VOL. 129 | NO. 23 | Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Mulroy Gets in County Mayor’s Race
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy considered a bid for Shelby County mayor for the second time in a year and Monday, Feb. 3, pulled a qualifying petition to enter the Democratic primary just more than two weeks before the filing deadline for candidates in the May 6 county primaries.
Later Monday afternoon, former Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone filed her qualifying petition. Malone opened her campaign last year and was the first contender in the mayor's race to pull a petition when the filing period opened in November.
She ran in the 2010 Democratic primary for county mayor.
“I had actually already decided not to for various career and personal reasons, but a number of developments in the last couple of weeks have started me rethinking it,” Mulroy said last week as he was considering the race. “A number of people have been asking me to do it.”
Mulroy wouldn’t elaborate for now on what prompted him to take a second look at the race and a possible challenge of Republican incumbent County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
But he began his second look at the race as the Democratic primary field began to grow. Initially, Malone had the Democratic field to herself. County Commission Chairman James Harvey and former Shelby County Schools board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. joined her two weeks ago.
Mulroy has also been buoyed by success on several fronts. The Shelby County Commission approved his amended animal-protection ordinance, an anti-blight initiative aimed at “tax dead” properties, and a resolution urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to propose expanding health insurance for the indigent.
Mulroy considered running for mayor last year as he also showed an interest in a presidential appointment to become the new U.S. district judge for the Western District of Tennessee. University of Memphis chief of staff Sheri Lipman was ultimately nominated by President Barack Obama on the recommendation of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis.
Mulroy enters the mayor’s race as the political pace begins to quicken and the attendance of would-be candidates at political events thickens, with rivals sometimes standing next to each other.
That was the case at the opening of General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Louis Montesi’s re-election campaign Thursday, Jan. 30, at The Rendezvous.
Luttrell was among those who spoke as Mulroy was in the audience.
“The next several months will be grueling. It will be hot,” Luttrell said to a crowd who came in wearing coats. “We will all get out there, and we’ll wave on the street corners and do all the things candidates do.”
The two rivals in the coming race for Juvenile Court judge, Memphis City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon and Juvenile Court Chief Magistrate Dan Michael, stood next to each other and talked, even introducing themselves jointly to a potential voter.
Montesi is among the judicial contenders who have most of the political spotlight to themselves for now. That is likely to change in the coming weeks as the deadline for filing in the county partisan primaries nears.
And that’s when the judicial candidates will begin to feel the limits on what they can say in campaigning.
“What really carries a campaign for a judge is their reputation,” Luttrell said of the different kind of campaigning in which judicial candidates are barred from promising how they would rule in specific cases, unlike how nonjudicial candidates promise what they would do if elected.
“I’m also mindful every day of who appears before me and try to make them feel that they are a human being, respect the law,” Montesi said. “Always try to rule on the facts and the law, but always with restraint and always with compassion because we’re dealing with people and people’s lives.”
Judicial candidates and other candidates in nonpartisan races on the Aug. 7 ballot have an April 3 deadline to file their qualifying petitions.
Montesi was first elected Division 13 judge in 1990, and he is running a high-profile re-election bid in a judicial political year notable for the candidates who have pulled petitions in multiple races.
Montesi filed his qualifying petition Jan. 16 and has potential opposition from Alicia A. Howard and J. Nathan Toney, who have pulled but not filed qualified petitions. Howard and Toney are among candidates who have pulled petitions in multiple races.
Many of those at Montesi’s campaign opener either came from or later went to the opening of Criminal Court Judge Mark Ward’s re-election effort two blocks away at Brinkley Plaza.
“I will work hard. I will show up every day,” Ward said. “I will try to be honest, fair and call it right down the middle, and that’s all you can ask any judge.”
Ward, who was appointed to the bench in 2004 and elected in a 2006 special election, has potential opposition from Howard.
Ward is one of 10 Shelby County Criminal Court judges who filed for re-election at the same time Jan. 17.