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VOL. 122 | NO. 136 | Monday, July 23, 2007

City Council Races Overflow With 83 Candidates Filing

By Bill Dries

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It's the year of the open seat on the Memphis City Council.

With seven incumbents not running for re-election and the resignation last month of an eighth, it is already the biggest turnover of council seats in the 40-year history of the mayor-council form of government.

A total of 83 candidates had filed in the 13 council races on the October ballot by Thursday's noon filing deadline.

That's more than double the 35 council candidates on the ballot in the 2003 city elections. And it's almost double the 43 council candidates from the 1999 city elections.

The number could change. The candidates have one week to withdraw if they wish. Three candidates withdrew even before the filing deadline last week.

Only a handful of candidates withdraw in most local elections after the filing deadline.

Until Thursday at noon, some of the candidates are sure to meet to discuss narrowing the fields.

Here's a look at each of the 13 council races after the filing deadline:

District 1: Seven candidates have now joined Memphis City Schools (MCS) Board member Stephanie Gatewood and Shelby County firefighter Antonio "2 Shay" Parkinson in the open race for the Frayser-Raleigh seat E.C. Jones is leaving. The race includes a trio of candidates who have run for local office before and after losing worked for other candidates or for the local party organizations - Jerry Benya, Jesse Jeff and Riesel Sandridge.

District 2: Ten candidates have filed for the East Memphis-Cordova seat Brent Taylor is vacating. Those candidates include Jesse Blumenfeld, who was last seen as part of the pack in the 2006 Ninth Congressional District Democratic primary, and Brian Stephens, who got off to an early start by leading organized opposition to a restaurant project in Cordova by topless nightclub owner Steve Cooper. It also includes Bill Boyd, a former property assessor and city public services director.

District 3: Voters in this contest, which includes Whitehaven and parts of South Memphis and Hickory Hill, get to feel like council members themselves. Many of those who sought the council's appointment to the vacant seat earlier this year are running in the nine-candidate field. That includes Madeleine Cooper Taylor, who received the appointment.

District 4: Three candidates have filed for the district that takes in Cooper-Young and the Cooper-Parkway area, which is represented by Dedrick Brittenum through the end of this year. The field is led by MCS Board member Wanda Halbert.

District 5: The Midtown district has six contenders for the seat Carol Chumney is giving up in her quest for mayor. Attorney and former local Democratic Party chairman Jim Strickland has been laying the groundwork for a well-funded effort. At the deadline, Denise Parkinson, a visible part of the effort to keep the Libertyland amusement park open, made good on her promise to run.

District 6: The South Memphis district has the largest field of any council race with 11 candidates to take the seat now held by Edmund Ford. The seat has been held by a member of the Ford family since 1972.

Edmund Ford Jr. is carrying the family banner his father is attempting to hand off. Perry Bond is back for a fourth try at the Fords. Former MCS Board member Ed Vaughn is also giving politics another try.

District 7: The always competitive North Memphis district has four contenders, including the resilient incumbent Barbara Swearengen Ware.

Super District 8: Joe Brown (Position 1) had been the best bet for running unopposed, and he almost made it. Ian Randolph and Tiffany Lowe filed at the deadline.

Also at the deadline, Henry Hooper, appointed last month to the Position 2 seat that Rickey Peete resigned from decided he wanted to seek a full four-year term. Like Cooper Taylor, several of his eight other adversaries were his competitors for the council appointment.

Myron Lowery's two challengers for Position 3 include local Democratic Party veteran Del Gill, who rarely wins but always makes the other candidate work.

Super District 9: Scott McCormick (Position 1) has the least opposition of any incumbent. It's a duel, at this point, with Cecil Hale. If there is going to be a political sit down over lunch, it will be in this race.

There are fields of seven each in the races for the open Position 2 and Position 3 seats being relinquished by Tom Marshall and Jack Sammons, respectively. These two races have the broadest supply of name recognition - what the Super District races usually boil down to.

Position 2 has former local GOP chairman Kemp Conrad, attorney and recent interim state Sen. Shea Flinn and Memphis Light, Gas & Water retiree and self-styled watchdog Joe Saino.

Position 3 has local Democratic executive committee member Desi Franklin, John Pellicciotti and Mary Wilder. Pellicciotti gave Democratic state Rep. Mike Kernell some anxious moments as his Republican challenger in 2002 and 2004. Wilder's stint as interim state Rep. in District 89 came to an end with last week's special election won by Jeanne Richardson.

PROPERTY SALES 50 226 2,557
MORTGAGES 44 145 1,731
BUILDING PERMITS 204 569 5,701