VOL. 131 | NO. 155 | Thursday, August 4, 2016
Crowded Race in 8th District GOP Primary Tops Thursday's Ballot
By Bill Dries
Two days before the Thursday, Aug. 4, election day, state Rep. Curry Todd was arrested by Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies for removing a rival’s campaign signs in Collierville.
Election day is Thursday in the set of state and federal legislative primaries as well as a countywide general election, school board races and judicial elections. Polls in Shelby County are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
The arrest Tuesday on a warrant sworn out against Todd for theft is an indication of just how hard fought some of the races are in what is considered a minor election cycle in the shadow of the November presidential general election.
Vandalism and theft of campaign signs is a feature of every local election cycle. It rarely leads to a warrant and an arrest. But then again, it is rarely recorded on video.
The bond for Todd’s release from jail Tuesday was posted by Mark Lovell, the challenger whose signs Todd was recorded removing. It is proof of the unexpected responses that are also a feature of those same political match-ups.
Todd claims he had permission from the property owner to remove Lovell’s signs after Todd got permission to put his own signs up there.
Todd faces two active challengers – Lovell and former Shelby County Schools board member Diane George – in the Republican primary for state House District 95.
The Thursday ballot features state and federal primary elections for U.S. House and the Tennessee Legislature. It also includes a countywide general election for General Sessions Court Clerk, five of the nine seats on the Shelby County Schools board, two special judicial elections, two races for Bartlett Municipal Court judges and a set of 10 retention, or yes/no, votes for state appellate court judges.
There are 69 candidates running in 34 races on the ballot, not counting the 10 retention elections.
Of the 34 races, 17 are uncontested. And 11 of the 17 uncontested races include six incumbent Tennessee legislators representing Shelby County, four of the five SCS board members up for re-election and one of the two Bartlett judges.
As Todd was being booked at the Criminal Justice Center Downtown, state Sen. Brian Kelsey was campaigning in West Tennessee with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum for the 8th District Republican primary nod.
“There are a lot of people out there who think when they see these Brian Kelsey commercials running over and over again on TV that in fact we are running in the same election that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are running in in November,” Kelsey told a group of 40 on the town square in Rossville after an earlier stop in Jackson, Tenn., and before a final stop in Collierville’s town square.
Kelsey said he understands because the critical early voting season before election day coincided with the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
The winner of the state and federal primaries Thursday advance to the November general election ballot.
But the 8th District is like many congressional districts – drawn by a state Legislature with a decisive Republican or Democratic majority. The winner of the 8th District Republican primary Thursday is heavily favored to win in November – Democrats have two token candidates with no backing from establishment Democrats on Thursday’s ballot.
The presidential race between Clinton and Trump is already a presence before the first vote is counted in the August elections.
“This election is not about who the president is going to be for the next four years,” Santorum told the group gathered by a park gazebo in Rossville Tuesday. “We can reserve a lot of what a president does. … You can’t do that with a Supreme Court.”
Santorum urged the group to support not only Kelsey, but Trump to prevent Clinton from appointing at least one U.S. Supreme Court justice.
“We have a Supreme Court who finds the Constitution an annoyance that they have to deal with,” he said. “If Hillary Clinton is elected, within the lifetime of most of the people standing here in front of me, we will no longer be a republic.”
Clinton and her campaign have also frequently told supporters that they can’t allow Trump to appoint a U.S. Supreme Court justice because of similar fears with a different rationale about the future direction of the government.
Although the 8th District takes in a small but significant part of Shelby County, including East Memphis, with 13 candidates in the Republican primary that includes seven contenders from Shelby County, the primary has taken center stage.
The Republican turnout could have some effect on Republican Richard Morton’s challenge of incumbent General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton.
Yet Shelby County early voting turnout in the Democratic primaries on the ballot was greater than Republican turnout by about a 2:1 margin. That is despite 9th District U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen running in what is likely to be the easiest Democratic primary of his decade in Congress.
The same August election cycle drew a 21.6 percent turnout four years ago, a 17 percent turnout in 2008 and a 12.2 percent turnout in 2004.
The relatively large turnout in 2012, the highest percentage turnout in the election cycle in 20 years, was fueled by referendums in each of the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County on forming and funding their own school districts.