KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) -- State Rep. Nathan Vaughn says campaign literature mailed by Tennessee Republicans was meant to inflame racial hatred and contributed to his re-election defeat.
Vaughn, a Kingsport Democrat who became northeastern Tennessee's first black lawmaker when he was elected in 2002, lost to Republican Tony Shipley by 326 votes in the House's 2nd District race earlier this month.
Vaughn was the subject of heavy political attacks during the campaign, including a Tennessee Republican Party direct mail piece that pasted a picture of his head on a black bird.
The mailer described him as "part of the liberal, big government flock'' with President-elect Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"I think they were just trying to spread hate to win an election,'' he said. "The intent of those mailers was to put me with Barack Obama and say, 'They're both black, and we need to be against both of them,''' he said, adding that Pelosi's picture was added "as cover.''
State Republican Chairman Robin Smith said there was nothing racial in the mailer.
"This is so tiring,'' she said. "What we're seeing is, if someone chooses to vote for a white person over a black person, this is what you have to deal with: 'You're a racist.' This is the most insulting accusation that can be leveled.''
Smith said Vaughn lost largely because he held "the most Republican seat held by a Democrat in the state'' and "this was a time when voters decided to vote Republican.''
Vaughn's was one of four seats lost by Democrats that gave Republicans a 50-49 majority in the House.
Last week, top state House Republican Jason Mumpower denied any wrongdoing by a GOP operative who was slapped with a restraining order for running Web sites named after Vaughn.
The Kingsport Times-News reported the order was issued in September against Scott Gilmer, a House Republican staffer. Court filings said the Web content placed Vaughn "in a false light," but did not provide specifics. The injunction required that the Web sites be taken down, and they were.
Mumpower, who is lining up GOP support to be elected House speaker in January, said the injunction was part of a legal settlement and as part of the agreement, he could not discuss details. He also added there was no wrongdoing and nothing negative said about Vaughn.
Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com