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VOL. 131 | NO. 145 | Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chism Readying 2018 Bid for County Mayor

By Bill Dries

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Former Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism wants to be the Democratic nominee for Shelby County mayor in 2018, and he plans to begin his campaign after the November presidential election.


“I want to create a movement,” Chism said, calling for changes among division directors and other appointed positions in Shelby County government. “I want to change the paradigm. Everybody that is directing all of these departments are from the past and they don’t think about these young people that need opportunities in our city.

“They keep on going back to the older generation,” he said. “In order to keep these young people around, we need to create an atmosphere that they will want to stay here.”

Chism, a former Shelby County Democratic Party chairman, said young Democrats have urged him to run for mayor in 2018.

He isn’t the only political figure making plans to succeed Republican Mark Luttrell, who is serving his second term as mayor and is term limited.

The 2018 Republican primary will feature County Trustee David Lenoir and County Commission chairman Terry Roland.

Democrats lost every countywide race in the 2010 county general election and only won one countywide race in 2014 – Assessor.

Democrat Ed Stanton holds the General Sessions Court Clerk’s office, which is elected in the other even-year county election cycle and is on the Aug. 4 ballot. Stanton is facing Republican challenger Richard Morton.

Stanton has not relied on the local Democratic Party for support in his re-election effort as the party’s executive committee struggles with internal issues, including a series of censures by the executive committee of Democrats who have backed Republican candidates in general elections. Chism, is among those censured by executive committee vote for supporting Republican Sheriff Bill Oldham over Democratic challenger Bennie Cobb. Chism works in the Sheriff’s Office.

Chism says the local Democratic Party continues to field the same candidates who can win low turnout county primaries but can’t get close to turning out the Democratic base to win countywide general elections.

He and others argue the problem isn’t Democrats supporting Republicans. It is Democrats nominating candidates who are perennial contenders or who are so inept that they take down the rest of the party’s slate.

“Nobody’s been able to pull young millennials out to vote in these last few elections,” Chism said.

Chism went off the commission in 2014 after serving the two-term limit. Before that he had been appointed to a vacant state Senate seat.

He ran in the 2012 Democratic primary for General Sessions Court Clerk in the race won by Stanton.

Stanton had been appointed clerk following the suspension of Democratic Clerk Otis Jackson in 2011 by a majority of the General Sessions Court Judges following his indictment on official misconduct charges.

Chism thought he could keep other contenders out of the primary and get a one-on-one match up with Stanton.

Instead there were three other candidates, including Jackson. Chism lost to Stanton by 246 votes in a race that drew a turnout of 22,811.

“I made that mistake last time,” Chism said. “I felt like I was going to be out there in that clerk’s race by myself. I underestimated my opposition. I underestimated people I thought were friends of mine. I won’t make that mistake again. I know at this point there’s not a Democrat out there that’s got any name recognition that’s going to get into the race.”

Chism has a far longer record as a political operative backing candidates. The retired Teamsters union organizer most notably backed Willie Herenton’s historic bid for Memphis Mayor in 1991 when few thought Herenton had a chance.

His financial backing was crucial to Herenton staying in the race as his support built through the summer and into the fall run-up to his 142-vote upset of incumbent Mayor Dick Hackett.

His alliance with Herenton extended to Herenton’s unsuccessful 2010 challenge of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen in that year’s Democratic primary.

PROPERTY SALES 51 223 1,152
MORTGAGES 55 189 861
BUILDING PERMITS 149 541 2,593