Rosalind Kurita is a Tennessee politician who was formerly Speaker pro tempore of the Tennessee State Senate, representing State Senate District 22 (Cheatham, Houston, and Montgomery Counties), centered on Clarksville. In 2005 she unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nomination for the United States Senate seat up for election in 2006.
Early life and career
Kurita (Born Rosalind Culbertson) grew up in Midland, Texas, the daughter of a former leader in the Republican Party. A registered nurse, she received her B.A. from the University of Arkansas. She married in 1972 and has three children. After her children’s births, Kurita created her own small medical marketing business. Kurita began in politics as a county commissioner for Montgomery County.
In 1996, Kurita won a state senate seat by defeating an incumbent Republican senator. She was re-elected twice, in 2000 and 2004. In 2005, Kurita announced her intentions to run for the Democratic Party nomination for the United States Senate to succeed retiring senator Bill Frist. After poor results from her fundraising efforts, Kurita withdrew from the race and endorsed the eventual Democratic nominee, Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.
On January 9, 2007, Kurita was the lone member of the Democratic caucus in the Tennessee Senate to vote together with all 17 Republican members to replace long-serving Democratic Senate Speaker John S. Wilder with the Republican Ron Ramsey. On January 12, 2007, Ramsey named Kurita Speaker pro tempore, replacing Republican State Senator Micheal Williams, who had in the previous legislative session broken with his fellow Republicans to vote in favor of Wilder.
Before 2008 Kurita was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination in Tennessee's 7th congressional district in the 2008 election. The district, represented by Republican Marsha Blackburn (who served with her in the State Senate from 1999 to 2003) includes most of Kurita's state senate district. She also was mentioned as a candidate for the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Lamar Alexander. Instead of seeking either office, Kurita sought to remain in the State Senate. In the August 7, 2008, Democratic primary she was opposed by Tim Barnes, who she outpolled by just 19 votes, receiving 4,477 votes to Barnes' 4,458 votes. Election officials certified her victory. The Republicans didn't even put up a candidate, seemingly handing Kurita another term. However, Barnes contested the results, claiming that Kurita only won because a large number of Republicans crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary (Tennessee has an open primary system). On September 13 Tennessee Democratic Party officials met in Nashville and voted to strip Kurita of the nomination. Party officials in Kurita's district then held a convention and designated Barnes as the party's candidate in the November general election. Kurita had been on bad terms with party leadership because of her vote for Republican Ron Ramsey, enabling him to win election as Senate speaker. Kurita subsequently announced that she would seek re-election in November as a write-in candidate. Her write-in candidacy was unsuccessful, resulting in 23,322 votes, which was not sufficient to overcome Barnes' total of 36,977 votes as the Democratic nominee.
Kurita also sued the state Democratic Party in federal court, seeking to have her name restored to the ballot. Her lawsuit charged that the Tennessee law allowing political party officials to rule on challenges to primary election results violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it has no procedural rules to protect due process and it does not allow for judicial review. The complaint also contended that Kurita's rights were violated because rules for the party's review of the primary results were not adopted until the morning of the review meeting, and that the Democratic Party officials did not adequately explain their reasons for overturning the election results. On October 15, 2008, Judge Robert L. Echols of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee dismissed her complaint. His ruling stated that when primary election results are contested, under Tennessee law the primary board (in this instance the Democratic Party executive committee) has the authority to decide on the party's nominee. Kurita said she would appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, but this effort did not result in the revocation of Barnes having been awarded the nomination.  Barnes succeeded Kurita in the State Senate in January 2009.
- Josh Kurtz, Nashville City Hall Race Captures Political Spotlight, Roll Call, January 30, 2007
- Woods, Jeff (2008-10-23). "Devil Woman". Nashville Scene.
- Kurita fights in court, on campaign trail — with help from GOP, Tennessee Journal, v. 34, no. 37, September 26, 2008
- Kotz, Pete (2008-09-18). "Rosalind Kurita Fights Back with Write-In Campaign". Nashville Scene.
- Jimmy Settle, Barnes beats back Kurita write-ins, The Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville, Tennessee), November 5, 2008
- Theo Emery, Kurita's suit to restore win fails; Ruling rejects her as Dems' nominee, The Tennessean, October 15, 2008