A lot of the candidates from the Shelby County primary ballot were in the same room the day after the Tuesday, May 6, election.
Arthur Ford casts his vote at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church during this week’s primaries for the August county elections.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
The occasion was County Commission committee sessions.
It was mostly winners.
“It was a long night,” said the exception, Commissioner Steve Mulroy, who finished third in the Democratic primary for Shelby County mayor and had a raspy voice.
Mulroy sat next to Commissioner Henri Brooks, who advanced Tuesday in her post-commission life by winning the Democratic primary for Juvenile Court clerk.
Former Commissioner Deidre Malone, the winner in the Democratic mayoral primary, is the first woman to win either local party’s nomination for Shelby County mayor since partisan county primaries debuted in 1992 with the other county election cycle, which does not include the mayoral and County Commission races.
Republican County Commissioner Joyce Avery served as the first female county mayor following the resignation of then-Mayor A C Wharton Jr. in 2009 when Wharton became Memphis mayor. Avery served as interim mayor because she was chairwoman of the County Commission at the time.
Two of the three women who have run for county mayor since the start of county primaries more than 20 years ago have run from positions on the commission.
Carolyn Gates ran in the 1994 Republican primary won by fellow Commissioner Jim Rout, who went on to win the general election in the first partisan county mayor’s race.
Malone ran for the Democratic mayoral nomination in 2010, losing to fellow Commissioner Joe Ford, who was appointed interim county mayor by his fellow commissioners following Avery’s tenure as interim mayor.
The third woman to contend for county mayor is former state Rep. and City Council member Carol Chumney, who ran in the 2012 Democratic primary won by Wharton, who went on to win the general election.
All three mayoral primary contenders are expected to be the main attraction at the local Democratic Party’s Unity Brunch Saturday, May 10.
“I think that we’re good Democrats, and my hope is that we can come together,” Malone said the day before primary election day. “The real fight is Aug. 7. … I’d like to believe we can come together.”
For Malone and Mulroy, the race grew more intense in the closing week, starting with a Mulroy robo-call, or recorded telephone pitch, to voters that questioned Malone’s support of Democratic candidates in past primaries and her support of challengers to U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen in past congressional primaries.
Malone’s supporters called it race-baiting. Mulroy said it proved she was not a fit candidate for mayor.
“I’m not trying to be naive. Early on, we really focused on the issues,” Malone said the day before the election. “But it’s my understanding that when it looks like you might be behind a little bit, sometimes you get desperate.”
On election night, Mulroy and Whalum each pledged to support Malone.
There are also indications Whalum will remain politically active.
“For the race is not given to the swift,” he tweeted the day after the election.
Whalum also noted in another day-after tweet that all of the former Shelby County Schools board members who played a role in the merger of the county’s two public school systems lost their primary races.
He was also critical of Malone and Mulroy for supporting the schools merger.
Other contenders effectively elected to the County Commission by winning uncontested races spent Wednesday accepting congratulations, though they will not take office until Sept. 1. Among them was Eddie Jones, who becomes District 11’s commissioner after winning Tuesday’s Democratic primary – the busiest of the commission primaries, with five contenders.
Jones is a former Memphis police officer who now works in code enforcement for the city’s Division of Housing and Community Development. He is a longtime member of the local Democratic Party’s executive committee.
Jones was also among several citizens who challenged the residency of candidates on the May ballot. In his case, it was E. Jefferson Jones, whom the Shelby County Election Commission took out of the District 11 primary because she never lived at the address listed on her qualifying petition but argued that she intended to.
She was registered to vote at a different address than the one on her petition, which the Election Commission learned in another challenge is the defining aspect of a residency challenge.
The other residency challenge – that of former Shelby County Commissioner Edith Ann Moore in the District 6 commission race – began with the Election Commission scratching Moore from the Democratic ballot. She appealed to Chancery Court, where the ruling was that her address on voter registration was the only factor the Election Commission could consider in such challenges.
Moore remained on the ballot and finished a distant second to Willie Brooks in the four-way Democratic primary.