VOL. 123 | NO. 26 | Thursday, February 7, 2008
Obama, Huckabee Dominate Shelby in Tenn. Primaries
By Bill Dries
The presidential primary season came to a rain-soaked and stormy end Tuesday evening in Memphis even as some voters were still showing up at the polls.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee carried Shelby County in Tuesday's Tennessee presidential primaries in which 24 percent of Shelby County's 611,000 registered voters cast ballots.
Huckabee went on to win statewide in the GOP contest while New York Sen. Hillary Clinton took the statewide Democratic primary.
In the only two contested local primaries, Bill Giannini claimed the GOP nomination for property assessor and Otis Jackson won the Democratic primary for General Sessions court clerk.
The relatively healthy turnout in the Tennessee presidential primaries came as the city and the surrounding region were pounded by storms and tornadoes that tested Election Commission contingencies in such cases.
Local election commissioners decided to keep the 274 Election Day precincts open until 7 p.m. as the first of the storms sent Memphians running for cover with about two hours left to vote. Election officials in nearby Fayette, Tipton, Dyer and McNairy counties closed some precincts early.
Shelby County results show Obama thumped Clinton among the crucial Democratic base in Memphis.
With all 274 precincts reporting, the unofficial Shelby County results are:
Obama 68,516, 70%
Clinton 27,914, 28%
All of Tuesday's results become official after an audit and certification by the local Election Commission. The 24 percent turnout is the highest locally in a presidential primary since 1988 when 30 percent of the county's voters showed up. The local record for a presidential primary is 39 percent in the first Tennessee presidential primary of 1972.
Shelby County results show Obama made a strong showing among Democrats over Clinton even during early voting. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been enormously popular over the years with Memphis Democrats.
But Obama's Memphis campaign refused to cede the city's predominantly black Democratic base to Hillary Clinton in a county carried by the last black presidential candidate, Jesse Jackson, both times he ran for the Democratic nomination in 1984 and 1988.
Clinton put in a Jan. 28 appearance at Monumental Baptist Church that drew a moderate-sized crowd of about 300. Obama didn't make it to Memphis, but his campaign rolled out a series of local endorsements in the closing days of the campaign that included U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, state House Speaker Pro Tempore Lois DeBerry, 2007 mayoral challenger Herman Morris and Memphis City Schools board member Kenneth Whalum Jr.
Clinton countered with endorsements by Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and Herenton's other rival in the 2007 mayor's race - former City Council member Carol Chumney.
Much closer was the three-way Republican contest among Huckabee, McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
With all precincts reporting, the unofficial Shelby County results were:
Huckabee 18,930, 38%
McCain 14,842, 30%
Romney 13,735, 27%
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, preached at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova Sunday as part of a statewide blitz. The Republican base in the county outside Memphis is regarded by party leaders as the most significant outside of GOP-dominated East Tennessee.
Romney's campaign launched an eleventh-hour robo call blitz in Shelby County that reached some voicemail and answering machines in the early evening hours. The recorded call said the GOP contest was a "two-person race" and attacked McCain while ignoring Huckabee.
"John McCain can't be trusted," the recording said as it touted Romney endorsements by conservative radio talk show hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
The primary ballot featured two local contested primaries for property assessor and General Sessions court clerk.
In the four-way GOP contest for assessor, local party chairman Giannini won the right to advance to the August county general election. He bested rivals Randy Lawson, John Bogan and Betty Boyette. Giannini will meet Democratic nominee Cheyenne Johnson in August. She ran unopposed in the Democratic contest. The winner will replace outgoing assessor Rita Clark, who is backing Johnson, her chief administrative officer.
The local results follow:
Giannini 23,096, 62%
Boyette 6,237, 17%
Lawson 4,705, 13%
Bogan 3,207, 8%
The Democratic primary duel for General Sessions court clerk was won by Jackson, a FedEx employee and former University of Memphis basketball star. Jackson bested attorney Jerome Payne:
Jackson 41,915, 58%
Payne 30,669, 42%
Jackson will meet Republican incumbent clerk Chris Turner on the August ballot. Turner ran unopposed in Tuesday's GOP primary - a first in his long political career as a state representative and as General Sessions court clerk.