County Primary Filing Deadline Arrives

By Bill Dries

A couple of days before the filing deadline for candidates in the May county primaries, it looked like a political season with lots of action at the deadline itself.

The filing deadline for candidates in the May county primaries is Thursday, Feb. 20, at noon.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The deadline is noon Thursday, Feb. 20, with another week for any candidates who meet that deadline to withdraw if they wish.

Follow @tdnpols for tweets on the activity before and after Thursday’s filing deadline.

Former Memphis Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown launched his bid for the Democratic nomination for Shelby County district attorney general Tuesday with a speech at the Memphis Rotary Club followed by filing his petition at the Downtown offices of the Shelby County Election Commission.

“I am about the business of returning this office to the people of this county. There’s been too much country club justice and the people need even justice,” Brown said as he filed. “There have been some things I’ve wanted to do for years. I did not seek this position, I was recruited. I got drafted and I’m answering the call.”

Brown is challenging Republican incumbent Amy Weirich, who had no opposition in her primary going into the last day to file.

Brown’s supporters mingled with a group of 30 sign-carrying and singing and chanting supporters of County Commissioner Henri Brooks, who filed to run in the Democratic primary for Juvenile Court clerk.

Republican incumbent Joy Touliatos is unopposed so far in her primary.

Brown and Brooks may not be running for the same office, but they are each taking the approach that there should be widespread changes in the local criminal justice system.

“It’s time for a change in Juvenile Court, specifically the clerk’s office. It’s not been transparent, has not been accountable, has been inaccessible for decades,” Brooks said.

“The clerk’s office is the secretary. It is the keeper, the administrator of the records. And the kind of records it keeps determines the kind of justice we get. I was employed by Juvenile Court for 11 years. … I understand the functions of the clerk’s office. I understand that when they come to that window in the office they should see a friendly face, a face that’s going to help them navigate.”

Attorney Ruby Wharton led the group of women for Brooks.

Meanwhile, Memphis City Council member Wanda Halbert filed her petition Tuesday for the Democratic primary for Criminal Court clerk during the gap between council committee sessions and the voting session of the council at nearby City Hall. As she filed, City Court Clerk Thomas Long, who is running in the same primary, talked with voters.

And as Brown worked his way to the counter after posing for numerous pictures, former council member Berlin Boyd quietly filed his petition to run in the Democratic primary for County Commission District 8 in what amounts to a challenge of incumbent Democratic Commissioner Walter Bailey.

With the 2014 primaries and county general election, the commission switches to a new structure of single-member districts that replace a structure of one single-member district and four multi-member districts.

Brown talked with former Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Harris who has pulled a petition to run in the same Democratic primary as him.

“You want to get involved – get in,” Brown told her.

Local Democratic Party Chairman Bryan Carson, however, said he already regards Brown as the party’s nominee. In other primary races like the one for Criminal Court clerk, however, Carson said the local party will play a different role.

“We are supporting all of the candidates. We want to make sure we don’t have a blood bath – that we have nice competitive races,” he said. “We encourage them to do that so whoever comes out of the primary into the general election, the Democratic Party will support them wholeheartedly.”

Potential Republican contenders were also active in the run-up to the filing deadline.

Since the one-week mark to the filing deadline, three Republicans have pulled petitions in commission races that until then had no Republican contenders, only Democrats.

The continued absence would have meant the commission would have retained its seven- vote majority on the commission at the filing deadline.

Democratic contenders were returning the favor near the deadline including restaurateur Taylor Berger, who said Tuesday he would be pulling a petition to run in the Democratic primary against Republican incumbent Heidi Shafer in commission District 5.

Shafer already had potential Democratic opposition in the August county general election from Tanya Y. Bartee. But she remained unopposed in her primary going into the last full day before the filing deadline.

Republican Commissioner Steve Basar also has three potential Democratic challengers in District 13, Mario Dennis, Manoj Jain and Deangelo Pegues.

That left three commission districts with no Democratic contenders going into the last day of the filing period.