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VOL. 127 | NO. 151 | Friday, August 3, 2012

Muni Schools Questions Pass, Cohen Wins Big

By Bill Dries

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Voters in each of the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County approved establishing municipal school districts in the unofficial results of the Thursday, Aug. 2, county general and state and federal primary elections.

But voters in five of the six towns and cities approved a half-cent sales tax hike to provide the minimum local funding required for the school districts by state law.

In the closest race of the night, voters in Millington voted down the half-cent sales tax hike by three votes.

The defeat means Millington’s elected leaders have a decision to make that could involve a property tax hike to raise what the sales tax hike that failed would have raised.

With all five Millington precincts reporting, the unofficial results on the sales tax hike ballot question were:

No: 1,033 or 50.07 percent

Yes: 1,030 or 49.93 percent

In Millington, the formation of a school district was approved with 64.4 percent of the vote. The margin of victory in Millington for the school district question was the smallest of any of the six suburban towns and cities.

The three-vote margin in the sales tax question could be challenged in Chancery Court under state laws that require parties contesting elections to not only prove voting irregularities but prove there were enough to change the outcome of the race.

State officials are already investigating problems during the early voting period in which more than 1,000 voters got ballots that had the wrong state legislative and Congressional primary district races. The problems also included suburban voters who got ballots in split precincts that didn’t include the municipal schools district questions.

To add even more uncertainty, Memphis Federal Court Judge Hardy Mays begins holding hearings next month in the court challenge to the constitutionality of the state law that permits and sets conditions for the formation of the municipal school districts.

In each of the five municipalities where both ballot questions were approved, a larger percentage voted for the formation of the school district than voted for the sales tax hike.

The highest percentages on both questions were in Collierville where 77.53 percent of the early voters chose yes on the tax hike and 87.48 percent voted yes on forming the school district.

The other close race of the night was in one of the seven district races for the countywide school board.

Kevin Woods, appointed to the district 4 seat last year by the Shelby County Commission beat Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr., one of nine members of the old Memphis City Schools board with seats on the transition countywide school board through August 2013, by 108 votes.

With all 36 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Woods 6,531 or 50.2 percent

Whalum 6,423 or 49.55 percent

In the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary, incumbent Congressman Steve Cohen crushed countywide school board member Tomeka Hart in the all-Shelby County predominantly Democratic district by an even wider margin than his 83 percent victory two years ago over former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

With all 175 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Cohen 49.545 or 89.2 percent

Hart 5,935 or 10.6 percent

In the companion Republican Congressional primary, former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn advanced to the November general election with Cohen by beating Charlotte Bergman, who was Cohen’s general election challenger two years ago, as well as Rollin Wilson Stooksberry and Ernie Lunati.

With all 175 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Flinn 11,739 or 63.8 percent

Bergmann 4,397 or 23.9 percent

Stooksberry 1,857 or 10 percent

Lunati 368 or 0.17 percent

In the countywide general election race for Shelby County District Attorney General, incumbent and Republican nominee Amy Weirich easily defeated Democratic challenger Carol Chumney.

With all 220 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Weirich 83,433 or 65.2 percent

Chumney 44,315 or 34.6 percent

If the higher turnout in the predominantly Republican suburbs on the municipal schools district questions was a factor in the countywide general elections for Property Assessor and General Sessions Court Clerk, it showed up in the form of closer victory margins for the two Democratic incumbents.

In the race for Assessor, Democratic incumbent Cheyenne Johnson beat Republican challenger Tim Walton.

With all 220 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Johnson 65,903 or 52.1 percent

Walton 60,486 or 47.8 percent

And incumbent Democratic General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton beat Republican challenger Rick Rout and independent candidate Patricia Jackson

With all 220 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Stanton 67,258 or 53.3 percent

Rout 53,482 or 42.4 percent

Jackson 5,235 or 4.1 percent

The remaining five contested countywide school board races went as follows

District 1

With all 42 precincts reporting:

Chris Caldwell 7,045 or 47.9 percent

Freda Williams 6,035 or 41.1 percent

Noel Hutchinson 1,546 or 10.5 percent

District 2

With all 40 precincts reporting:

Teresa Jones 5,550 or 52.8 percent

Tyree Daniels 4,897 or 46.66 percent

District 3

With all 29 precincts reporting:

David Reaves 15,758 or 73.7 percent

Raphael McInnis 5,504 or 25.7 percent

District 5

With all 34 precincts reporting:

David Pickler 18,812 or 63.1 percent

Kim Wirth 10,921 or 36.6 percent

District 6

With all 40 precincts reporting:

Reginald Porter 11,698 or 72.7 percent

Jonathan Lewis 4,343 or 27 percent

District 7 school board member and countywide school board chairman Billy Orgel was unopposed.

In the special election for Shelby County Commission District 1 Position 3, Republican nominee Steve Basar beat Democratic nominee Steve Ross in the predominantly Republican district. Basar’s victory maintains the 7-6 Democratic-Republican split on the commission with Republicans the minority.

With all 54 precincts reporting the unofficial results show:

Basar 18,120 or 66 percent

Ross 9,301 or 33.8 percent

Millington voters had the busiest ballot in Shelby County with races for mayor and all 7 aldermen positions.

Kenneth Uselton and Terry Jones appeared to advance to a runoff in the race to become the first Millington mayor who will work as a part-time elected official with a full-time city manager city leaders plan to hire by the end of this year.

Millington Mayor Linda Carter and the board of aldermen voted to make the change in the mayor’s job as a result of the corruption scandal that forced Mayor Richard Hodges to resign after being indicted on state charges.

Uselton came out ahead of former Mayor Terry Jones in his quest to reclaim the office he lost four years ago to Hodges. Debra Sigee was third.

With all five precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Uselton 918 or 43.2 percent

Jones 832 or 39.2 percent

Sigee 366 or 17.2 percent

The winners of the seven positions on the Millington Board of Aldermen were:

Position 1: Bethany K. Huffman

Position 2: Hank Hawkins

Position 3: Franklin Dakin

Position 4: Larry Dagen

Position 5: Thomas McGhee

Position 6: Chris Ford

Position 7: Mike Caruthers

Voters decided the issue of 16 State House incumbents from Shelby County seeking 14 house seats in the legislature as well as three State Senate incumbent seeking two seats in the upper chamber. The excess incumbents were a result of redistricting that put two Democratic incumbents in each of three Shelby County Districts.

In the State Senate District 32 Democratic primary veteran legislator Jim Kyle beat fellow Democratic Senate incumbent Beverly Marrero

With all 49 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Kyle 7,361 or 55.3 percent

Marrero 5,931 or 44.5 percent

In the State House District 93 Democratic primary G.A Hardaway beat Mike Kernell, the second longest serving member of the Shelby County delegation to Nashville. Kernell was first elected in 1974, two years after Democrat Lois Deberry who ran unopposed.

With all 28 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

Hardaway 2,922 or 60.8 percent

Kernell 1,875 or 39 percent

In the third incumbent-on-incumbent primary match up between Shelby Democrats, John DeBerry and Jeanne Richardson in District 90 -- DeBerry won easily with Ian Randolph running third.

With all 28 precincts reporting, the unofficial results show:

DeBerry 4,081 or 59.5 percent

Richardson 2,123 or 30 percent

Randolph 629 or 9.1 percent

PROPERTY SALES 50 226 2,557
MORTGAGES 44 145 1,731
BUILDING PERMITS 204 569 5,701