-truths about someone you’ve never met and most likely someone you know very little about other than the trash others have sent to you like the things you display in your email. So, while I have no obligation to do so, I will address your concerns. And maybe, if you are honest, you will send these responses to the same people you sent this email to. But I doubt it.

You begin by referencing my “nomadic” history pointing to an article from when I owned and operated a microbrewery in Texas for 5 years. What you don’t get out of that article is that much of that time (just about all of that time actually) was spent as a young man in ministry after graduating Bible college and starting off as a counselor in Iowa working with Teen Challenge and ministering to men at the end of their rope from drug addiction. And for some years following, I spent time at various churches as a worship pastor eventually becoming an executive pastor. Unfortunately, it is very common for young worship pastors to incur 2-year stints in ministry. Often times, I wished that was different for me. But it wasn’t. It is what eventually led me and my family out of vocational ministry and into starting a new business.

You continue the email by demeaning my character and insinuating that I travel from state to state asking for money. I moved here with my family in 2017. After some time and through some connections in the church, I ended up working with the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) with David Fowler, the state’s premier advocacy organization for Biblical family values, marriage, and right to life legislation. It was during that time that COVID hit and in the middle of 2020, I started Tennessee Stands as a response to what I saw as government overreach and began challenging the emergency orders and mandates that were happening throughout our state. I am proud of that work and it is worth noting that David Fowler, my previous boss and very well-respected 3-term Tennessee State Senator from Signal Mountain, TN supported my recent campaign for state senate against Majority Leader Jack Johnson. Imagine, such a brilliant constitutional law attorney and former legislator supporting an evil criminal such as myself. Also incredible that I won on Election Day with 54% of the vote and when counting early voting, came away with almost 49% of the vote against a 16-year incumbent and Majority Leader. Not bad for a nomadic loser with no message.

You continue by painting me as a fraud who refuses to release financial records and fight against transparency. Quite the opposite. Please show me (1) 501(c)(4) in the United States that puts all of its financial records including its donor list online. Donors to a 501(c)(4) have an expectation of privacy and reasonably so since it is guaranteed by that IRS designation. And with good reason. Political retribution is at an all time high. And it is why we are committed to protecting our donors. The problem with the legislation that passed is that it is indeed an attack on free speech as it would unlawfully treat a 501(c)(4) as a PAC for engaging in what cannot be characterized as “political speech.” It is a serious distinction.

It is worth noting that Americans for Prosperity, The Beacon Center of Nashville, Tennessee Firearms Association, CPAC, the NRA, Citizens for Renewing American (run by Trump’s former OMB Director) and every 501(c)(4) that I can think of that operates within Tennessee was and is against the bill for the same reasons. Tennessee Stands was just the tip of the iceberg in opposition to that bill.

You then move on to mention the current finance investigation by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance. Any person with knowledge of this issue knows full well that this is nothing more than a political witch hunt and punishment for me daring to primary the incumbent Majority Leader of the party. And the board member driving the investigation, Tom Lawless, just so happens to be the member of the board appointed by the Senate Republican Caucus (Randy McNally and Jack Johnson), just a coincidence I am sure. If you are actually interested in the truth, you can watch the full hearing here https://youtu.be/pIW8PBxyqXg This meeting cannot be characterized as anything other than political retribution. The meeting is laughable and an embarrassment to state leadership. This is one big nothing burger. I have committed no finance violations and in the end, this will be a black eye on the board and those who worked behind the scenes to call the investigation.

You then proceed to the hit piece where I was targeted by the liberal rag, the TN Holler and again, mischaracterizing my statements on the masking of a child. Indeed, about the only truth you tell in your email is that I used the term “retarded bastards.” And I did. And I regret it. It was an incredibly poor choice of words. And the very next day, I issued a public apology. But where you fail is how you characterized my statements. This tweet was in direct response to the video featured in this article https://www.dailywire.com/news/viral-video-shows-day-care-worker-forcing-toddler-to-mask-megyn-kelly-blasts-this-is-so-wrong

What you will find out is that this daycare center was forcibly masking a 4-year old who was clearly distraught and besides himself, trying with all the courage he could muster to defend himself. The tweet was put out by his mother, who was horrified at what happened to her son, all because she had to go to work and could not care for her son at home. This was not his parents’ choice and had nothing to do with Franklin, TN. Your statements are emphatically false.

