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A Democratic leader apologized after comments on Tennessee LGBTQ and minority candidates facing extra challenges in a "racist" state.
"My statement is not representative of how I or the Tennessee Democratic Party view the people of our state," said Mary Mancini, Tennessee Democratic Party chair, in statement released to The Tennessean.
Mancini made her initial remarks at a Coffee County Democratic Party function, but when media obtained audio, she sparked criticism from the left and right.
She told local party leaders to expect challenges when it runs minority candidates in many areas.
"We have to disregard that old trope that Tennessee Democrats have been living under, which is that we have to find a candidate that looks like the community," she said.
The comments by Mancini involved black, Latino, millennial, and LGBTQ candidates. "This is a racist state," she said.
After The Advocate reported Mancini had questioned if LGBTQ candidates should run, she said that was the opposite of her intended message. In an email, she said the state party "should continue to put forward candidates who are less conventional in Tennessee."
But she faced scrutiny for suggesting racism in the state would prevent many of those candidates from winning.
Mancini in her original remarks pointed to a black candidate in a state House district currently held by Democrats, but said the Democrats in the area said the candidate could not win because two of three counties in the district are racist.
After being contacted by the Tennesseean about her remarks, Mancini preemptively stated on Twitter the comments came in response to "hearing the constant drumbeat of bigotry, misogyny, and homophobia" from state Speaker of the House Glen Casada.
But Mancini later said the comments were made out of frustration at divisive tactics employed by Republicans.
She apologized for calling the entire state racist, but stressed she still wants to see candidates from marginalized communities run for office.
"It's hard to be a party that is not winning," she said. "So I think people look for ways in which we can win. I think this is a long process of changing our thought process, building the Tennessee Democratic Party for the future, and not for looking back in the past. I think that's a very important change that we have to make and we have started to make and that we have to continue to make."