Racism Accusations Cloud Already Partisan Senate

John Rodgers, Nashville City Paper, Jan. 19, 2006

In his 35 years as a state senator, Nashville’s Douglas Henry said Wednesday he has never seen the state Senate as infected with partisanship.

Henry’s comments came one day after Sen. Ophelia Ford, a black Democrat, said the Republicans’ move to void her election was “about racism.”

In a special session on ethics, a supposedly non-partisan issue, it took the Senate only two weeks to become sharply divided along party lines.

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“I found it very offensive,” said Sen. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge). “It was certainly not anything racial. I think if you pay close attention to the remarks that were made, we were focused on the election process, not the people that were in the election.”

Senate Majority Leader Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) said Ford’s comments are “ridiculous.”

“I hate to see the race card played on something like this,” Ramsey said. “From the bottom of my heart, if it’d been a Republican and this evidence was there, I’d have been just as adamant about voiding the election.”

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Ford defeated Republican Terry Roland by 13 votes in a Sept. 15 special election held to replace Ford’s brother, John Ford, who resigned after being indicted on corruption charges.

But in that election, several questionable votes have come to light. The state election coordinator, Brook Thompson, has confirmed that two ballots were cast in the names of dead people and four convicted felons also voted in the election.

In addition, Thompson has said that there were possibly people voting in Ford’s election that did not actually live in her district and therefore shouldn’t have voted.

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