Early Voting Opens in County Primaries

By Bill Dries

Shelby County voters begin deciding Wednesday, April 16, who holds 11 countywide offices, including Shelby County mayor and district attorney general, as well as 13 seats on the Shelby County Commission drawn with new single-member district lines.

Early voting opens Wednesday, April 16, in the Shelby County primary elections in advance of the May 6 election day. Voters will decide 11 offices, including Shelby County mayor and district attorney general.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Early voting opens Wednesday in the Shelby County primary elections in advance of the May 6 election day.

From Wednesday through April 24, early voting is at the Shelby County Election Commission’s Downtown offices, 157 Poplar Ave., from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Early voting expands to satellite locations across the county from April 25 to May 1 with the same hours. On the ballot, 83 candidates are running for 24 offices.

Winning in May means advancing to the county general election in August. It also means prevailing in the lowest turnout of any regular election cycle in Shelby County politics.

Four years ago, turnout in the same set of primary elections was 10 percent, which was the turnout four years before that in 2006.

Turnout was highest at 18 percent in the 2002 county primaries and 7.5 percent in 1998. It was 12.7 percent in 1994, the first year of partisan primaries for the many of the same county offices on the ballot this year in which local Republicans held a primary but Democrats did not.

The additional office on the ballot this year that was not there in the past years is Shelby County assessor, which moves to the election cycle with the 2014 elections with an amendment to the Shelby County Charter approved by voters in 2008. The race was on the 2012 election ballot for the last time in that election cycle.

The 2014 ballot is topped by primary contests for the county positions of district attorney general, sheriff and mayor.

Incumbent Republican county mayor Mark Luttrell has token opposition in the GOP primary from perennial candidate Ernie Lunati. The Democratic mayoral primary is a lively three-way contest among outgoing county commissioner Steve Mulroy, former county commissioner Deidre Malone and former Shelby County Schools board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. for the right to challenge Luttrell in August.

Incumbent Republican Amy Weirich is running unopposed in her primary for district attorney general. So is former Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown in the companion Democratic primary. Both automatically advance to the August county general election.

Incumbent Republican Sheriff Bill Oldham and Democratic challenger Bennie Cobb also meet on the August ballot.

That is also the case in the race for commission District 13, where incumbent Republican Steve Basar and Democratic challenger Manoj Jain are each unopposed in their May primaries.

Some of the other races were already decided at the filing deadline for candidates.

One incumbent Shelby County commissioner, Republican Terry Roland, running in commission District 1, was effectively re-elected at the filing deadline earlier this year because he had no opposition in his own party or from Democrats or independent candidates.

Another Republican incumbent, Heidi Shafer, in District 5, effectively won re-election when Taylor Berger, who was running in the Democratic primary for the district announced that he was dropping out of the race. Berger’s name will still appear on the ballot because he withdrew from the race after the deadline to do so.

Seven primary races have no contenders in them, three of the Democratic primaries for Shelby County Commission and four of the Republican primaries for the commission.

In six of the seven, whoever wins the other party primary will be the new commissioner. The seventh race features an independent candidate in August.