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VOL. 131 | NO. 223 | Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day Ends Contentious Presidential Contest

By Bill Dries

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In a contentious national campaign for president that has tested the boundaries of what is considered proper political discourse and what should be public, local Democratic and Republican partisans have mostly been spectators as the 2016 presidential campaign comes to an end Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Election Day polling places are open Tuesday, Nov. 8, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The presidential election cycle is the most popular in Shelby County – more than half of registered county voters consistently vote in it. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

They’ve flown the banners of, used the talking points of and declared allegiance to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump and Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

Not only did Shelby County not see either Trump or Clinton after the March Tennessee presidential primaries, Shelby County didn’t even see surrogates for the Democratic and Republican nominees as they, too, were pressed into service in battleground states.

Memphis did get post-primary visits from Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Bill Weld – representing two of the five other presidential tickets on the Tennessee ballot.

Polls are open Tuesday in Shelby County from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To find your Election Day polling place go to www.shelbyvote.com, the website of the Shelby County Election Commission.

Follow the vote count @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, with live coverage after the polls close at 7 p.m., including web stories at www.memphisdailynews.com, recapping the early vote totals when they are released and then the final unofficial vote totals, Election Day and early voting combined.

The totals include races for both U.S. House seats representing Shelby County, all 14 state House seats covering Shelby County and two of the county’s five state Senate seats. Both of the state Senate incumbents – Democrat Sara Kyle and Republican Mark Norris – are running unopposed. So are eight of the 14 House contenders.

There are contested races for mayor in Millington and Collierville as well as school board and alderman races there and in Bartlett and Germantown. There are also four ballot questions.

More than 100 Clinton supporters, many dressed in pants suits, rallied Sunday afternoon with a march across the Big River Crossing.

In the close quarters of the crossing, there was a political exchange.

“Trump’s going to beat her ass,” a woman said as she passed going the opposite direction of the Clinton supporters on the boardwalk. The Clinton group came with its own music – playing a recording of the 1970s Helen Reddy anthem “I Am Woman.”

“I’m with her,” those in another part of the Clinton column chanted. And a man walking in the opposite direction filled every pause with “for prison.”

Even with that, the river view was the prevailing view on the Sunday between the end of early voting and Election Day.

The column of Clinton supporters was absorbed into a mix of walkers, bikers, runners, strollers – baby and adult, walkers, walkers with dogs – families, couples and the solitary – all on the east-west axis over a southbound river.

Some found gently used pants suits online or in second-hand stores. Some on the other side of the generational divide simply went to the backs of their closets.

The night before in Germantown, Republican congressional candidate David Kustoff completed his last bus tour – 15 stops in two days – a stop for each of the 15 counties in the 8th Congressional District.

In winning a 13-candidate primary in August to become the heavy favorite in Tuesday’s general election, Kustoff said he hasn’t had much of a chance to focus on anything political beyond his own race. But Kustoff is backing Trump.

“Republican are united behind Donald Trump and I think we need to be proud of that,” Kustoff said to a cheering group of 100 Republicans Saturday evening at the last stop on the bus tour, the clubhouse at Devonshire Gardens in Germantown. “He will carry the 8th District by a country mile.”

Outgoing 8th District Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher acknowledged some misgivings among Republicans about Trump’s campaign.

“I’ve heard about as much as I can hear from all of – I’ve got to be careful here,” Fincher began. “Trump has faults like we all do. But he is our nominee and that’s who we need to put in office Tuesday. This is not multiple choice so don’t be confused. He’s not perfect, but he will help move our country forward.”

Fincher painted the presidential race in broader ideological terms.

“The problem with Democrats is that socialism and big government only helps the people at the top,” he said to applause from the crowd.

Democratic leaders rallied Friday evening at a home in Chickasaw Gardens with Bill Freeman of Nashville, the co-chair of Clinton’s Tennessee campaign, making no concessions about the misgivings some Democrats might have about Clinton.

“Even though the numbers aren’t entirely in our favor as Democrats in Tennessee, we still need to turnout the vote and have a good choice,” he said after the backyard rally. “(Former President) Bill Clinton is almost from Tennessee. We just need to return that favor and turnout the vote, especially in these down ballot races.”

During the rally Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, who faces his easiest path to re-election since claiming the 9th District seat in 2006, said there is a “big difference” between Democrats and Republicans and a bigger difference between Republicans and Trump.

“The Republicans are not like Donald Trump. Nobody’s like Donald Trump,” he said. “The man is a sociopathic narcissist who has no business being in society because he’s a menace to everybody. Hillary Clinton is a competent professional.”

Democratic state Sen. Lee Harris of Memphis was more pointed on the impact of Trump’s rhetoric in a county where the Democratic base is the majority and expected to go Hillary Clinton’s way even as the state and its 11 electoral votes are expected to go to Trump.

“A lot of people want to be on record this year,” Harris said. “They want to say, ‘I remember when I voted against Donald Trump. I remember when I voted for the first woman to take the White House.’ They want to be able to say that for the rest of their lives.”

Shelby County Republican party chairman Lee Mills says even if Shelby County is carried by Clinton on Tuesday, the Republican base outside the city but within the county is critical to Trump carrying the state.

“One of the largest, if not the largest Republican voting blocks in the state of Tennessee,” Mills said of the Shelby County base. “People forget that. Will Shelby County go blue this time? Possibly. It might be light blue. I believe record numbers of African-Americans will vote for Donald Trump this time.”

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