Election Filing Pace Quickens as Deadline Nears

By Bill Dries

The May 6 Shelby County primary races began to move toward their final form Monday, Feb. 17, just ahead of the noon Thursday filing deadline for candidates.


Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy brought the Democratic primary race for county mayor to four as he filed his qualifying petition Monday afternoon.

Former Shelby County Schools board member Kenneth Whalum Jr., former County Commissioner Deidre Malone and current commission Chairman James Harvey filed for the primary earlier this month.

Former Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown planned to file Tuesday afternoon in the Democratic primary for Shelby County district attorney general at the same time that County Commissioner Henri Brooks files for the Democratic primary for Juvenile Court clerk.

But Brown could have company in the primary to see who will advance to an August general election challenge of incumbent Republican Amy Weirich.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Nettles Harris pulled a qualifying petition for the Democratic primary last week.

Brown had a busy campaign schedule prior to filing his petition. He was to speak to the Memphis Rotary Club at noon Tuesday. He’s twice made speeches to local Democratic Party gatherings touting the need for the party to run a challenger to Weirich that were a factor in Brown deciding to take the plunge.

The last of the speeches, at the February monthly meeting of the local Democratic Party’s executive committee, focused almost as much on Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court as the prosecutors office. But it ended with Brown’s best indication that he was interested in running for district attorney general and that he would specifically challenge the way Weirich and her predecessors have run the office.

Several days later, Del Gill, a member of the executive committee and a candidate in the Democratic primary for Circuit Court clerk, was circulating a qualifying petition for Brown with Brown’s consent.

Brooks, who is seeking to challenge incumbent Republican Clerk Joy Touliatos, has two likely rivals in the Democratic primary. Cynthia Gentry filed her qualifying petition in January, as she also filed a qualifying petition to run for Probate Court clerk. Former city public services director Kenneth Moody still had a petition out in the Juvenile Court clerk’s race as the week began.

Like Brown, Brooks is challenging the “status quo,” not only in the clerk’s office but in Juvenile Court itself. It was Brooks’ 2009 complaint to the U.S. Justice Department about the court that resulted in the Justice Department investigation and report highly critical of due process practices in the court. The report also found disproportionately harsher punishments and rates of detention for African-American juveniles who were also disproportionately transferred for trial as adults.

The race for judge is a nonpartisan race on the August ballot in which incumbent Judge Curtis Person Jr. is not seeking re-election. The race, on its way to an April 3 filing deadline, features a showdown between Memphis City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon and Juvenile Court chief magistrate Dan Michael. And like the still-forming District Attorney General’s race it is also likely to feature a campaign that questions past methods in the court.

Mulroy, meanwhile, is aggressively raising money for a campaign that started late in the filing season. He reports $55,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account after about a week of fundraising with more fundraisers in the week ahead.

Also filing in the last week of the filing period was Heidi Kuhn in the Democratic primary for Probate Court clerk. The eight Democrats with petitions out or filed, including Gentry and Kuhn, is the largest potential primary field for the May ballot by either party. But of the eight prospective Democratic contenders only Kuhn, Gentry and Jennings Bernard had filed as the week began.

The winner faces Republican incumbent Clerk Paul Boyd, who so far is unopposed in his primary.

And prospective Republican contenders have pulled petitions in two of the seven County Commission races in which there previously only had been Democratic primary contenders.

Julie Diane Ray pulled but has not filed as of Monday in the District 8 race. Of the five potential Democrats, only incumbent Commissioner Walter Bailey and David Vinciarelli had filed as of Monday.

And Geoffrey C. Diaz filed in the Republican primary for District 10. Of five potential Democratic contenders, only Reginald Milton had filed as of Monday.

Curtis Byrd Jr. showed up as having filed in the District 10 race on the Election Commission website. But Byrd said he has filed to run in District 11, not District 10.