A candidate for mayor of Mason, Tennessee, who was disqualified after failing to meet the town’s residency requirements, is blasting the Tipton County NAACP, accusing the chapter of playing partisan politics to remove him from the ballot.
Thomas Burrell thinks he still will be on the Nov. 8 election ballot, if a state or federal court rules in his favor.
“This isn’t over by a long shot,” said Burrell. “The Tipton County NAACP President, Chris Brent (who is a member of the Tipton County Election Commission), conspired with others to get me off the ballot. Before I was called to meet with the Tipton County Election Commission, clearly there were secret meetings held before mine.”
Burrell is president of the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association, Inc., and a well-known Republican in Tipton County.
In late August, the Election Commission released the names of four individuals who had qualified for the mayor’s race. At a Sept. 9 meeting, the Election Commission disqualified him for not meeting the residency requirement.
NAACP State President Gloria Sweet-Love fired back against any partisan involvement in Burrell’s disqualification.
Sweet-Love’s statement reads, in part.
“The Tipton County Branch of the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP has taken no position as to whether any political candidate meets qualifications for office. That is purely an issue for the Tipton County Election Commission and the courts to decide in accordance with the applicable law. That any officer or member of the Tipton County NAACP sits on any public or private board does not change decisions of those boards into decisions of the Tipton County NAACP…”
Sweet-Love made additional remarks this week, clarifying Brent’s role in the meeting Burrell calls conspiratorial.
“Mr. Burrell’s accusations against Christopher Brent are completely unfounded. What he has failed to say is that Christopher Brent sits on the Tipton County Election Commission. He met with Thomas Burrell, not as the county’s NAACP president, but as a member of the election board.”
Burrell argues that once the commission deemed him qualified to run for mayor, which should have been the end of it
“Chris Brent was responsible for the meeting that disqualified me because elected officials in Mason are afraid I will win. I am the only one who will stand up to the state. I would never surrender the city’s charter, and I think each of the three candidates running for mayor would give up the charter.”
Vice-Mayor Virginia Rivers, Mayor Emmitt Gooden, and Alderman Eddie Noeman are candidates in the race for Mason’s mayor.
Rivers took exception to Burrell’s remarks about the charter’s surrender.
“Mr. Burrell must not have seen me earlier this year tell the state (that) Mason would never surrender the charter. As an alternative, the state is overseeing the city’s finances.
“Deficits were created by previous white administrations. But they wanted to take it from African-American leaders. We are cooperating to get the city’s finances in a healthier state. But we will never give up our charter. Our foreparents lived here for generations and passed it down to us. This city belongs to the people.”
The town’s fortunes are expected to benefit from the late-September groundbreaking for the Ford Motor Company’s Blue Oval City, a $5.6 billion electric car plant just outside of Mason.
Burrell reportedly was questioned about the official address he listed on his petition to run for mayor. Election commissioners questioned whether Burrell actually lived at the address.
The house is uninhabitable, but Burrell told the board he was doing renovations. A trailer had been brought onto the property.
The commission also asked Burrell about electricity and water only being recently turned on at the address in late August.
Burrell said he frequently travels because of his work with the Black Farmers organization and may not be at the property all the time.
Election commissioners in the end voted to reverse Burrell’s eligibility to run for mayor.
Sweet-Love called election commissioner Brent a man with integrity and honor who has no political agenda.
“Chris Brent is honest and trustworthy as a person. As an election commissioner and as Tipton County NAACP president, he conducts his duties with the highest moral fortitude. If he determined that anyone is ineligible to run for mayor, it is because lawful guidelines are not being followed. Pushing an agenda is not in his character…”
Burrell filed a restraining order against the Election Commission in the United States District Court Western District of Tennessee, which would have prevented the removal of his name from the Nov. 8 ballot. The order was denied on Sept. 27.
Appeals have been filed in both state and federal courts, Burrell said. A favorable ruling would require Tipton County Election Commission to reinstate Burrell’s name on the upcoming mid-term ballot.