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VOL. 125 | NO. 202 | Monday, October 18, 2010

Election Guide 2010

By Bill Dries

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A rundown of the key issues and races that voters will decide when they go to the ballot  for early voting through Oct. 28 or on Election Day, Nov. 2.


Tennessee voters choose a successor to Gov. Phil Bredesen in the Nov. 2 elections. Here’s a summary of where Democratic nominee Mike McWherter and Republican nominee Bill Haslam stand on the major issues:


Mike McWherter

Occupation: Owner beverage distributorship, Jackson, Tenn.

Family History: son of former Gov. Ned McWherter.

Political History: First political race. By the August primary was unopposed after all others contenders dropped.


Jobs: Promotes tax breaks for Tennessee businesses that are genuinely based in Tennessee with an emphasis on small businesses that could be suppliers to large industrial sites that have moved to the state in recent years. Would model his incentives after plan that gives tax credits for each job created.

Education: Wants to expand Pre-K into more schools as a budget priority at the outset of term as governor. Also backs standing by higher achievement standards under the Tennessee Diploma project.

Higher Education: Would make college credits more cost-effective by emphasizing ability to transfer credits to four-year institutions from technology centers and community colleges. Emphasizes upping percentage of students who enroll in college and complete degrees.

State Budget: Applauds Bredesen budget efforts but disputes Haslam’s contention that stimulus money was used for recurring operating expenses.

Taxes: Is against state income tax as well as a state or local version of a payroll tax.

Immigration: Would enforce state laws on immigration now on the book. Sees the problem in Tennessee as one related to work force.

Crime: Backs recently passed legislation for longer prison sentences for some violent crimes. But emphasizes that the legislation should allow for alternative sentencing in other nonviolent cases.


Bill Haslam

Occupation: Second-term mayor of Knoxville, Tenn.

Family History: son of James Haslam, who founded Pilot Oil.

Political History: Beat U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in the August statewide primary.


Jobs: Would implement a set of regional strategies for different parts of the state that emphasize advantages those areas already have (in Memphis that would be medical technology). Refers to it as “decentralizing” the state’s economic development strategy. Critical of McWherter’s advocacy of tax breaks based on jobs created.

Education: Resists political pressure to downgrade recent higher achievement standards in statewide student testing. Wants to keep Pre-K expansion under Bredesen at level it is now citing state budget concerns.

Higher Education: Emphasizes increasing number of college students in state who get their degrees. Believes colleges and universities must do better job in private fundraising and keeping costs and tuition down.

State Budget: Applauds Bredesen efforts at belt tightening even with stimulus funding to state, but has emphasized next governor will have to make tougher decisions as the federal money runs out.

Taxes: Is against state income tax as well as a state or local version of a payroll tax.

Immigration: Would go after employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants or don’t check by making penalties a deterrent to such practices.

Crime: Supports longer prison sentences for violent crimes. Also questions hesitantcy about longer prison sentences backed by local criminal justice system leaders.


If the charter is approved, elections for the newly created government would be in August 2014. They would be nonpartisan elections with no primaries before the August elections. The winners take office Sept. 1, 2014.

A metro mayor replaces the Memphis mayor and the Shelby County mayor. The mayor’s powers are modeled after the Memphis City Charter’s strong mayoral form of government.

A 25-member Metro Council replaces the City Council and County Commission. Thirteen members represent single-member districts covering the entire county including the six suburban municipalities. Twelve represent four multi-member districts with three positions each that also cover the entire county. Seven of the 25 council members represent areas outside Memphis, which corresponds to the percentage of the county’s population that lives outside Memphis. The remaining 18 represent areas within the city limits.

The Metro Mayor and Metro Council members have a limit of two consecutive four-year terms.

Local government services are divided into a general services district covering the entire county and an urban services district, which is what is now the city of Memphis. Each district has a property tax rate. Memphis taxpayers would continue to pay two property tax rates as would taxpayers in five of the six suburban towns and cities excluding Lakeland, which has no city property tax rate.

The new government sets the new tax rates. Once the tax rate is set, it cannot be raised for the next three full fiscal years unless there is an emergency.

All city and county government employees keep their jobs at the outset.

Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools remain separate. Local funding of school systems would become single source, as it is now for Shelby County Schools.

All other countywide elected officials remain as metro officials, some with different duties.

The Shelby County sheriff remains elected, but the sheriff has no law enforcement duties. All law enforcement is the duty of the metro police director.

The City Court clerk’s office is abolished and its duties assumed by the General Sessions Court clerk.

The three divisions of City Court are merged as part of General Sessions Court.

If the charter is approved by voters, a 15-member transition commission, including the outgoing city and county mayors is formed starting in November 2012 and issues a report of recommendations to the new government on the day it takes office.


Three of Tennessee’s nine congressional districts fall within Shelby County, one of which – the 9th – is completely contained in the county’s boundary. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen crushed former city mayor Willie Herenton in the August primary. He now faces Charlotte Bergman, the Republican nominee with strong ties to the Tea Party movement. Cohen has said he will not wage an active campaign against Bergman, whose signs claim, “Charlotte Bergman Can Win.”

No matter what happens after the votes are tallied in the 8th Congressional district, that seat will have a new face because Democratic U.S. Rep. John Tanner of Union City is not seeking re-election. The district’s southern border is north Shelby County and Frayser. Both national parties have become involved in the general election campaign for the seat between Democrat Roy Herron, a state senator from Dresden, Tenn., and Republican Stephen Fincher, a farmer from Frog Jump, Tenn.

The 7th district includes eastern Shelby County such as Germantown, and pockets of Collierville and Cordova. Republican incumbent Marsha Blackburn is being challenged by Democrat Greg Rabidoux, a professor of politics and constitutional law at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville.


All of the 16 state House seats covering Shelby County and three of the six state Senate seats are on the Nov. 2 ballot. Every incumbent now holding those positions in the Shelby County delegation to Nashville is seeking re-election. Of the 19 legislative incumbents, 11 are running unopposed.

The consolidation charter isn't the only referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot. There are three others: A statewide referendum to amend the Tennessee Constitution to add the right of Tennessee citizens to hunt and fish; a citywide referendum to do away with the city charter amendment approved in 2008 by voters that would stagger city council elections and move city elections to even-numbered years; a citywide referendum to change several city charter amendments on residency and require city employees to live within Shelby County.

Four of the nine Memphis City Schools board seats are on the Nov. 2 ballot. All four incumbents holding those seats are seeking another four-year term.

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