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Tennessee Democrats reject "gay-bashing" Senate primary winner

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - The Tennessee Democratic Party said on Friday it was disavowing the winner of its primary for Senate because the candidate is part of an anti-gay hate group.

Mark Clayton, a Nashville-area candidate, received more than 48,000 votes on Thursday, about twice as much as any other candidate in the crowded seven-person Democratic field, winning the right to face popular Republican Senator Bob Corker.

But the state Democratic Party said it will not back Clayton nor allow him to use any of the party's resources in the general election.

"The only time that Clayton has voted in a Democratic primary was when he was voting for himself," said a statement from the party.

"Many Democrats in Tennessee knew nothing about any of the candidates in the race, so they voted for the person at the top of the ticket," the statement continued. "Unfortunately, none of the other Democratic candidates were able to run the race needed to gain statewide visibility or support."

Democratic party spokesman Sean Braisted said that Clayton is "a perennial candidate" who was on the primary ballot in 2008, "didn't do anything... so he filed again."

Braisted said Clayton is vice president of a hate group called Public Advocate of the United States.

Public Advocate is labeled as a "gay-bashing group" in a July post on the web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Clayton said on his Facebook page that he is a vice president of Public Advocate of the United States. A statement on Public Advocate's web site said Romney and Obama could learn from Clayton.

"The liberal cry babies who whine about Mark Clayton's total and complete democratic victory refuse to accept blame for their own failed polices that drove Mark Clayton to a crushing electoral victory," the statement said.

The site said that Public Advocate offers "strong and vocal opposition" to same sex marriage and "the furtherance of so-called 'Gay Rights'."

Clayton could not be reached at his home or at his campaign office Friday. Two people listed as campaign volunteers also could not be reached for comment.

Though the Democrats won't support Clayton, they are not urging their party members to vote for Chattanooga Republican Corker, who pulled in 390,000 votes in his primary Thursday, 14 times the tally of his nearest Republican competitor.

"We're just recommending that people write in a candidate, a local political figure they admire," said Braisted. "The situation is fluid. There could be a more serious write-in candidate people can get behind."

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Lisa Shumaker)

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