VOL. 133 | NO. 154 | Monday, August 6, 2018
Harris Claims County Mayor, Democrats Sweep Other Countywide Offices
By Bill Dries
State Sen. Lee Harris easily beat County Trustee David Lenoir to become the next Shelby County mayor in the Thursday, Aug. 2, county general election, leading a Democratic resurgence in county politics.
With all 166 precincts reporting, the unofficial results awaiting certification by the Shelby County Election Commission are:
Lee Harris arrives at the Hattiloo Theatre during the democratic primary election in May. Harris was elected Shelby County Mayor on August 2 in a county general election that saw Democrats sweep all 10 countywide offices on the ballot. (Daily News File/Houston Cofield)
Democratic nominees claimed all 10 countywide offices, not counting the four special elections for nonpartisan judicial positions, in a reversal of partisan fortunes after Republicans won all but one countywide office – property assessor – in the 2014 elections and took all countywide positions in the same election cycle in 2010.
With the Democratic sweep, Sheriff-elect Floyd Bonner is the first African-American elected sheriff in the county’s history defeating Republican nominee Dale Lane.
Democrats also picked up a seat on the Shelby County Commission, with eight of the 13 commissioners who take office Sept. 1 in the Democratic column.
The body was already assured of having a majority of at least eight new members with five of the current commissioners term-limited, two others choosing not to seek re-election after one term and the defeat of Republican incumbent Steve Basar in the May primaries.
The new commissioners elected Thursday are Republicans Amber Mills, David Bradford, Brandon Morrison and Mick Wright as well as Democrats Michael Whaley, Tami Sawyer, Mickell Lowery and Edmund Ford Jr.
“This year, we worked as a team. We were organized. We made sure we had the resources to execute,” Harris told supporters, speaking of the local Democratic effort as a whole Thursday evening at his Downtown victory party.
Democrats fielded nominees in every county race on the ballot and have nominees in every state legislative race in the county on the November general election ballot.
“We recruited like crazy,” Harris said. “As a result, the Democratic ticket for countywide office and for County Commission included some of the most highly-credentialed women and men that you have seen in a long time.”
Harris ran on the slogan of a “New Era” in county government, promising lots of changes from the “status quo” if elected. That contrasted sharply with Lenoir, who termed the new era approach “radical” and promised stable leadership and fiscally conservative policies with the endorsement of outgoing county mayor Mark Luttrell.
“Our community is chock-full of men and women with ideas and innovation. We’re bursting at the seams with all sorts of folks,” Harris said. “We’re ready to lead in politics, industry and arts. These men and women are out there. We may not have heard of them before they’re ready. They’re just waiting for the green light. To them, ‘I say go.’”
Harris complimented Lenoir on a race well run. And Lenoir congratulated Harris on the victory.
The election drew a turnout of 27.3 percent – 153,583 voters in the countywide race for county mayor – the largest turnout of any of the countywide races on the ballot.
That compares to 27 percent turnout four years ago in the same election cycle and a 29.5 percent turnout in 2010.
The local results came on the same night that Franklin businessman and political newcomer Bill Lee won the statewide Republican primary for Tennessee governor over former Tennessee Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd, with U.S. Rep. Diane Black and state House speaker Beth Harwell finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the hard fought primary.
Black carried Shelby County by 45 votes over Lee in the unofficial results. Boyd finished third and Harwell fourth.
With all 166 precincts reporting the countywide unofficial totals are:
Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who claimed the Democratic nomination statewide, carried Shelby County easily over state House Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley.
The county election results also saw three Memphis City Council members elected to county office: Edmund Ford Jr. to the County Commission, Bill Morrison as Probate Court Clerk and Janis Fullilove Juvenile Court Clerk in the closest race of the evening – beating Republican and Bartlett alderman Bobby Simmons by 1,001 votes.
Depending on when each resigns from their council seat, their vacancies could be filled by appointments made by other council members or go on the Nov. 6 ballot. Three council members won election to the County Commission in 1994 and all three council seats were on the ballot that November.
