After bouncing five Democrats off the ballot in the 2020 cycle, a source familiar with the workings of the Tennessee Democratic Party’s executive committee told The Tennessee Star their next target is State Rep. John Mark Windle (D.-41th District).

The source said Windle, who has served in the state’s House since 1991, is on the block because he supports gun rights.

The plan, if executed, is to have the committee vote to remove Windle from the ballot, in effect declaring him no longer a valid Democrat, after the April 7 deadline for candidates to qualify for the ballot, the source said.

Windle, a colonel in the Tennessee National Guard, deployed to Kosovo and two combat tours to Iraq, and it was during his first tour when he was injured during a mortar attack.

The Tennessee Star asked about the alleged plans to remove Windle from the Democratic primary ballot before the April 7 deadline for candidates to qualify Friday, by emailing 50 of the TNDP Executive Committee members for which email addresses could be obtained, since the vast majority are not listed on the organization’s website.

The email list included three of the four officers of the TNDP Executive Committee: Barbara Wagner, vice-chairwoman; Carol Abney, treasurer and Pam Weston, secretary.

The Star sent Party Chairman Hendrell Remus, the first person of color to lead the Tennessee Democratic Party, an inquiry through the general email address because there was no other email address listed for him.

Three of the TNDP Executive Committee members replied by the requested deadline of 1 p.m. Monday; all indicated they were not aware of any effort to oust Windle from their party.

The Tennessee Star reached out to Windle, but he did not respond before deadline.

Democratic legislative colleagues: We know nothing about a move against Windle

The Tennessee Star reached out to several Democratic state lawmakers, and none of them said they were tracking any attempt to remove Windle from the ballot by the Democratic Party leadership.

State Rep. Sam McKenzie (D.-15th District): “I am confident that this is fake news, as all elected Democratic members are advocates of the 2nd Amendment. I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about Representative Windle from the Democratic Caucus and from the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee.

State Rep. Dwayne Thompson (D.-96th District): “I have not heard anything about the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee planning anything regarding Chairman Windle or any other incumbent Democrat. The Democratic Caucus regards Chairman Windle as a valuable member, and we all stand by him. I stand ready to strongly oppose any efforts to interrupt his re-election campaign.”

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D.-98th District): “I have no idea. First I’ve heard.”

State Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D.-55th District): “I have heard no such thing, and I would strongly oppose any such effort. Rep. John Mark Windle is one of the longest-serving and most respected elected officials in Tennessee. I would happily welcome 25 more Democrats like John Mark Windle in the state legislature tomorrow.”

DeBerry: I did not expect Democratic leaders to take me off the ballot

One of the Democrats the Tennessee Democratic Party’s executive committee removed from the ballot in the 2020 political cycle was longtime state Democratic Rep. John DeBerry.

In a Dec. 14, 2020, commentary “The Political Ambush of State Rep. John DeBerry,” for The Tennessee Star, Republican State Rep. Mike Sparks (R.-49th District) wrote:

DeBerry, a faithful Democrat since 1970 and representative for House District 90 since 1995, is an honorable man of deep conviction and integrity. He dutifully served his district for 26 years, never wavering from the same core beliefs voters elected him 13 times to uphold.

DeBerry told Michael Patrick Leahy, the host of Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC’sThe Tennessee Star Report” radio show, during his April 9, 2020, appearance, the whole thing came as a shock to him.

“No. I had no idea that this was going on whatsoever. I found out about it less than 48 hours before it happened,” DeBerry said.

“The vote happened yesterday, Wednesday, and I found out about it Monday night, so I had no idea this was going on,” he said. “I was given absolutely no warning. No opportunity to prepare a defense or at least a response during the course of this hearing or anything like this. It just ambushed me.”

Leahy then asked DeBerry if he had any recourse.

“Well, I have, and I’ve talked to several attorneys and different individuals,” said the 26-year veteran of the legislature, now working as a senior advisor to Republican Gov. William B. Lee.

“The way that the statute, in my understanding of how it’s written, is they have the right to say that we will not associate with you – I do not think that was the legislative intent,” he said.

“I have some very competent lawyers looking into it. It would be very difficult if I filed an injunction. If we went to court. There comes a time when you kind of realize: ‘OK, this particular battle has been lost.’”


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Neil W. McCabe is the national political editor of The Star News Network based in Washington. He is an Army Reserve public affairs NCO and an Iraq War veteran. Send him news tips: [email protected]. Follow him on TruthSocial & GETTR: @ReporterMcCabe. Laura Baigert and Aaron Gulbransen, both of The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network, contributed to this report.
Photo “John Mark Windle” by Tennessee General Assembly. Background Photo “Tennessee State Capitol” by Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0.