Legal Opinion Sets Rules for Filling State Senate Vacancy

By Bill Dries

The local Democratic and Republican parties have until Sept. 8 to select a nominee for the state Senate District 30 seat that becomes vacant Friday, Aug. 29, according to a legal opinion Thursday, Aug. 28, from the Tennessee attorney general’s office.


And by the end of the day Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Bryan Carson had scheduled a Sept. 8 meeting at 7 p.m. of his party's executive committee to do just that.

Independent candidates seeking the seat being vacated by Democrat Jim Kyle would have until noon Sept. 19 to file a qualifying petition with the Shelby County Election Commission to get on the Nov. 4 ballot as well.

Sept. 19 is when the election commission would certify who is in the general election race.

The legal opinion sets the stage for executive committee “conventions” of both local political parties in which committee members representing the areas covered by the state Senate district would select their respective nominees.

Executive committee members are chosen by state House district, which means some members may represent those living in the Senate district but not live in the Senate district themselves.

Kyle sought the legal opinion after being elected a Chancery Court judge in August with two years left in his state Senate term. He takes the oath as chancellor Friday morning and begins his eight-year term Sept. 1.

The open Senate seat has drawn interest from former state Sen. Beverly Marrero, who lost to Kyle in the 2012 Democratic primary.

State Reps. G.A. Hardaway and Antonio Parkinson have also expressed interest in running in the special general election.

Any state representatives seeking their party’s nomination would have to withdraw from the November state House race before the executive committee meets to select its Senate nominee, according to the legal opinion.

And if they withdraw from their re-election primaries, the political party “may make no further nomination for the position in question,” according to the state law cited in the legal opinion.

In Hardaway’s case, that would mean Republican nominee Gene Billingsley would be running unopposed for the District 93 House seat in the November general election.

Parkinson is unopposed on the November ballot in seeking re-election to the District 98 House seat.

The legal opinion does not address what would happen if Parkinson withdrew as the Democratic nominee for the state House seat leaving no one on the ballot.

Carson had already set noon Friday as the application deadline for any candidates interested in the party’s nomination.