Deadline Looms for Complex Aug. Elections

By Bill Dries

The August elections were already going to be more complex than usual. There are the changes from this year’s drawing of new district lines for the Tennessee Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.

There is also a move in Millington to eliminate the office of mayor.

A week from the April 5 filing deadline for candidates, the Shelby County Election Commission has two sets of lists of candidates who have filed and picked up qualifying petitions to get on the August ballot. And those two sets of lists don’t match. The version that has more would-be contenders still includes candidates from the already decided March 6 elections. But it also includes more potential candidates for August who didn’t make the other list, billed on the website as a “short list.”

So far, a third of the 75 would-be candidates who pulled qualifying petitions had filed, according to the longer of the two lists.

The Shelby County Commission switched the numbers of Districts 4 and 5 to keep the two suburban districts that take in territory outside the city of Memphis in the same election cycle after this year.

By state law, the terms of board members have to be staggered. So the winners of the three even-numbered districts will be running for a full four-year term while those who claim the four odd-numbered district seats will serve one-time, shortened terms of two years. The terms begin Sept. 1.

The seven incumbents were appointed to the seats by the Shelby County Commission in October when the districts were created in the settlement of the federal lawsuit over schools consolidation. They currently serve on a 23-member board that includes the nine members of the old Memphis City Schools board and the seven members of the old Shelby County Schools board. Those 16 other positions will be phased out in September 2013, with only the seven positions on the August ballot remaining.

All seven incumbents have pulled petitions for the August elections.

Incumbents Christopher Caldwell, Teresa Jones and Reginald Porter Jr. have filed.

Kevin Woods, who had been the District 5 incumbent, has a petition out to run in District 4, which is the same geographic area. He has potential opposition from Betty Mallott, one of the members of the former Memphis City Schools board, and Russell R. Jones.

Jones faces a challenge from Tyree Daniels, who filed this week, and a potential challenger in Theodore King. Porter has a potential challenger in Jonathan Lewis.

And David Reaves, one of the members of the former Shelby County Schools board, has picked up a petition for the District 3 seat held by Raphael McInnis.

Only countywide school board chairman Billy Orgel and Caldwell were without possible opposition one week before the deadline.

The August ballot also includes primary contests for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and Tennessee Legislature. And the winners of the March primaries for four county offices – district attorney general, General Sessions Court clerk, Shelby County assessor of property and the County Commission District 1, Position 3 seat – meet in general election contests.

The winners of the August primaries advance to the Nov. 6 state and federal general elections.

The issue of new district lines has surfaced in the primaries for two of the five state Senate seats in the Shelby County delegation to Nashville. The two even-numbered districts – 30 and 32 – are up for election this year.

It’s also surfaced in the races for the 14 state House seats within Shelby County.

The Shelby delegation lost one of its Senate seats and two of its House seats in legislative redistricting this year.

Nevertheless, 16 House incumbents from Shelby County have pulled petitions for the 14 positions.

Republican incumbents Mark White, Curry Todd, Ron Lollar and Jim Coley had filed for re-election by the end of Tuesday, March 27.

Democratic incumbents Johnnie R. Turner, Barbara Cooper, Karen Camper, Larry Miller, John DeBerry and Antonio Parkinson had also filed as of Tuesday evening.

As of then, no one had filed or pulled a petition to run against Camper, Todd and Coley.

The same was true of Democratic incumbents Lois DeBerry and Mike Kernell, the two longest-serving members of the Shelby County delegation. Neither had filed their petition by Tuesday evening but are expected to seek re-election.

Two of the four Democratic House incumbents drawn into the districts of other incumbents – G.A. Hardaway and Jeanne Richardson – have pulled multiple petitions for several House districts.

Hardaway and Cooper are in the same House district. Richardson and Parkinson are in the same district.

Meanwhile, Hardaway has also pulled a petition to run in the redrawn state Senate District 30, which also includes Democratic Senate incumbents Jim Kyle and Beverly Marrero. Marrero and Kyle have pulled petitions.

The other Senate incumbent, Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville, has filed and so far is unopposed.