I spent an inordinate amount of my time 2020-2021 working with parents who were trying to protect their children from these tyrants who insisted on illegally forcing masks on our children’s’ faces. And when I came across this video, as a Dad, I was angry. And I lashed out on Twitter. I fully stand behind the sentiment I was trying to convey. But I am embarrassed by my choice of words. And I’ve stated as much. Old news and I am not going to continually rehash my shortcomings. There are many.

And of course, you land the plane on my displeasure with Republican Party leadership. Sir, I am not alone in this sentiment. It is shared by other members of the SEC. It is shared by many of our state legislators and other elected officials across the state. The discontent with the TN GOP leadership did not begin with me and it certainly will not end with me. And I stand by my statements.

You would be hard pressed to read my commentaries and/or watch my videos and walk away not viewing my positions as anything but conservative. Unfortunately, those very conservative viewpoints do not always agree with the policies running through our supermajority Republican legislature. And the fact that those things are being brought to light makes me a threat to the establishment in this state. And I understand. And frankly sir, it doesn’t bother me one bit.

I don’t know you. But you are either going to read this email and realize that there is more to the story and perhaps you were wrong in your characterizations. Or, you are just another cog in the wheel of the establishment bent on retaining your power and influence with no regard for truth or the constitutional principles that all Republicans should defend with their very lives.

Should you choose, you can do what real men do and give me a call on my mobile number at (214) 708-****[last four digits masked]. Would love to have a conversation with you and should the Lord create a path for us to do that, we might even find that we have more in common than we think. Or, maybe not.

Gary Humble

Worth noting that I have been married for over 24 years to my high school sweetheart and the first girl I kissed and we have three amazing sons. I am still active in my church and usually found leading worship on the weekends. I have no bankruptcies, financial improprieties, criminal records, divorces, or hidden mistresses. I do not have skeletons in my closet. Perhaps that is one reason those in power hate me so much. And maybe it is why you have had to work so diligently to come up with this ridiculous email forced to spin half-truths to disparage my character. That one is on you.

Humble responded to Boyatt’s hit piece (obviously loaded with oppo research from the recent State Senate primary race) with grace and class.

Heather Fair, President of the Blount County Republican Women, whom Boyatt had placed on the hot seat with his incendiary and bullying email, also responded with grace and class, forwarding to the club’s membership Humble’s rebuttal, with this message:

Dear Members and Associates –

By now you have no doubt read an email sent out to our membership list by Blount County Chamber of Commerce member, Ted Boyatt. I have included in this email below Gary Humble’s response to Boyatt’s accusations. Please read it and see the truth for yourself.

At this time, I have yet to learn how exactly Mr. Boyatt was able to access the personal contact information of our members. Your private information was given to BCRW in good faith and to know that trust was violated is disheartening to say the least. I am doing my utmost to find who is responsible.

As to the content of  Ted Boyatt’s email, I’m appalled. Ted began last week by sending me (cc’ing both Scott Golden & TNFRW Pres, Linda Kollman) a rather aggressive email stating his displeasure with our slated speaker, Gary Humble of TennesseeStands.org. After questioning both my judgement as well as Mr. Humble’s character, Ted Boyatt concluded his email with the “suggestion” that the invite to Gary be rescinded. When that did not get the desired response, he stepped up his campaign to Cancel Free Speech by asking a former BCRW officer for access to our membership list. Though his request was refused, Ted was undeterred and eventually had a copy provided by an as yet unknown person(s).

So many aspects of this are upsetting: The bullying. The call for censorship. The leak, or possible theft, of the Membership list. Character assassination. Take your pick – it’s all a disgrace. What is motivating Ted Boyatt to act out in such a way, I can only imagine. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Boyett as he doesn’t attend BCRW meetings. Nor has he made any effort to call or email me privately to discuss his concerns, which appear to be many. And yet not pressing enough to address without an audience.

Gary Humble was invited to speak back in March, with the date of his availability confirmed in June. The motivation for asking Mr. Humble to be a guest speaker being that he has a strong Conservative voice and is a man who puts his ideals into action. Pushing back against government overreach and advocating for the preservation of our Constitutionally protected God-given rights. There was absolutely no reason to believe he was coming to Blount County to be hateful or burn the house down, so to speak.

