2,700 Vote Early, 3 Election Day Polls Move in House District 95

By Bill Dries

A total of 2,700 citizens cast early votes ahead Thursday’s special state House District 95 election in eastern Shelby County. And on election day, three of the 14 polling places – two in Collierville and one in Germantown – will move from their regular locations.

Former County Commissioner Sidney Chism’s annual political picnic in Westwood Saturday was light on the political push in this off-election year for most of Shelby County. But Chism left no doubt that he will be running for Shelby County mayor in next year’s Democratic countywide primaries. (Daily News/Bill Dries)


The Shelby County Election Commission announced the changes last week as early voting was ending. The election is to fill the District 95 seat vacancy created by the resignation of Republican state Rep. Mark Lovell in February.

Collierville 4 is moving the Collierville Church of Christ, 575 W. Shelton Road. Collierville 6 is moving to New Shelby Missionary Baptist Church, 1059 Bray Station Road.

And Germantown 3 is voting on election day at Farmington Elementary School, 2085 Cordes Road.

The special election for the vacant seat is only item on the ballot in a district that is mostly Collierville and contains parts of Germantown and Eads.

It features Republican Kevin Vaughan, Collierville school board member; Democrat Julie Byrd-Ashworth, an attorney; and independent contenders Robert Schutt and Jim Tomasik.

The early voter turnout is 5.2 percent of the 51,000 eligible voters in the district.

Local Democratic and Republican leaders have put a lot of emphasis on the race because of the 2016 upset of Republican incumbent House member Steve McManus by Democratic challenger Dwayne Thompson in neighboring District 96. Thompson has been among the most visible and vocal allies campaigning for Byrd-Ashworth by telling the story of his upset win.

Democrats have repeatedly cited Thompson’s upset victory last year in the Republican suburban areas in trying to build turnout for Byrd-Ashworth.

State Republican Party chairman Scott Golden has told local Republicans that Democrats will try to make the race a referendum on President Donald Trump’s first half a year in office. And he’s urged them to rally around Vaughan.

“We got to get out there,” Democratic Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton said from the stage at former commissioner Sidney Chism’s annual political picnic in Westwood, far from the door-to-door canvassing underway by all sides over the weekend in District 95. “Every vote counts.”

Chism’s picnic was more about the 2018 countywide elections. Chism’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for county mayor dominated the gathering. His supporters wore red T-shirts with a campaign logo featuring the cowboy hat Chism usually sports and the slogan “Together, We Got The Numbers” on the back.

George “Dempsy” Summers, a candidate for Probate Court Clerk who works in county support services, also had a presence at the gathering. Summers also spoke at the Republican Women of Purpose gathering last week.

Chism’s picnic is a bipartisan gathering at which all candidates are welcome, with Chism occasionally exercising his right to endorse another candidate in front of that candidate’s rival.

This year, Chism let the T-shirts and signs do the talking.

Retired sheriff’s deputy Bennie Cobb confirmed he will be seeking the Democratic nomination for Shelby County Sheriff again on the 2018 ballot. Cobb was the party’s nominee in the 2014 elections, losing to incumbent Republican Bill Oldham.

Oldham isn’t running again because of term limits.

“What do you want out of your sheriff?” Cobb asked the crowd, citing the city’s record homicide count of 228 in 2016 as a reason for change in the sheriff’s department.

“I am boots on the ground,” he said of his philosophy of “intervention, prevention and education.”

Oldham’s chief deputy, Floyd Bonner, is seeking the Democratic nomination for sheriff as well and has Oldham’s endorsement.

In the Republican primary, Dale Lane, director of the county’s Office of Preparedness and a former sheriff’s office leader, is running for sheriff. Lane first sought the nomination in 2010.

In a weekend Facebook post, Sam Goff, Midtown Memphis Development Corp. president and a mortgage loan officer, announced he will be running in the Republican primary next year for County Commission District 7, the seat currently held by chairman Melvin Burgess.

Burgess is serving his second consecutive term and cannot seek re-election to the commission because of term limits.

Meanwhile, Shelby County Young Democrats met in Soulsville Saturday and elected Danielle Inez as new president of the organization, which has flown the Democratic banner since last August when the Shelby County Democratic Party was dissolved. The party was ordered disbanded by the Tennessee Democratic Party after years of dysfunction on the local executive committee and disastrous elections in 2010 and 2014 for Democratic candidates.

The reorganization of the county party is pending, with a county party convention tentatively set this month to adopt new bylaws and elect new leaders now looking like a July convention.