VOL. 128 | NO. 195 | Monday, October 07, 2013
Crossing Local Party Lines Becoming Hazardous
By Bill Dries
Call it fallout from the local Democratic executive committee’s censure last month of Shelby County Commission Chairman James Harvey.
Former Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Van Turner, who is running for Shelby County Commission in next year’s Democratic primaries, was among those who attended a fundraiser Sept. 26 opening the re-election bid of Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir, a Republican.
On Oct. 1, Turner sent an email apologizing to the local Democratic executive committee “and other Democrats for even the appearance of supporting a Republican for an office which our party will field a nominee for in next August’s general election.”
The letter follows the executive committee’s censure of Harvey for voting with Republicans on the commission on several issues as well as his election as chairman of the commission in August with the votes of five of the six Republicans on the commission and fellow Democrat Justin Ford.
Still pending in Nashville is a state Democratic executive committee complaint seeking to censure Harvey, which Harvey said he intends to fight.
Turner pointed out that petitions for the 2014 county primaries and general election won’t start being issued until Nov. 22.
“As such, although the Democratic nominee for Shelby County Trustee will not be determined until next May, I will pledge my full support and resources behind this candidate,” Turner wrote.
Turner’s presence – as well as that of Reginald Milton, a Democratic contender for another County Commission seat – at a fundraiser for a Republican candidate is a situation that can easily become an issue, or just as easily draw no notice. It depends on the political environment.
Lenoir noted the presence of Turner and Milton, as well as Harvey, as an example of the diverse support he has.
Turner and Milton were introduced as candidates for the County Commission, giving their campaigns exposure to potential crossover Republican voters.
And not everyone who is at a rally for a candidate is necessarily a dyed-in-the-wool supporter.
They usually aren’t critics or opponents. But some are undecided, just curious or contribute to several candidates in the same race.
Former local party chairmen can be a valuable commodity. In the 2012 special election for Shelby County district attorney general, Republican incumbent Amy Weirich touted the support of City Council member and former local Democratic Party Chairman Jim Strickland in a race in which she was being challenged by Democrat Carol Chumney.
Turner said his presence at Lenoir’s fundraiser was business – “my law firm’s representation of a client which deals with the trustee’s office on a daily basis.”
Through that client, Turner said the law firm, Hagler Bruce Turner Law PLLC, deals with various local government offices and bodies, including the Trustee’s office.
“As our firm’s contract for renewal is pending to continue representation of this client, the support of all individuals and entities associated with this client is needed,” Turner wrote.
However, in the future, Turner said, he plans to have someone else from the law firm attend such functions.
In other political developments, Shelby County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker took the oath of office last week as the new mayor of Lakeland. Bunker upset incumbent Mayor Scott Carmichael in the September municipal elections.
Bunker continues to hold his commission seat for now. Under the county charter, he has 90 days from taking office to resign from the commission.
Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks, meanwhile, holds a fundraiser Thursday, Oct. 10, in her developing campaign for Juvenile Court clerk in 2014. The $100-a-person fundraiser is at the Collierville home of Carolyn Hardy of Hardy Logistics.
Brooks is running in the May Democratic primary for the post now held by Republican Joy Touliatos, who is expected to seek re-election.