By Associated Press - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has named anti-Shariah activist Kevin Kookogey as his state chairman for Tennessee.

Kookogey, a former chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party, was unsuccessful in his bid to coalesce tea party support for a primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander last year.

Kookogey in 2013 decided against mounting that long-planned campaign after former state Rep. Joe Carr decided to get in the race. Carr ended up losing to Alexander by fewer than 10 percentage points.

As head of the Williamson County GOP, Kookogey presided over the 2012 passage of a resolution criticizing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam over the role of a Muslim staffer and a council that has advised two state departments on Islamic affairs.

According to that resolution, the governor had extended preferential political status to Shariah “adherents in Tennessee, thereby aiding and abetting the advancement of an ideology and doctrine which is wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and the Tennessee Constitution.”

The Haslam administration at the time denied those allegations and similar ones mounted by other county Republican Party resolutions.

“There is no effort by the Haslam administration, the State of Tennessee, or any agency or department of the State to promote or advance Shariah law or Shariah compliant finance,” the governor’s then-deputy, Claude Ramsey, wrote in the letter to GOP leaders around the state.

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, in a release praised Kookogey for his “experience and knowledge of both the landscape in Tennessee and the issues that matter to Tennesseans,” and noted his leadership role on issues like “American sovereignty, defense, and religious liberty.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Tuesday called on Cruz to drop Kookogey as his Tennessee state chairman.

“If Sen. Cruz chooses to keep Mr. Kookogey on his campaign staff, it would serve as an endorsement of anti-Muslim hate,” said CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw said in a release.

The Cruz campaign and Kookogey did not return a messages seeking comment.

Worries about the spread of Shariah have surfaced in several states in recent years, often resulting in proposals to restrict the use of foreign law in state courts.

Opponents dismiss these bills as anti-Islamic fear-mongering. They say Shariah has never trumped U.S. state or federal law. But supporters say the legislation protects states’ rights in an increasingly globalized world.

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