Three Tennessee Supreme Court justices overcome ouster campaign

Clark Wade Lee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Three Tennessee Supreme Court justices up for retention votes will keep their seats on the bench.

Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Connie Clark, and Justice Sharon Lee were faced with an ouster campaign, which brought more attention – and much more money – to the election than in years past.

Opponents both in and out of state raised large amounts of money for their campaign, including $425,000 from a political action committee tied to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. The justices responded by raising more than $1 million to combat the push to remove them.

By comparison, the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance reports no money was spent in the 2006 retention race.

Why the change? Wade, Clark, and Lee were all appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, and Ramsey, a Republican, has admitted he wants only conservative Republicans on the state’s highest court.

The three justices stopped in Memphis during a tour to fight the ouster campaign, during which Lee said Tennesseans understand there’s no place for politics in the courtroom.

“Tennesseans get it, they understand that, and they’re standing up and they’re saying this: ‘We’re going to vote to retain. When we go to court, we want our courts to be fair, impartial, and we don’t want there to be any politics in the courtroom. We want the Constitution to rule, not politics,'” she said.


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