Political Season Heats Up With District 91 Deadline

By Bill Dries

The political tide of late-in-the-year elections begins rolling Thursday, Aug. 29, with the candidate-filing deadline for state House District 91.

The filing deadline is noon Thursday, the day before early voting opens in the regularly scheduled municipal elections in Arlington and Lakeland.

The candidate-filing deadline for the state House District 91 seat, which became vacant last month with the death of Rep. Lois DeBerry, is noon Thursday.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The District 91 House seat became vacant with the death last month of veteran state Rep. Lois DeBerry. Those candidates who file by noon Thursday have until noon Sept. 3 to withdraw if they wish.

Nine candidates, all in the Oct. 8 Democratic primary for the seat, had picked up petitions through Wednesday evening. Five had filed, according to the Shelby County Election Commission.

The five contenders who had filed through Wednesday are Raumesh Akbari, Dwight DeBerry, Joshua R. Forbes, Terica Lamb and Mary Taylor Wright.

The winners of the October primaries and any independent candidates who might file by noon Thursday advance to a Nov. 21 general election ballot.

The filing deadline for the special state House election comes three days after the filing period opened for the six sets of school board elections to be held Nov. 7 in each of Shelby County’s suburban towns and cities.

On Monday, the first day to pick up petitions, four candidates picked up for the Arlington School Board, four for the Bartlett School Board, one for Collierville and five for Lakeland.

Of the 14 prospective contenders, nine won school board seats last year in another set of school board elections for each of the six towns and cities. Those election results were voided before the Election Commission could certify them. U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays ruled the state law setting the ground rules for the formation of such school districts violated the Tennessee Constitution because it applied only to Shelby County.

Earlier this year, legislators passed a new state law lifting the statewide ban on such school districts and the process toward forming the schools districts began all over again.

The raft of ballot items is also generating a mosaic of political activity in different parts of the county for different races.

Supporters of a half-percent city sales tax increase rallied at the Children’s Museum of Memphis Tuesday evening in the launch of their effort to pass the ballot question.

The campaign is built around the $27 million out of an estimated $47 million in revenue from the tax hike that would be used to expand pre-kindergarten programs in Memphis.

The city government would operate the pre-K program probably through a contract with a provider that could be the countywide school system or some other entity. The remaining $20 million in revenue would go toward reducing the city’s property tax rate.

The referendum question isn’t formally on a ballot yet. But Election Commission attorney Monice Hagler said last week the sales tax hike will most likely go on the Nov. 21 ballot along with the general election race for state House District 91.

Meanwhile, it appears unlikely a special election for a seat on the countywide school board will make it on a ballot this year.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ordered a new election earlier this month for the District 4 seat as he voided the August 2012 election results showing Kevin Woods beat Kenneth Whalum Jr. by 106 votes. Armstrong tossed out the certified results, citing numerous problems with voters getting the right district races on their ballots in the contest.

Armstrong entered his formal court order Tuesday, although he made his finding of facts last week in a memorandum opinion. With the formal court order, attorneys for Woods announced they will appeal Armstrong’s decision to the state Court of Appeals, which includes staying the order from being carried out.

A special school board election would have brought the total of special and regularly scheduled elections in 2013 to a dozen.