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VOL. 126 | NO. 234 | Thursday, December 01, 2011

Chism Vying With Jackson for Court Clerk

By Bill Dries

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With one week to the filing deadline, the race for General Sessions Court Clerk is the busiest of the four races to be decided next year in the March 6 county primaries and the Aug. 2 general elections.

CHISM

JACKSON

And the suspended Democratic incumbent has name opposition in his primary from the chairman of the Shelby County Commission.

Otis Jackson was elected to the post in 2008 in an upset of Republican incumbent Chris Turner.

But Jackson was suspended with pay by the General Sessions Court Judges in August following his indictment on four counts of official misconduct. The judges appointed Ed Stanton Jr., the retired head of the civil division of the courts, as the interim clerk.

Jackson is specifically charged with pressuring clerk’s office workers on county time in a county facility to raise money for his 2012 re-election campaign including mandatory fundraising quotas.

“The things that took place since I took office haven’t discouraged me at all. I feel like it’s all political,” Jackson said Tuesday, Nov. 29, after filing his petition. “I think I’ll be vindicated. I am the General Sessions Court clerk. I won the office.”

Shelby County Commission chairman Sidney Chism said the charges have everything to do with why he’s challenging Jackson.

“The court system will take care of Otis’ problems. But I don’t think they are going to go away,” Chism said. “Nothing against Otis. I think it was a dumb mistake that was made over there. I think he’s a decent guy. … But he’s got a problem and public trust is not there with him now.”

After filing his petition Tuesday, Jackson took a look at who else had filed or picked up and was surprised to see Chism’s name in the Shelby County Election Commission ledger.

“A couple of names on there surprised me,” Jackson said. “A couple of names on there – I kind of feel like I’ve been stuck in the back with a toothpick.”

Jackson and Chism are two of seven prospective contenders as of Tuesday afternoon.

The other Democrats are Marion Brewer, Curtis Byrd, James Finney and Patricia Jackson.

The lone Republican primary contender is Rick Rout, son of former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout.

If he wins the primary in March and the general election in August, Chism, a two-time chairman of the commission, would give up his seat on the commission that he won a second term to in 2010.

“There’s always been a problem with the clerks. Maybe they haven’t been able to balance the books or somebody went to jail because they didn’t follow the proper procedure. I want to erase that image,” Chism said. “I’m not running because I need a salary. I’ve done well in life. But we need to bring some integrity and some ethics back into that office.”

Meanwhile, Shelby County Assessor Cheyenne Johnson is preparing her bid for re-election to a shortened two-year term of office.

The one-time-only term is to put the assessor’s election on the same ballot with most other county offices including mayor and County Commission.

She has a prospective challenger in the March Democratic primary in Steve Webster. Republican challengers so far are John Bogan, Randy Lawson, Larry Cargile and Jim Walton.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich filed her petition for re-election in the GOP primary last month. After considering the race, Democratic state Sen. Jim Kyle decided not to challenge Weirich. But attorney Glenn Wright has pulled a petition for the Democratic primary.

The race to be the county’s chief prosecutor is one of two special elections on the 2012 ballot.

The other is the race for the Shelby County Commission seat Republican Mike Carpenter gave up earlier this year. Brent Taylor, a former Memphis City Council member, is holding the District 1 Position 3 seat on an interim basis.

Considering the commission race at the one-week mark is Democrat Steve Ross and Republicans Steven Basar and Marilyn Loeffel. Loeffel is a former Shelby County commissioner.

Noon Dec. 8 is the deadline for candidates to file in the county races with primaries. Those who have filed then have another week to remove their names from the ballot if they wish.

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