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VOL. 125 | NO. 72 | Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Early Voting Begins As Candidate Rhetoric Sizzles

By Bill Dries

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Early voting opens Wednesday in advance of the May 4 Shelby County primaries – not a moment too soon in the County Commission primary race that has generated the most political heat.

Shelby County commissioner John Pellicciotti and Probate Court clerk Chris Thomas squared off at Monday’s commission meeting. Both are running in the GOP primary for the District 4 Position 1 commission seat.

The winner of the primary, which includes former Lakeland mayor Jim Bomprezzi, will decide who takes the seat since there is no Democratic or independent opposition.

The May primaries will decide who wins 12 of the 13 commission seats. Only the District 5 race will send a Democratic and a Republican nominee to the August general election.

Pellicciotti pushed a resolution Monday to censure Thomas for what he said were repeated problems in the annual audit of the clerk’s office. Thomas said the unprecedented censure move was political.

“It’s all resolved,” Thomas said. “There’s never been any money missing from my office. This is exactly why I understand why y’all do not want to appoint someone to fill out a term on the commission who has said that they may run or who has said they won’t run and then they run.”

Pellicciotti is not seeking the seat he was appointed to earlier this year. Instead he’s seeking another position in the same district.

Thomas accused Pellicciotti of campaigning in the guise of a town hall meeting on consolidation earlier this month. Pellicciotti has accused Thomas of being a recent arrival to the district to run for the seat.

All of the other 12 commissioners agreed that either the timing of the censure or the criticism by Pellicciotti was politically motivated.

Commissioner Mike Carpenter said the audit findings “warrant scrutiny.” But he said a censure so close to the primary elections would have “called into question the credibility of the body.”

Commissioner James Harvey said a censure for either clerk would have been “extreme.”

“It’s irresponsible,” he said. “We are using our office here to make a statement during the political season.”

The motion failed on a 0-12 vote. Pellicciotti abstained because of his candidacy. He also offered to delay a vote on the resolution until after the May primaries.

After the vote, he was unapologetic.

“One of the reasons we’ve got to get new people involved in politics is because the people that have been here for so long are tied into it,” he said. “They have been doing the same thing over and over again. ... Nobody’s willing to call anybody else out.”

Meanwhile, early voting opens Wednesday at Shelby County Election Commission headquarters, 157 Poplar, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. For a list of early voting sites and hours go to www.shelbyvote.com, the official site of the Shelby County Election Commission.

PROPERTY SALES 83 405 4,276
MORTGAGES 104 424 4,814
BUILDING PERMITS 148 883 10,151
BANKRUPTCIES 53 264 3,149