There is the paperwork and there are the deadlines in politics. And then there are the campaigns that begin long before the paperwork or deadlines.
One group of candidates in the 2012 election cycle is approaching its first deadline Thursday, Dec. 8, at noon – the filing deadline for the March 6 county primaries.
The presidential contenders running on the same primary ballot across Tennessee are already past their Tuesday, Dec. 6, filing deadline.
But the contenders in the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary are already raising money and campaigning well in advance of the August contest. Their filing deadline isn’t until April 5.
Democratic incumbent Steve Cohen will face his third re-election challenge in the primary since winning the open seat in 2006.
Countywide school board member Tomeka Hart opened her campaign headquarters in North Memphis this month.
“I’m a realist about the challenges that face a campaign when you are up against an incumbent,” she said.
So is Cohen.
Cohen emerged from a 15-candidate primary field in 2006 to win the open seat when Democratic incumbent Harold Ford Jr. ran for U.S. Senate instead of re-election.
Cohen had sought the seat unsuccessfully in 1996 when Harold Ford Sr. retired and his son claimed it in a contentious and hard-fought election.
Cohen prevailed in 2008 over a well-funded effort by Nikki Tinker. Two years ago he beat the longest-serving mayor in Memphis history, Willie Herenton, in a race that also wasn’t even close.
Hart said she is not as new to politics as some people think.
“I’ve been here before when you’re not the person who is presumed to be able to win this race,” said Hart, who upset incumbent Memphis City Schools board member Hubon Sandridge in 2004. “We see funding as a portion of it. I’m not naive, but there’s work that you can do. You can be outspent but it’s up to you not to be outworked.”
Hart so far has come across Cohen supporters who think well of her but say they will still vote for Cohen. She says, however, some Cohen supporters are ready for a change without being critical of Cohen’s record.
“This is going to be a rare time where we actually have a real campaign where people feel that both people are high-quality,” she said.
Cohen rarely misses an opportunity to fly the colors of the Democratic cause in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
He wasn’t shy about pushing the Obama administration’s jobs bill and other Democratic legislation at the formal opening of the new Federal Aviation Administration tower at Memphis International Airport this year.
It prompted Republican U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher to wave his party’s banner during his turn at the same podium.
“One of the things people are definitely frustrated with across our national leadership is there’s an awful lot of time spent on who is at fault as opposed to how do we work through this,” Hart said, acknowledging the job involves some level of partisanship. “I think it’s not effective or efficient to spend a lot of time saying who’s not doing what. I also acknowledge that’s part of the job. It’s a numbers game in politics. You’ve got to know how to count.”
Meanwhile, as of Wednesday evening, the races for General Sessions Court clerk and county assessor of property remained the busiest of the four Shelby County primary races on the March ballot.
In the clerk race, five Democrats – incumbent Otis Jackson, interim clerk Ed Stanton Jr., County Commission chairman Sidney Chism, Patricia Jackson and Marion Brewer had filed in that party’s primary. Two new contenders, Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks and William Chism, still had petitions out for the Democratic primary.
Rick Rout was still unopposed in the GOP primary for clerk. But Republican James Finney is still gathering signatures on his petition.
Democratic property assessor incumbent Cheyenne Johnson has filed for re-election in her party’s primary. So has primary challenger Steven Webster. Johnson also has potential opposition from Charlotte Draper, who has not yet filed.
John Bogan and Randy Lawson have filed in the Republican contest, with Larry Cargile and Tim Walton still circulating their petitions.
Incumbent District Attorney General Amy Weirich was the lone candidate filed in the Republican primary for the office. Former Memphis City Council member Carol Chumney filed Wednesday in the Democratic primary. Glen Wright and Linda Harris Nettles were still circulating petitions in the prospective Democratic pack.
The Republican primary for Shelby County Commission District 1 Position 3 features former commissioner Marilyn Loeffel as well as Steven Basar. Steve Ross is still weighing a run in the Democratic primary and is the only Democratic contender for the seat who pulled a petition.