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VOL. 125 | NO. 33 | Thursday, February 18, 2010

Surprises Possible as Primary Filing Deadline Nears

By Bill Dries

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Although today marks the filing deadline for the May 4 Shelby County primaries and independent candidates on the Aug. 5 county general election ballot, plenty of political drama remains.

In fact, the filing deadline is often just as important – and surprising – as election day.

The deadline for filing qualifying petitions with the signatures of at least 25 registered voters determines whether there is any contest for voters to decide.

Nine of the 13 Shelby County commissioners are seeking re-election, and four could be effectively re-elected at today’s deadline because they have no opposition – Democratic, Republican or independent.

They are Republicans Mike Ritz and Mike Carpenter and Democrats James Harvey and Sidney Chism.

“I’m encouraged by that,” Carpenter said. “But I can tell you as somebody who has been around on campaigns for many, many years, there’s always a filing day surprise, so I’m taking nothing for granted.”

For up-to-the-minute filing updates, visit The Daily News’ Twitter account, @MemphisDaily. A post-deadline summary of who is in and who isn’t also will be posted at www.memphisdailynews.com.

All of the candidates who qualify at today’s deadline have one week to withdraw from the race.

Questions remain

Republican commissioner Wyatt Bunker could join the unopposed club if prospective Republican contender John Wilkerson decides to run for the District 4 seat Joyce Avery is vacating instead of challenging Bunker. Wilkerson has pulled petitions for both races.

In addition to Avery, District 1 Republican incumbent George Flinn and District 2 Democratic incumbents Deidre Malone and J.W. Gibson are not seeking re-election. Avery and Malone are term limited.

Two of the nine incumbent commissioners who have filed were appointed last year to fill vacancies on the legislative body.

Republican John Pellicciotti is seeking a full term on the commission, but not to the District 4 Position 3 seat he was appointed to. Pellicciotti is running for the Position 1 seat in the district.

Democrat Edith Moore was an upset pick by the commission to fill Joe Ford’s District 3 commission seat when Ford was appointed interim Shelby County mayor. Moore is running for a full four-year term and so is Justin Ford, Ford’s son, who also sought the appointment.

Flinn is weighing a bid for Congress in the Republican 8th district primary in August. He has until the April 1 filing deadline to make his decision. Meanwhile, Flinn’s commission aide, Heidi Schafer has picked up a petition to run for his commission seat.

Malone is running in the May Democratic primary for mayor.

Her seat drew the most interest of any commission race. Seven contenders had pulled petitions, all in the Democratic primary. Three had filed by Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, District 5 Democrat Steve Mulroy has drawn opposition in the primary from Jennings Bernard. And Dr. Rolando Toyos, an opthalmologist, has pulled a petition to run in the GOP primary.

The single-member district is considered a swing district in terms of which party holds the seat. Mulroy claimed the seat for Democrats after Republican Bruce Thompson did not seek re-election in 2006. It gave Democrats a majority on the body for the first time since the commission went partisan in 1994.

Sheriff’s race draws most interest

More than 100 prospective contenders for county offices had picked up petitions through Tuesday. But only 53 of those contenders had filed their petitions for a place on the May ballot through Tuesday.

The countywide race for Shelby County sheriff has drawn the most interest during the filing period. Thirteen candidates had pulled petitions in the race and six had filed as of Tuesday, most after Republican incumbent Mark Luttrell announced his decision to call off a third term re-election bid and instead run for mayor in the GOP primary.

The command ranks of the Sheriff’s department are well represented. Bennie Cobb is a captain in the department. Bobby Simmons, a Sheriff’s department captain and a Bartlett alderman, has filed in the GOP primary along with Luttrell’s chief deputy Bill Oldham. The potential field includes the last two Democratic nominees for sheriff – Randy Wade from 2002 and Reginald French from 2006 – each beaten by Luttrell in general elections.

There are also three veterans of the Memphis Police Department. Elton Hymon is a retired MPD captain. Oldham is a former director of the MPD as is James Bolden.

Other countywide incumbents not seeking re-election are County Clerk Debbie Stamson, Juvenile Court Clerk Steve Stamson and Probate Court Clerk Chris Thomas – all Republicans. Thomas is running for County Commission.

Four contenders had filed for Circuit Court clerk including Republican incumbent Jimmy Moore. Moore was still unopposed in the GOP primary. Memphis City Council member Wanda Halbert could join the field of three Democrats who have already filed. It would be Halbert’s third bid for elected office in four years. She ran in last year’s special election for Memphis mayor and won election to the council in 2007.

PROPERTY SALES 56 94 12,852
MORTGAGES 23 50 8,053
BUILDING PERMITS 285 422 30,356
BANKRUPTCIES 23 67 6,131