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VOL. 125 | NO. 88 | Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ford Name Plays Into Election Victory

By Bill Dries

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It didn’t work for Myron Lowery in last year’s special election for Memphis mayor.

But Joe Ford won the Democratic nomination for Shelby County mayor this week by running from the office.

Ford beat Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone, a rival who outspent him at least through the end of March, according to campaign financial disclosure reports. Malone even had television ads.

Ford, who was appointed interim mayor in December, beat Malone and General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson in the Democratic primary. He will face Republican Mark Luttrell, who had only token opposition in the Republican primary from perennial contender Ernest Lunati.

Luttrell has raised more money than all three of the Democratic primary contenders combined and began running TV ads in the last week run-up to Tuesday’s Election Day.

The final unofficial totals in the Democratic mayoral primary are:

  • Ford, 20,360, 57%
  • Malone, 12,916, 37%
  • Jackson, 2,168, 6%

The totals deflate the idea that Jackson’s last-minute declaration as a candidate – at the filing deadline – was an attempt by Ford to weaken Malone’s appeal. Even with Jackson’s votes, Malone wouldn’t have beaten Ford, who never seemed to be in doubt about the outcome.

Malone was aware of Ford’s unflappable optimism in the last week of the campaign. It made her more wary, wondering what Ford knew that she didn’t, even as supporters and advisers assured her she was on her way to victory.

Those assurances began to turn to genuine concern as floodwaters rose over the weekend and it became apparent the modest election turnout would become more modest as a result.

Ford supporters, however small in number, would get to the polls. Malone had dedicated supporters built over her eight years on the commission.

But her campaign also relied on winning new supporters who clearly didn’t make it to the polls on Election Day.

Tuesday’s election was proof the Ford name continues to carry some strength.

Justin Ford, son of the interim mayor, claimed his father’s District 3 Position 3 seat in the Democratic County Commission primary.

Ford beat Edith Moore, a retired IBM executive, whom the commission appointed to the seat after the elder Ford became mayor.

The final unofficial vote totals are:

  • Ford, 7,342, 66%
  • Moore, 3,822, 34%

Approximately 10 percent of Shelby County’s nearly 600,000 voters cast ballots in early voting and Election Day polling.

Election Day turnout was expected to be low, but it may have been driven lower by weekend storms that left parts of the county under floodwaters.

The primaries signal the beginning of what is expected to be a robust general election campaign for sheriff, the job Luttrell is leaving after two terms.

The pair of primaries for sheriff featured eight candidates, seven of whom either currently work for the sheriff’s department or are past employees. Only Reginald French, in the Democratic primary, was not a former or current department official.

Wade was the 2002 Democratic nominee, losing to Luttrell. French was the Democratic nominee in the 2006 elections.

Oldham is Luttrell’s chief deputy, the No. 2 position in the department. He is also a former director of the Memphis Police Department.

The final unofficial totals in the Republican primary for sheriff are:

In the Democratic primary:

Some political observers will inevitably view the Democratic primary results as an indication of how the August congressional primary matchup will go between incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen and challenger Willie Herenton, former mayor of Memphis.

Wade and Cohen campaign in tandem. Wade stoked the resolve of his campaign organization by telling his workers and advisers that it was a campaign to stop French.

French, a close friend and appointee of Herenton, however, stressed his campaign was independent of Herenton’s congressional bid. He didn’t take the bait of a larger political backdrop for the primary skirmish.

The Wade-Oldham matchup promises to be a study in very different campaign styles. Wade will be more vocal, more outgoing. Oldham had to work hard during the primary to get much beyond reading from prepared remarks emphasizing his law enforcement career and making eye contact.

Voters in the primary elections decided to return six Shelby County commissioners to new four-year terms with Tuesday’s results. They also elected six new commissioners. The winner of the 13th commission seat will be decided on the August general election ballot in a contest between District 5 Democratic incumbent Steve Mulroy and Republican challenger Dr. Rolando Toyos.

The winner of the matchup will determine whether the commission remains majority Democrat or goes Republican.

Mulroy easily defeated Jennings Bernard in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

The countywide primaries for seven clerk’s positions saw the return of former Criminal Court Clerk Minerva Johnican 16 years after Republican challenger Bill Key took her job. Johnican decisively beat Ralph White and Vernon Johnson in her first bid for office since the 1994 defeat. She will face Republican Kevin Key, the son of Bill Key, in the August general election.

The final unofficial vote totals are:

  • Johnican, 16,381, 51%
  • White, 10,170, 31%
  • Johnson, 5,954, 18%

The closest contest of the evening was in the Democratic primary for county clerk. Wrestling promoter and television personality Corey Maclin won his political debut by fewer than 1,400 votes over Charlotte Draper and LaKeith Miller. He will face Republican Wayne Mashburn, who beat Steve Moore in the companion primary.

Early voting in advance of the Aug. 5 election begins July 16. The August ballot will also feature state and federal primary elections including the statewide primaries for governor and the primaries for all nine of the state’s congressional districts.

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