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VOL. 123 | NO. 17 | Friday, January 25, 2008

Early Votes Set Stage for 'Super Tuesday'

By Bill Dries

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EVOLVING RACE: Political pundit Charlie Cook, speaking at Rhodes College Wednesday, said the presidential primaries reflect "changes in the mix" of both parties beyond the candidates. -- Photo By Bill Dries

Through the first five days of early voting, 1,152 Shelby County voters have cast ballots in advance of the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" election. Early voting opened Jan. 16 at Shelby County Election Commission headquarters, 157 Poplar Ave. The balloting expands to 18 satellite locations starting today.

A list of the locations and their hours is posted at www.shelbyvote.com.

Although the early votes won't be tallied until the polls close on election day, the turnout figures show most of those voting so far have voted in the Democratic primaries.

Donkeys and elephants

Through Tuesday, 809 citizens voted in the Democratic primary compared to 343 in the Republican contests. The Democratic ballot includes not only the presidential contest but the two-candidate contest between Otis Jackson and Jerome Payne for General Sessions Court Clerk. The winner will face Republican incumbent Chris Turner in the August general election. Turner is running unopposed in the GOP primary.

In the Democratic primary for assessor of property, Cheyenne Johnson is the lone candidate. She will face in August the winner of the four-candidate GOP primary that includes Bill Giannini, Randy Lawson, John Bogan and Betty Boyette. Democratic incumbent Rita Clark decided not to run again for the assessor's post.

Voter turnout in the February 2004 presidential primaries in Shelby County was about 10 percent with President George W. Bush unopposed within his party for a second term and John Kerry still with lots of rivals but well on his way to the Democratic nomination.

Voter turnout in the March 2000 presidential primaries was 9.8 percent in Shelby County. As is the case this year, there was no incumbent seeking re-election to the White House. But rivals to the two eventual nominees, Al Gore and Bush, dropped out of the races in the days before the Tennessee primaries. The primaries marked the first time in the history of the Tennessee presidential primaries, which began in 1972, that Republican turnout was larger than turnout in the Democratic primary both in Shelby County and statewide. The Republican showing turned out to be a precursor to Bush's general election victory in Gore's home state.

On the run

This year is unlike the two previous presidential election years, said beltway political pundit Charlie Cook and author of the widely read "The Cook Political Report."

Speaking at Rhodes College Wednesday evening, Cook called 2008 a "humbling year" for pundits trying to figure out who will win the presidential nominations. He also predicted a three- to four-month lag time in the presidential campaign pace between candidates in both parties locking up the nominations and the summer conventions.

Cook said he rued his earlier declaration that GOP contender John McCain was politically dead. But he also said McCain's age - he'll in August turn 72 - would be a major concern for voters in the general election. By contrast he said Democratic contender Barack Obama looks younger than his 46 years and that could also cause problems with voters if he is the nominee.

Cook spoke the same week that former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson withdrew from the GOP race.

"They don't call it running for president for nothing," he quipped in a reference to the frequent criticism that Thompson didn't evoke an energetic image.

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