VOL. 133 | NO. 142 | Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Shelby County Early Voting Tops 4,300
By Bill Dries
A total of 4,324 citizens had voted early through Monday, July 16, the last day of the 14-day voting period confined to five sites. Early voting expanded Tuesday to 22 additional sites across Shelby County.
The 4,324 early voters compares to 7,838 three days into the early-voting period in 2014 for the same election cycle of county general and state and federal primary elections. By the third day of early voting in 2014, the balloting had expanded to 20 satellite sites after days of voting at the election commission office Downtown.
In the 2010 elections for the same cycle, 8,876 citizens had voted early by the third day of the period, which again marked the point at which 20 other locations opened.
All of the turnout numbers include absentee ballots cast.
The early-voting period continues through July 28 in advance of the Aug. 2 Election Day.
Democratic contender for Tennessee governor Karl Dean was part of a local Democratic Party rally on Friday’s first day of early voting outside Abundant Grace Fellowship Church in Whitehaven – where Democrats had snacks and refreshments beyond the 100-foot markers that separate voters from campaigners.
“I saw a lot of energy. … It was a steady flow of people and it was very hot,” he said. “I felt good about it.”
Democratic nominee for Shelby County mayor Lee Harris referred to the campaigning as voters are making their choices as “drinking water out of a fire hose.”
Harris joked that in the harried campaign schedule of the last two weeks of the season he “kissed a hand and shook a baby.”
Democratic contender for Shelby County Commission Michael Whaley came to a Saturday rally fresh from working the early-voting sites wearing a campaign T-shirt with a whale on the front and the letter y next to the whale. Just in case the message wasn’t clear, he was also sporting a campaign sticker with his name and the office he is running for on it.
Voters also are deciding, among other races on the ballot, the statewide Democratic primary between Dean, the former mayor of Nashville, and Ripley state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh.
Fitzhugh was critical of Dean’s call for “pragmatic” leadership that isn’t partisan in the governor’s office.
“If you get up there in that Republican-led legislature and you’re pragmatic, they are going to roll right over you,” Fitzhugh said in a Memphis speech to the Shelby County Democratic Women.
Speaking to the same group four days later, Dean again said he is running for governor “because I believe the state wants a pragmatic, common-sense, get-it-done person to be their governor.
“I don’t think the state wants a hyper-partisan person or somebody who is going to look at everything through ideological lenses,” he told the group of 40. “They want somebody who can move the state forward and focus on the things that really matter to people.”
Among those issues, according to Dean and Fitzhugh, is an expansion of TennCare, Tennessee’s version of Medicaid that outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam proposed a version of. It couldn’t get to the floor of either chamber in the predominantly Republican House or Senate in 2015 for a vote.
Dean later called the defeat “a classic example of not being pragmatic.”
“It’s being partisan and ideological and it ends up hurting the state,” he said. “You’ve got to be willing to kind of step back on some of that and say how do we move the state forward.”
Fitzhugh has said he would consider vetoing bills passed by Republican majorities in order to leverage support from Republicans for some form of Medicaid expansion in Tennessee.
Dean said he believes a new case can be made for some kind of expansion.
“I think the case for it now is so much stronger and it’s just hard to deny what the results of that ill-fated decision are,” he said, referring to the closing of hospitals in some parts of the state.
He points to surveys by Vanderbilt University that show most Tennesseans favor Medicaid expansion.
“I think it’s doable and I would work hard to get it done,” Dean said, rejecting the alternative of federal block grants to the state to fund such an expansion because he believes it would result in less funding than an expansion of Medicaid.
Meanwhile, Republican contender for governor and state House speaker Beth Harwell has suggested the state seek a waiver from federal officials for the existing TennCare program that she says would yield savings that could be used to pay for an expansion.