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VOL. 124 | NO. 180 | Monday, September 14, 2009

Final Candidate List Peopled With Variety

By Bill Dries

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These are the 25 candidates for Memphis mayor in the Oct. 15 special election:
Leo Awgowhat
Randy L. Cagle
Charles Carpenter
Carol Chumney
Dewey Clark
James Clingan
Menelik Fombi
Wanda Halbert
Johnny Hatcher Jr.
Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges
Constance Renee Houston
Dewayne Jones
E.C. Jones
Jerry Lawler
Myron Lowery
Ernest Lunati
Detric W. Stigall
Silky Sullivan
David W. Vinciarelli
Voung Vaughn Vow
Sharon A. Webb
Kenneth Twigg Whalum Jr.
A C Wharton Jr.
John Willingham
Mary Taylor Shelby Wright

Unless you know them personally, you’ve probably never heard of most of the candidates running in the Oct. 15 special election for Memphis mayor.

Most of the 25 people show no visible signs of running any kind of campaign.

And every one of them has qualified to be on the ballot, according to the Shelby County Election Commission, which approved the list of candidates last week.

The approval followed by several hours the Thursday deadline for candidates to withdraw.

The 25 candidates are the largest field of contenders to run for Memphis mayor in the 41-year history of the mayor-council form of government.

The previous record was the 15-candidate field in the 1999 election won by incumbent Willie Herenton.

Long list

Meanwhile, Mary Taylor Shelby Wright complained that her name will be last on the ballot because candidates names are listed in alphabetical order.

However, because of the ballot’s length, there could be several columns of names that might not necessarily make Wright’s the last in a single column, said Election Commission Chairman Bill Giannini. The ballot layout probably will be approved Tuesday by state election officials in Nashville.

Wright is a perennial candidate whose name has appeared on the ballot for various offices for nearly 20 years.

Johnny Hatcher Jr. is a perennial of more recent vintage.

Hatcher came to last week’s Election Commission meeting with some anxiety. He asked election commissioners if he made the list of candidates this time.

“I’m hoping I’m on it,” Hatcher said before being assured by election commissioner Shep Wilbun that he made it.

Hatcher then asked the commission to delay the election or strike the names of candidates who hold other elected offices.

Hatcher contends the city charter bars current office holders from running for mayor or City Council. He’s even taken the matter to court – unsuccessfully. The courts have ruled the charter doesn’t bar someone from running for one of the offices while holding another elected office. It does bar them from holding the other elected office if elected mayor or to the City Council.

“It’s clear the charter language is murky,” Giannini said. “The charter needs to be cleaned up, but we can’t clean it up.”

‘Letter of the law’

Jedediah Wallace came the closest to becoming candidate 26. Wallace turned in his qualifying petition two hours before the deadline. By the time Election Commission staff had checked all of the names and addresses on his petition, it was past the noon deadline on Sept. 3.

“Sure, I’m going to go for it,” said Wallace when asked by Giannini if he wanted to try to make a case for inclusion on the ballot.

The name and address check showed he came up short because several of those signing were registered Memphis voters, but their addresses were different than the ones shown on their voter registration cards.

The Election Commission allowed two whose new addresses were in the same precinct, but another four were registered Memphis voters whose new addresses were in different voting precincts.

Wallace argued he should have been told he was short. But Giannini said there wasn’t time.

“The commission must follow the letter of the law,” advised Election Commission attorney Monice Hagler Tate. “His only challenge is in the courts.”

Election Commissioner Brian Stephens made a motion to include Wallace as a candidate but his motion got no second and died.

Wilbun earlier cautioned that if Wallace was allowed on the ballot, it would set a precedent and reverse the commission’s past decisions in other elections.

Higher office

The other two races on the Oct. 15 ballot, primary elections for state Senate District 31, were decided at last week’s withdrawal deadline.

Bobby Baker withdrew from the Democratic primary, making Adrienne Pakis Gillon the only contender.

In the GOP primary, James Harrell got out of the race, leaving only state Rep. Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

Kelsey and Gillon will meet in the Dec. 1 general election for the state Senate seat vacated by Republican Paul Stanley after a sex-extortion scandal.

Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in the election.

Early voting begins Sept. 25.

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