Gary Humble will be speaking at the Sept. 26th meeting, as scheduled at Louisville Town Hall @6pm. I hope you are able to attend and in turn make up your own mind. Ted Boyatt’s harassment of our group certainly doesn’t speak to Republican values. (Emphasis added.)

Sadly, the story didn’t end on that high note. When Fair refused to rescind the invitation, the establishment turned up the heat. The establishment leaned on the leadership of the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women to issue an ultimatum to Fair: rescind the invitation or face dire consequences. Fair explained the ultimatum in an email to the club’s membership dated September 22:

Dear Members & Associates,

Effective immediately, I am resigning as president of Blount County Republican Women. However, it is not my desire to do so.

The Tennessee Federation of Republican Women (TNFRW) has determined that by inviting “controversial figure”, Gary Humble (Founder of tennesseestands.org) to be a guest speaker, I am in violation of their ByLaws. Although the term ‘controversial figure/person’ was cited several times as reason for discipline, that phrasing appears nowhere in the ByLaws (at least that I could find).

TNFRW offered the following choices to rectify the situation:

1) Resign immediately

2) Rescind Mr. Humble’s invitation to speak, therefore allowing me to remain President

3) Neither resign nor rescind the invitation, HOWEVER should I choose this option then BCRW is subject to censure, possible fines and/or closure.

I absolutely do not want any repercussions for the club or BCRW members, so option #3 was never even a consideration.

Rescinding the invite or censoring Gary (“just give him some boundaries” was advice heard earlier this week) goes against my principles and I refuse to do either. 

That leaves the only real option in my opinion: Resign. A third-party, bully outsider has been allowed to weaponize TNFRW bylaws and infringe on the 1st Amendment Rights of an invited guest. With that reality, I see no value in retaining my current post nor any affiliation with TNFRW or NFRW.

My sincere thanks to those members who have contacted me directly these last few days and offered words of encouragement (emails to blounttngopwomen@gmail.com have not been forwarded to me). Your support has been deeply appreciated.

*Leak of Member List Update: List was determined to be from no later than early Spring 2022 as newer members did not receive Boyatt’s email. Susan Mills (the member Ted approached for the list initially) shared with me that an email to members in Feb. 2022 had inadvertently CC’d rather than BCC’d recipients. All addresses were visible. It seems likely that blooper email was the source used by Ted. He of course wasn’t on it himself, so who shared that info with him is still a mystery. If it’s any consolation, I am fairly confident that member home addresses and phone numbers are not in Ted’s hands.*

All the best –

Heather Fair (Emphasis added.)

Not surprisingly, Fair’s resignation generated substantial media coverage, both locally (in a front page story in the Daily Times, headlined “Blount County Republican Women chair resigns under protest”) and in the Tennessee Conservative News.

Thankfully, the story has a happy ending. Fair resigned, but instead of canceling Humble’s appearance, she helped arrange an alternative venue—one not hosted by the BCRW and therefore not subject to the establishment’s threats of reprisal. Humble appeared as scheduled on September 26, at a different venue in Blount County. And instead of the audience of 30-40 people who typically attend meetings of the Blount County Republican Women, Humble attracted an estimated 175 people to his appearance at The Station. Fair also spoke at the event. The establishment’s attempt to cancel Humble for his criticism of the TRP’s nullification of my election backfired. The resulting publicity generated even greater interest in Humble’s message. As Tennessee Stands posted afterwards on Facebook,

Incredible night amongst conservatives and friends. Last minute pivot, 175 people here to talk about freedom in Blount County.

Notice to the Tennessee Republican Party this is what it looks like when you work to cancel freedom. Wouldn’t it have been great for the party for all of these great people to show up to the originally planned event?

Do better. There are some amazing people here in Blount County. And the party would do well to pay attention.

Congrats to Heather Fair and her stellar leadership in making this event happen.

Heather Fair discussed the whole sorry episode on a podcast with East Tennessee activist Charles Cook. This sequence of events should alarm all conservatives in the Volunteer State and cause them to open their eyes to the pathetic reality of the state of the GOP in Tennessee. The establishment controls Tennessee as firmly as K Street lobbyists control Congress. The grassroots do not have a voice—in fact, are held in contempt.

