VOL. 132 | NO. 193 | Thursday, September 28, 2017
Ford Opens Commission Bid as Lenoir Prepares Formal Start of Mayoral Bid
By Bill Dries
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland putting in an appearance as council member Edmund Ford Jr. launches his bid Wednesday, Sept. 27, for the county commission. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
Memphis City Council member Edmund Ford Jr. kicked off his bid Wednesday, Sept. 27, for the Shelby County Commission on the 2018 ballot at the offices of an East Memphis law firm as Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir rallied supporters in advance of formally kicking off his bid for Shelby County Mayor at a Thursday announcement.
Ford and Lenoir are part of a wave of campaign launches for local, state and federal offices on the 2018 ballot that will crest between now and the end of 2017.
Candidates for nonjudicial county offices on the ballot, starting with the May 2018 primaries, cannot pull qualifying petitions until Nov. 17.
Ford is running in the Democratic primary for the District 9 commission seat currently held by his cousin Justin Ford, who is term-limited at two terms and cannot seek re-election next year. Edmund Ford is also term-limited and cannot seek re-election to the council in the 2019 city elections.
“I plan on working hard. Many of you know me and you know that I’m not a virgin to work,” Ford told a group of 30 in a conference room at the Farris Bobango and Branan Law Offices. “You know it is something that has been instilled in me from the beginning.”
A member of the Ford family has held a seat on the county commission since 1994 when James Ford was elected to the body, with the exception of an interim appointment of Edith Moore to the commission in 2010 as Joe Ford was appointed interim county mayor. Justin Ford, Joe Ford’s son, was elected to the commission later that same year and re-elected in 2014.
A member of the Ford family has held a seat on the Memphis City Council since John Ford, brother of Joe Ford and uncle of Justin and Edmund Ford Jr., was elected to the body in 1971.
Edmund Ford Jr. was introduced by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. The two were on opposite sides in the 2015 race for Memphis Mayor with Strickland challenging incumbent mayor A C Wharton and Ford a vocal backer of Wharton’s re-election effort.
“The county commission will benefit greatly from Edmund Ford Jr.,” Strickland said.
Should Ford win the commission seat, the council would appoint a replacement for what would be a year and four months left in his city term of office. County elected terms of office start Sept. 1.
“There are a few things that I am working on now that I plan on working on as I go – I call it political matriculation – after I go to the other side,” he said, talking about the goal of a summer jobs program that doubles as career training for more teenagers and young adults as well as more funding, private and/or government, to deal with opioid addiction and a Veteran’s Home in Memphis.
Council members who become county commissioners is unusual but not unheard of. James Ford, Shep Wilbun, Michael Hooks Sr. and Bill Gibbons have all done both – Wilbun and Ford from council seats as Edmund Ford is attempting.
City Council member Brent Taylor was appointed to a vacancy on the County Commission.
And going the other way, county commissioner Minerva Johnican was elected to the city council. Council member Oscar Edmonds served on the Shelby County Quarterly Court, the predecessor to the county commission, before being elected to the council.
Lenoir’s announcement Thursday following an event with supporters at the home of Shelby County Schools board member Billy Orgel makes formal his bid for county mayor in the May Republican primary.
Incumbent Republican county mayor Mark Luttrell is term limited. And Lenoir is serving his second and final term as Trustee under county term limits. In the last four years, Lenoir has maintained an aggressive schedule of public appearances as Trustee.
The meetings and other appearances find Lenoir talking about the job of the Trustee and the county’s financial position without ever mentioning the coming bid for county mayor. But the appearances have also helped to build Lenoir’s name recognition county-wide.
That will change with Thursday’s announcement with Lenoir overtly campaigning in a Republican primary field that so far includes Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland and Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos. Former county commissioner Sidney Chism is the only declared candidates so far in the Democratic primary for county mayor.