VOL. 9 | NO. 28 | Saturday, July 9, 2016
The Rest of the August Ballot
By Bill Dries
If all goes according to plan on the Aug. 4 election day, Linda Phillips hopes the result is that you don’t see her in any of the reporting on election night.
Phillips is the new Shelby County elections adminstrator, starting work in May at an election commission that has had its share of glitches, snags, mistakes and problems in recent years.
She comes to Memphis from being county clerk in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, where the clerk is an elected official whose duties include running elections.
The Aug. 4 election ballot is the first election for new Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips, who is projecting an election day turnout of no more than 90,000 voters.
(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)
Phillips describes herself as a “technical geek” focused on items like the ratio of voting machines to voters. The commission had planned to use a ratio of one machine for every 500 voters in each precinct for the August elections.
Phillips instead went for a variable standard based on past election day turnouts. Some data wasn’t online, so she cruised the streets looking for campaign signs to give herself a better idea of some of the more politically active areas in the county.
She predicts an election day turnout of no more than 90,000 countywide.
Her other initial focus is the time it takes to vote.
She’s cites the standard in Tennessee state law that it is not supposed to take a voter more than five minutes to complete a ballot.
“But that’s not the only factor,” she said. “You’ve got to get there. The voter has to get out and that takes time. And voters don’t space themselves out evenly throughout the day.”
Those were also factors that Phillips built into her estimate for how many voting machines are needed at a particular precinct, emphasizing that she is still new to Memphis and thus included what she called a “fudge factor.”
“And so at peak time, they might wait for a few minutes,” she said. “But they won’t wait for hours.”
The Republican primary for the 8th Congressional District is the main political attraction on the August ballot. Here are the other races voters will decide:
9th Congressional District
All of the 9th Congressional District is within Shelby County. Incumbent Democrat Steve Cohen of Memphis faces his easiest primary challenge since he claimed the seat in 2006.
His challengers are Shelby County commissioner Justin Ford, who has had no campaign presence up to the Fourth of July weekend, and businessman M. Latroy Williams, a perennial contender who also runs several political endorsement ballots.
Tennessee General Assembly
In the 16 sets of primaries for seats in the Tennessee Legislature that represent parts of Shelby County – two state Senate seats and all 14 state House seats – every incumbent, Republican and Democratic, is seeking re-election.
In state Senate District 30, incumbent Democrat Sara Kyle faces a primary challenge from former state Sen. Beverly Marrero. Marrero held the District 30 seat until a redistricting in 2011 caused her to be drawn into the same area as Sen. Jim Kyle, causing the two incumbents to run against each other in 2012.
Kyle won and held the seat until he was elected to Chancery Court in 2014. His wife, Sara Kyle, faced Marrero in balloting among the local Democratic Executive Committee to determine who would be the party’s nominee in the November 2014 special election for the state Senate seat.
Sara Kyle got the nod and won the general election.
Democratic state Rep. John Deberry was another incumbent-on-incumbent survivor in 2012 following the redistricting by the Republican majorities in both chambers. He beat fellow Democratic incumbent Jeanne Richardson.
Four years later, he faces a primary challenge from Black Lives Matter activist Tami Sawyer.
State House Republican Curry Todd of Collierville faces active and visible challenges from former Shelby County Schools board member Diane George and Delta Fair founder and promoter Mark Lovell as well as Dana Matheny.
General Sessions Court Clerk
Between staggering losses for Democrats to Republicans in the 2010 and 2014 countywide general elections, both General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton and Shelby County Assessor Cheyenne Johnson were able to keep their offices in the Democratic column in 2012.
They did that without the shadow on the longer Democratic ticket and the problems of its other candidates by running aggressive, ubiquitous and independent campaigns.
The assessor’s race moved to the larger even-year county election cycle in 2014, leaving the General Sessions Court Clerk’s race as the only countywide office on the ballot this cycle.
Stanton easily defeated William Stovall, a former employee of the clerk’s office during the tenure of previous clerk Otis Jackson, in the Democratic primary and faces Republican nominee Richard Morton, an accountant with the Probate Court Clerk’s office.
Stanton is sticking to the playbook from his 2012 re-election bid and trying to steer clear of the local party’s considerable turmoil.
Morton could benefit from the Republican interest and turnout in the 8th Congressional District primary.
Shelby County Schools Board
Five of the nine Shelby County Schools board seats are on the August ballot in nonpartisan races – the first since the Shelby County Commission’s 2014 redistricting of the board.
The redistricting took out territory from the six suburbs, who have their own municipal school districts and elected school boards.
In working around those areas, the new SCS districts include disjointed, non-contiguous areas of Memphis and the unincorporated county.
Four of the five SCS board incumbents seeking re-election in the nonpartisan August races are running unopposed: Miska Clay Bibbs, board president Teresa Jones, Scott McCormick and Kevin Woods.
The only school board race to be decided is between incumbent Stephanie Love and challenger Sharon Fields.
Love has been a vocal critic of the state-run Achievement School District, which focused its early efforts and school takeovers on the Frayser-Raleigh district she represents. She also has been critical of charter schools outside the ASD.
Fields is an office manager and coordinator at Libertas School, one of the ASD charter operations in Frayser.
Shelby County Judicial Races
There are two countywide judicial races to fill vacancies that arose shortly after the 2014 big ballot judicial elections were decided.
In Circuit Court Division 3, Valerie Smith was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge D’Army Bailey. She is running for the remainder of the eight-year term and faces perennial judicial contender Michael G. Floyd.
In Chancery Court Part III, Haslam appointed Jim Newsom to the fill the vacancy created by the death of Chancellor Oscar “Bo” Carr. Newsom is seeking the rest of the term of office. He faces attorneys Joe Jenkins and David Ferguson.
Bartlett Municipal Judges
Two races for Bartlett Municipal Court judge were late additions to the August ballot. In the past they have been on the November ballot, but the Shelby County Election Commission switched them as the filing deadline for candidates was underway, basing the change on a new reading of an old state law.
Incumbent Division 1 Judge Dan Brown in running unopposed.
Incumbent Division 2 Judge Tim Francavilla is being challenged by attorney Henry Miller.
Judicial Retention Races
Rounding out the ballot is a slate of 10 judicial retention races for state appellate court judges including three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices. You vote “retain” or “replace” in these races.