Election Totals: Better Late Than Never

By Bill Dries

Two days after the Nov. 4 elections, the final unofficial totals were finally posted by the Shelby County Election Commission. The long vote count involved absentee ballots whose count was delayed because of problems with an optical scanning machine.

The count shows more than 400,000 Shelby County voters participated – a record-setting turnout for Shelby County in the most popular election cycle historically with local voters. It amounted to a 62 percent voter turnout for Shelby County.

These are the unofficial election results. The statewide results in the presidential election as well as the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee are also included.

U.S. President

Shelby County results

All 274 precincts reporting

Barack Obama 255,680 64%

John McCain145,248 36%

Both local parties did what they set out to do with next to no help from the national campaigns of either Obama or McCain. Democrats delivered the county to the party’s nominee again. Republicans contributed votes from the county outside the Memphis city limits to the statewide cause of keeping the state in the Republican column for the third consecutive presidential election.

Tennessee results

98% of 2,258 precincts reporting

John McCain1,462,550 57%

Barack Obama 1,063,320 42%

Shelby County’s Obama votes accounted for a quarter of the votes the Democratic nominee got in Tennessee.

McCain’s victory statewide came with deeper implications. Republican candidates for the state Legislature did very well on McCain’s coattails – well enough to pull off the political stunner of the evening. Republicans are now the majority in the Tennessee House as well as the Tennessee Senate. This complicates the last two years of Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s term of office. Memphis Democrat Lois DeBerry can say goodbye to being state House speaker pro tempore, and other Democratic House members from Memphis will lose committee chairmanships.

U.S. Senate

Shelby County results

All 274 precincts reporting

Lamar Alexander189,597 51%

Bob Tuke173,452 47%

Local Democrats weren’t unanimous on this one and as a result Alexander, the Republican incumbent, carried Shelby County. Alexander has enjoyed crossover support in the past. This time, even he noticed it was more public than before.

Tennessee results

98% of 2,258 precincts reporting

Lamar Alexander 1,560,707 65%

Bob Tuke 751,27031%

As attack ads in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate race and even a Tennessee state Senate contest clogged television ad schedules in Memphis, the Alexander-Tuke matchup was a kinder, gentler contest. That extended statewide as well, with no efforts by the Democratic or Republican Senatorial Campaign committees.

Taking into account the votes for independent candidates statewide in the Senate and presidential contests, about 109,000 fewer Tennesseans voted in the Senate race than in the presidential race.

Memphis City Council

Super District 9 Position 1

All 114 precincts reporting

Kemp Conrad 47,771 42%

Paul Shaffer 37,611 33%

John Willingham 23,079 20%

A. Montague III 5,296 5%

A year after running unsuccessfully for a different position in the same super district, Conrad, a former local Republican Party chairman, found success in a smaller field. Shaffer, a union leader with Democratic backing in the nonpartisan contest, ran a credible race in his first outing after years working in other campaigns. Willingham, a former member of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, was arguably a factor in the outcome with a candidacy that he admitted was part of an intra-GOP grudge against Conrad.

Memphis City School Board

At Large Position 1

All 231 precincts reporting

Freda Williams 83,467 44%

Cynthia Gentry 81,803 43%

Menelik Fombi 22,114 12%

This was the closest race on the ballot in Memphis. Williams narrowly survived a challenge from Gentry by campaigning hard. Fombi, one of the first schoolchildren to racially integrate Memphis public schools in the 1960s and the son of the late civil rights leader A. W. Willis, may have helped Williams in his latest bid for elected office.

Williams was the only one of five school board incumbents who drew opposition this year.

Germantown Board of Aldermen

All 13 precincts reporting

Position 3

Mike Palazzolo 15,027 72%

Donna C. Newman 5,847 28%

Position 4

Mark Billingsley 14,920 54%

Frank Uhlhorn 9,38146%

Position 5

Ernest Chism 10,370 51%

Gary Pruitt5,320 26%

James A. Danielik 2,55013%

David J. Spann 2,002 10%

These were the three Board of Aldermen races involved in a ballot controversy. Palazzolo, Uhlhorn and Pruitt put out a ballot endorsing their candidacies that looked similar to the local Republican Party ballot. A complaint was filed with the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office that settled the matter by agreeing not to prosecute if the three publicly acknowledged they put out the ballot. They did so, but after the early voting period ended. Palazzolo was re-elected. Billingsley upset Uhlhorn, the incumbent. And Pruitt lost to incumbent Chism.

Collierville Mayor

All nine precincts

Stan Joyner 11,895 58%

Brannon Howse 5,131 25%

Tom Allen 3,616 17%

Joyner, serving his third consecutive term as alderman, became the new mayor of Collierville and did it without a runoff to succeed Linda Kerley, who decided not to run for re-election.

Meanwhile, another three-term Collierville alderman, Buddy Rowe, lost his re-election bid to challenger Tony Sarwar by 305 votes.

In other suburban elections results, Bartlett Alderman Rick Faith held on to beat challenger John Barzano by nine votes in the unofficial tally – the closest election of the night in Shelby County.

Tenn. State Representative

District 88

All 20 precincts reporting

Larry Miller 14,021 84%

David Vinciarelli 2,637 16%

Most of the Shelby County Legislative Delegation was unopposed in the House races. Three of the Senate seats that include Shelby County were up on this ballot and none of the three incumbents had opposition.

Vinciarelli managed to spotlight the fact that Miller meets legal standards for residency in the North Memphis-Frayser district without actually living in the district. It didn’t help the cause of Vinciarelli, who became a political perennial, albeit one with very large signs, this time around.

U.S. House of Representatives 9th District

All 208 precincts reporting

Steve Cohen 198,389 88%

Jake Ford 10,981 5%

Dewey Clark 10,018 4%

Is this really what the Ford machine has come to? Or is this a function of no Republican opposition for Cohen, the incumbent Democrat? Two years ago, Ford, the son of former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr. and brother of former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., ran as an independent and got 22 percent of the vote. That was more than the GOP nominee, Mark White. Clark, a Memphian who figured prominently in the corruption conviction of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, was a close third.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.