VOL. 131 | NO. 109 | Wednesday, June 1, 2016
August Ballot Known for What’s Not at the Top
By Bill Dries
Just before the Memorial Day weekend, candidates in the most hotly contested races on the Aug. 4 ballot got the packages they’ve been waiting on – yard signs.
Early vote in advance of the Aug. 4 elections is still more than a month away. Campaign yard signs are just starting to show up. Meanwhile, candidates in the November suburban elections are declaring their intentions.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
And social media messages were out by Friday afternoon urging supporters to sign up for them.
Most of the messages in the Memphis area were from contenders in the 13-candidate Republican primary in the 8th Congressional District.
There are contested primaries for three seats in the Tennessee Legislature.
The Democratic primary for state Senate District 30 features a challenge of incumbent Sen. Sara Kyle by former state Sen. Beverly Marrero.
In the Democratic primary for State House District 90, incumbent John DeBerry faces a challenge from Tami Sawyer.
In the Republican primary for State House District 95, incumbent Curry Todd has three challengers.
Early voting for the Aug. 4 elections begins July 15.
The ballot features a set of state and federal primaries combined with a single countywide race for General Sessions Court Clerk, a single contested nonpartisan Shelby County Schools board race, a set of state appellate court judicial retention races and four contested judicial races – for Circuit Court judge, Chancery Court judge and two Bartlett municipal court judgeships.
But it’s what the ballot doesn’t feature, and what’s next on the schedule, that explains why the candidates are working harder to get the attention of voters.
There is no statewide race for governor or U.S. Senate in 2016.
It’s an election cycle that comes around once every 12 years in Tennessee because of the pacing of the four-year term for governor and the staggered, six-year terms for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats.
The lack of statewide primaries on the August ballot by itself doesn’t appear to be a factor in voter turnout based on a review of turnout in Shelby County over the last 40 years.
But the presidential general election to come on the November ballot may play a role in turnout.
This unusual cycle always coincides with a presidential election year.
The August 2004 election cycle drew a 12.2 percent voter turnout in Shelby County. The presidential general election that year saw incumbent Republican President George W. Bush being challenged by Democratic nominee John Kerry.
A dozen years before that in 1992, however, the county’s August election turnout was 39.44 percent just a few months in advance of Democratic nominee Bill Clinton’s challenge of incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush.
And the 1980 August elections drew a 26.5 percent local turnout ahead of the November presidential general election in which Republican challenger Ronald Reagan defeated Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter.
The presidential general election is the most popular election cycle in Shelby County politics by voter turnout. It is the only election cycle that consistently draws a majority of the county’s voters to the polls.
The 2016 race for the White House tops a ballot that includes state and federal general elections for the Tennessee Legislature and Congress with the winners from August advancing to spots on the November ballot.
In Shelby County, the November ballot also features local nonpartisan elections in four of the suburban towns and cities.
The fields in those suburban races began forming May 20, the first day contenders could pull qualifying petitions at the Shelby County Election Commission. The filing deadline is noon Aug. 18.
The suburban elections feature two races for mayor in Collierville and Millington.
Incumbent Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner is seeking another four-year term of office.
Collierville alderman Tom Allen, whose Position 4 seat isn’t on the ballot until 2018, has pulled a petition to challenge Joyner but had not filed as of Tuesday, May 31.
In Millington, incumbent mayor Terry Jones has not pulled a petition. But alderman Mike Caruthers has. Caruthers also has a second petition out to run for re-election to his Position 7 alderman seat.
The three Germantown school board races on the November ballot were drawing most of the early attention from those weighing runs for office in the suburbs.
Position 1 incumbent Linda Fisher, who is chairwoman of the school board, has two potential challengers, Suzanne Jones and Amy Eoff.
Eoff and Jones also have petitions out for Position 3 where incumbent Natalie Williams is seeking another term on the school board.
Jones also has a third petition out for school board Position 5, the seat held by incumbent Ken Hoover. Mindy Fischer has also pulled a petition for Position 5.
Jones filed last week for Position 5.