Mark Clayton's name will have a "D" next to it when he challenges Sen. Bob Corker in November's general election, but he won't be representing the state's Democratic Party.
On Friday, the Tennessee Democratic Party issued a statement disavowing Clayton, a 35-year-old conservative activist and former Republican Senate candidate from White's Creek, who won their party's nomination Thursday.
“Mark Clayton is associated with a known hate group in Washington, D.C., and the Tennessee Democratic Party disavows his candidacy, will not do anything to promote or support him in any way, and urges Democrats to write in a candidate of their choice in November," a party statement read.
The group was later cited as Public Advocate U.S.A.
Democrats suggested Clayton, who spent no money on his campaign, had been successful because of his name being at the top of the ballot. A total of seven Democrats waged bids for the nomination.
Little had been written about Clayton prior to the primary, in which he pulled 48,126 votes. But on Friday, the candidate's name became the focus of a Mother Jones magazine article titled "Dems nominate anti-gay conspiracy theorist for Senate."
"Mark Clayton believes the federal government is building a massive, four-football-field-wide superhighway from Mexico City to Toronto as part of a secret plot to establish a new North American Union as we know it," the article reads. "On Thursday, he became the Tennessee Democrats' nominee for U.S. Senate."
The article cited portions of a website Clayton had set up for his 2008 bid against Sen. Lamar Alexander. On Friday, the site had crashed because of bandwidth limits being exceeded.
Sean Braisted, spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the group anticipated having to disavow Clayton as votes poured in Thursday night.
"Before the election, we had heard some of this stuff about him, we just didn't think he had that much of a shot," Braisted said. "This is a problem with Tennessee's ballot … Most of the candidates were just crackpots."
The party's disavowing of Clayton all but opens the gates to another six-year Senate term for Corker, who obliterated his opponents in both votes and total funds raised in his first campaign for re-election. Although Braisted said the Democrats were not yet conceding any defeat to the senator, they would be focusing on other races for November.
"Of course we're going to be pointing out our issues with him leading to November, but our main focus going forward is state House, state Senate and congressional races," he said. "The U.S. Senate race was never going to be the priority for us in this cycle … I'm not going to concede it yet, but it's a pretty safe bet Corker will win."
The general election is Nov. 6.
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