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VOL. 122 | NO. 236 | Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Election Time Again

Shelby County primary deadline is Thursday

By Bill Dries

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Don't look now but here come the first local elections of 2008.

Thursday at noon is the filing deadline for candidates to file their qualifying petitions for the Feb. 5 Democratic and Republican primaries for Shelby County's General Sessions Court clerk and property assessor.

Anyone out there?

As the week began, all four primaries were uncontested affairs. Shelby County Election Commission chairman Myra Stiles said the contests in this election cycle historically are not on the minds of many voters.

"It's been this way for a while," she said. "But I think it does kind of describe some people. I don't think they're really quite geared up for it. We haven't had many petitions filed."

Incumbent General Sessions Court Clerk Chris Turner so far has had the GOP primary all to himself. So has Otis Jackson on the Democratic side.

There is one possible contender, Robert Winton, with a petition out in the Democratic primary for General Sessions clerk. And Robert J. Mathews Jr. is considering a bid for the clerk's job as an independent.

Property Assessor Rita Clark is not seeking re-election. She's backing Democratic candidate Cheyenne Johnson, who filed last week as the only contender in that party's primary.

Bill Giannini is the lone contender so far in the Republican contest.

He could have company in the primary. Three others have pulled petitions for the Republican primary but had not filed at the end of last week. They are Betty Boyette, who ran in the October election for City Court clerk, John Bogan and Randy Lawson.

The winners of the local primaries, whether decided at the filing deadline or on election day, advance to the Aug. 7 county general election.

Priming for the Oval Office

The offices are important positions but their status off the four-year election cycle that most county offices are on means they can be overlooked, said Giannini, who is also Shelby County Republican Party chairman.

"I think for a lot of people those offices are transparent," he said.

"We're coming up on (property value) reappraisal. Unlike many years past, we're going to see for the first year in a long time a decline in property values at least in some areas. ... If we see the kind of drop in property value and assessed values of property that I certainly anticipate, there is no amount of new funding sources that are going to make up for that kind of shortfall."

The county primary contenders share the ballot with the presidential contenders of their respective parties. And in the Republican presidential contest, voters don't just select a candidate. Under party rules, they also vote for delegates to the party's national convention.

Sixteen Shelby County residents have petitions out to be delegates from the seventh and ninth Congressional districts. Three local Republicans have petitions to be at-large delegates. Two of the 19 total are running as delegates for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The remaining 17, if elected, would be delegates for former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

The decision to move the Tennessee presidential primary up a week is responsible for the 2007 filing deadline.

"There are still a lot of people that just don't realize that we're going to vote on Feb. 5 for your preference for president," Giannini said. "You've got the holidays and we just came out of the city elections. People just don't expect to have two elections back to back this close. So, it's probably going to catch a lot of people by surprise."

Voter turnout in the 2004 county and presidential primaries was just less than 10 percent.

PROPERTY SALES 57 94 2,713
MORTGAGES 16 37 1,820
BUILDING PERMITS 303 621 6,322
BANKRUPTCIES 138 138 1,115