Democrats Face 2014 Primary Challenge

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Democrats hold their annual Kennedy Day Dinner fundraiser Jan. 18 as they prepare for the election year of the “big ballot” – the largest ballot of any Shelby County election cycle, and the one that includes the August elections for judicial offices, which happens every eight years.

The keynote speaker at the dinner at Bridges USA, 477 N. Fifth St., will be U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California.

Shelby County voters in 2014 may feel like they’ve earned a trophy of some kind. They will vote on the longest ballot in Shelby County history.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Lee is a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a founder of the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus.

Shelby County Democratic party leaders, like their Republican counterparts, are raising money for a general election ballot and its distribution.

But Democrats face a different challenge in the May primary races that will decide whose names and faces go on the August ballot.

With the lower turnout both parties historically see in their county primaries, Democrats have a group of contenders over several sets of county elections who can win the primaries but can’t win the general elections. And the 2010 sweep by Republicans in every countywide race on that ballot has prompted local Democratic Party chairman Bryan Carson, among other local Democrats, to talk about the need to run a different kind of ticket with different faces.

The party’s 2010 nominee for Shelby County Register of Deeds, Coleman Thompson, already has his petition out for another challenge of Republican incumbent Tom Leatherwood.

Vernon Johnson, who ran in the 2010 Democratic primary for Criminal Court clerk has a petition out as well. He lost in the primary to former Criminal Court Clerk Minerva Johnican, who lost to Republican Kevin Key. Key is seeking re-election.

The local Democratic Party bounced back in 2012 with incumbent General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton and Shelby County Assessor of Property Cheyenne Johnson, both Democrats, winning re-election in hard-fought campaigns. Among the differences was that Stanton and Johnson were both incumbents who courted Republican voters as well as Democrats in the general election campaigns.