Many questions remain: Who directed Ted Boyatt, a mediocre Nashville lobbyist, to sabotage Gary Humble’s appearance before the BCRW? What was his motivation in doing so? Was Scott Golden involved? How did Boyatt even learn that the BCRW had invited Humble to speak? Ted Boyatt is not the puppet master; he is merely the marionette. Boyatt was obviously not acting on his own. Who was pulling the strings?

What lessons can we learn from this pathetic vignette? TRP is not conservative. Neither are affiliated groups such as the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women. In fact, they are hostile to conservatives, just like the GOP “leadership” in Washington, D.C. The establishment disdains the MAGA agenda and those who support it. The TRP is controlled by the establishment, and serves as a cheerleading squad for incumbents in the legislature—no matter how they vote.

Grassroots conservatives in Tennessee must organize, replace the SEC members who support RINO leaders, and demand a new chairman of the TRP. Scott Golden has no credibility. His actions—declaring Eddie Mannis to be a “bona fide” Republican; orchestrating the nullification of my election to the SEC; and siccing Ted Boyatt on Heather Fair in order to cancel the appearance of Gary Humble—are reprehensible and unacceptable.

Tennesseans deserve better Republican leaders.  More accurately, Tennesseans deserve leaders who actually represent the Republican platform and Republican voters. The RINOs have made it clear that they want to purge conservatives from the TRP. I say, turn the tables. It is time for Tennessee conservatives to eradicate RINOs. The establishment can buy influence with the TRP through campaign contributions and PAC support. To overcome this advantage, the grassroots must mobilize and use our superior numbers to demand change. This means forming conservative groups, recruiting primary opponents, and getting engaged in every county across the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee Stands and the Tennessee Conservative News have proven that conservatives can move the needle through grassroots activism. Rather than be discouraged by my election nullification and the attempted cancellation of Gary Humble in Blount County, we should use these events as a rallying cry. Tennesseans fought valiantly at the Alamo. Sam Houston, who grew up in Blount County, defeated Santa Anna’s army at the Battle of San Jacinto, just as Andrew Jackson’s militia forces vanquished the British army led by Major General Edward Pakenham at the Battle of New Orleans. It is time for Tennessee conservatives to show the establishment what Volunteers can do when provoked.    

Footnotes

1. Humble’s vocal criticism of Tennessee’s “emergency” response to the COVID pandemic, which included opposition to vaccine mandates, medical passports, shutdown orders, masking of schoolchildren, and the like, was a burr under the saddle of the establishment in Blount County. When Humble organized a statewide “Freedom Matters Tour” in 2021 to rally the grassroots against government and business overreach, a venue in Blount County that had originally agreed to host the event cancelled at the last minute, forcing Tennessee Stands to relocate the rally to a venue in Knoxville. The Blount County venue, The Shed, is run by a business that is represented on the board of the local chamber of commerce.  

2. Boyatt, although currently a Nashville-based lobbyist, is originally from Blount County, once served as an officer on the Blount County Republican Party, and still has close ties to the establishment RINOs who dominate the local party. During the rigged biennial “reorganization meeting” conducted by the local GOP in 2021, Boyatt was chosen to serve on the credentials committee that turned away numerous Blount County Republicans wishing to participate in the process. I complained to TRP Chairman Scott Golden at the time, to no avail, undoubtedly marking myself as a MAGA troublemaker to TRP apparatchiks.

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  • "Mark Pulliam fancies himself a Paul Revere of the right."
    Froma Harrop
    Syndicated columnist
  • “With the flourish of a pen, Mark Pulliam makes bad guys rhetorically bleed and weak guys physically cringe. It's awesome.”
    Michael Quinn Sullivan
    President & CEO, Empower Texans
  • "Mark Pulliam, writer and thinker extraordinaire, has a new blog. Make sure to visit and register. Mark Pulliam's new blog is a thing of wit and intelligence."
    Bradley J. Birzer
    Professor of History, Hillsdale College, President of the American Ideas Institute, and editor at large of The Imaginative Conservative
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