Meanwhile, city voters ratified Thursday the council’s appointment of Ford Canale to the Super District 9 council seat vacated in May with the resignation of Philip Spinosa to take a job with the Greater Memphis Chamber.
Canale won the special election over six other contenders with Shelby County Schools teacher Erika Sugarmon being his closest competitor.
Lisa Moore 8,233
Charley Burch 3,995
Tim Ware 2,880
Tyrone Romeo Franklin 1,736
David Winston 1,669
Canale serves in the council seat to the end of 2019. He can seek a four-year term when city elections are held in October 2019.
And voters approved an amendment to the county charter that allows those holding the offices of mayor, sheriff, trustee, assessor, county clerk and register to automatically get any pay raise the Tennessee Legislature approves for state employees even during their term of office. It also keeps the County Commission’s ability to also raise the pay of those same officials for their next term of office.
With all 166 precincts reporting, the unofficial final results are:
Two incumbent SCS board members were upset in re-election bids while two others were re-elected.
District 1 school board member Chris Caldwell lost to challenger Michelle McKissack
Kate Ayers 2,325
Michael Scruggs 1,473
And District 9 school board member Mike Kernell lost to challenger Joyce Dorse-Coleman.
Kori Hamner 1,846
Rhonnie Brewer 1,386
Alvin Crook 1,000
Incumbents Shante Avant, who is the current chair of the SCS board, and Billy Orgel won re-election.
SCS board member Scott McCormick, whose school board seat was not on the ballot this year, won the Republican primary in state House District 96 over de-annexation advocate Patricia Possel.
McCormick will challenge incumbent Democrat Dwayne Thompson for the suburban seat in the November election.
Elsewhere in the Shelby County delegation to the Tennessee Legislature, incumbent Democratic state Sen. Reginald Tate was upset by primary challenger Katrina Robinson in the first election challenge Tate faced in 12 years as a state senator.
With the primary win, Robinson claims the seat in January by virtue of no Republican opposition in the Nov. 6 general election.
Democratic state Rep. Raumesh Akbari beat outgoing county commissioner Justin Ford to advance in the race to fill the District 29 state Senate seat Harris gave up to run for county mayor.
Akbari faces Republican Tom Stephens in the November general election.
London Lamar won the Democratic primary to claim Akbari’s District 91 state House seat with no Republican opposition in the November general election.
Doris Deberry Bradshaw 2,134
Juliette Eskridge 1,681
Political newcomer Gabby Salinas is the Democratic nominee in state Senate District 31, facing Republican incumbent Brian Kelsey in the November general election.
David Weatherspoon 6,888
M. Rodanial Ransom 1,499
In the four special judicial elections on the ballot, two of the four judges appointed to fill vacancies on the bench lost their bids to be elected to serve into 2022.
Division 7 Circuit Court Judge Mary Wagner won the rest of the term of office, easily defeating Michael Floyd.
So did General Sessions Environmental Court Judge Patrick Dandridge, who was challenged by attorney Price Harris.
Division 9 Circuit Court Judge David Rudolph lost to judicial commissioner Yolanda R. Kight.
And attorney Jennifer J. Mitchell upset Division 10 Criminal Court Judge Jennifer Nichols, who came to the bench from being deputy district attorney general.
And the statewide Democratic and Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Bob Corker confirmed the move of frontrunners Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn, who began their general election campaigns pointed toward the Nov. 6 ballot long ago.
Bredesen is the Democratic nominee by the unofficial results and Blackburn the Republican nominee. Both carried Shelby County as well.
And finally, the incumbent David Kustoff defeated challenger George Flinn in the Shelby County Republican primary for the 8th Congressional District.
For Flinn, the heavy television ad buy with attack ads has become a hallmark of his numerous campaigns for county office as well as the 8th and 9th Congressional District seats.
Kustoff carried Shelby County in taking the rest of the 15-county district that consists mostly of rural West Tennessee.
Kustoff faces Erika Stotts Pearson in the companion Democratic primary, carrying Shelby County as well. Stotts Pearson won the Republican primary in a narrow victory over John Boatner of Memphis.