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VOL. 129 | NO. 65 | Thursday, April 3, 2014

Filing Frenzy

Juvenile Court race highlights election deadline

By Bill Dries

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Until Tuesday, no one was running for the District 7 seat on the Shelby County Schools board. No one had pulled a qualifying petition from the Shelby County Election Commission until just two days before the filing deadline for candidates on the August election ballot.

Tarik Sugarmon files to run for Juvenile Court judge at the Shelby County Election Commission offices. The race is a highlight on the August ballot. Filing deadline is noon Thursday.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

And some of those with petitions out were waiting until the Thursday, April 3, noon deadline to make their decisions.

That was the case with Memphis City Council member Lee Harris, who is pondering a challenge of Democratic state Sen. Ophelia Ford in the August primary for state Senate District 29, the seat held by a member of the Ford family since 1975.

The noon deadline is for candidates in the August state and federal primaries, as well as the nonpartisan county judicial and school board elections.

The candidates who meet that deadline then have another week to withdraw if they wish.

Follow developments at Thursday’s deadline and after @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols. Also look for a Web story recapping the fields after the Thursday deadline at The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.

Those who are certified this month for the August ballot by the Shelby County Election Commission will be joined by the winners of the May county primary elections.

Some of the nonpartisan campaigns to be decided on the August ballot are already underway.

That is the case with the nonpartisan race for Juvenile Court judge, one of several judicial positions on the August ballot with no incumbent seeking re-election.

The race between Memphis City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon and Juvenile Court Chief Magistrate Dan Michael has a higher profile than the other four open judicial races.

Some of that is a function of Kenneth Turner’s 40-plus-year tenure of Juvenile Court judge. When outgoing-Judge Curtis Person Jr. ran in 2006 on Turner’s legacy, the open race became a referendum on change in the institution that had become uniquely Turner’s.

And while the race did not have Democratic and Republican primaries or nominees, both local political parties were heavily involved with Republicans backing Person and Democrats backing Veronica Coleman-Davis.

In the last three years, the court has changed with a great deal of pressure from the U.S. Justice Department, which entered into a settlement agreement with the court and Shelby County government over due process abuses the Justice Department was highly critical of as well as disproportionately harsher punishments and transfers for trial as adults for African-American children.

Michael has said he welcomes a challenge of the pace of reforms in the court. And he has said his experience as a magistrate in the court for nearly 20 years gives him the ability to carry out the changes.

Sugarmon says he intends to end what he sees as a “50-year continuum” of control of the court starting with Turner into Person, who was a magistrate under Turner, to Michael, who has been a magistrate and court official under Turner and Person. And Sugarmon wants to quicken the pace of reform for an early end to the settlement’s expense of approximately $6 million a year to county government.

Such judicial openings usually create lots of competition. And that has been the case with the four other open judicial races. But judicial candidates are more deliberative before they file petitions.

A dozen attorneys pulled qualifying petitions for Chancellor Part 2, the Chancery Court position now held by Arnold Goldin, who becomes a state appeals court judge on Sept. 1 following his appointment to that opening by Gov. Bill Haslam.

But by Wednesday morning, the start of the last full day to file, only three of the dozen had filed for Part 2, state Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle and attorneys Paul A. Robinson and Ken Besser.

Meanwhile, District 31 Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey had opposition in the GOP primary from Jim Tomasik who ran last year in the special election for state House District 91 as a Libertarian. Last year, Kelsey told supporters he expected a challenge from Democrats for the Germantown-based seat. But as of Wednesday morning, no one had pulled a petition in the Democratic primary for the district.

District 33 Democratic state Sen. Reginald Tate, meanwhile, was unopposed as of Wednesday. So were 10 of the 14 state House incumbents whose districts cover Shelby County.

There are no open seats without an incumbent in the Shelby County delegation to Nashville.

In the Shelby County Schools board races, incumbents Shante Avant and Billy Orgel were unopposed as of Wednesday running in the new nine-district structure of the school board in which only seven of the nine seats are up for election this year.

Incumbent Chris Caldwell is matched in District 1 with former school board member Freda Garner Williams. It’s a rematch from their 2012 electoral meeting.

PROPERTY SALES 56 56 9,658
MORTGAGES 49 49 10,665
BUILDING PERMITS 212 212 21,170
BANKRUPTCIES 49 49 6,157