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VOL. 133 | NO. 144 | Friday, July 20, 2018

Democrats, Republicans Release Endorsement Ballots

By Bill Dries

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A group of Democrats including former U.S. representative Harold Ford Sr. is preparing to mail and distribute at the polls 60,000 endorsement ballots at no cost to the Democratic contenders on the ballot.

Shelby County Democrats for Change also is urging the candidates it backs to bypass other endorsement ballots that candidates pay to be on. The paid ballots are a regular feature of local Democratic politics.

Meanwhile, the Shelby County Democratic Party released its official ballot on Wednesday, July 18.

The official party ballot endorses all of the Democratic nominees in the county general elections and candidates in three of the four nonpartisan special elections for judge on the Aug. 2 ballot. It doesn’t endorse in state and federal primaries.

From its roll out on July 13 through July 18, more than 16,000 Shelby County citizens have voted in the early voting period that runs through July 28. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

Local Democratic officials also warned against similar-looking paid ballots.

“All of those ballots are paid-for advertisements and do not represent the positions of the Democratic Party,” Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Corey Strong said Wednesday in a written statement.

“The creators of these (other) ballots are in business which is their right but hide behind misleading names in order to confuse voters,” Strong said. “If it doesn’t have the exact name ‘Shelby County Democratic Party’, the SCDP logo, or my face, it is just putting money in someone’s pocket.”

The Shelby County Democrats for Change ballot breaks from the local party ballot in endorsing former Nashville mayor Karl Dean in the statewide Democratic primary for governor over Ripley state House member Craig Fitzhugh. It also omits Democratic nominee for Juvenile Court clerk Janis Fullilove and Shelandra Ford, the party’s nominee for register. It makes no endorsement of any candidate in those two races as well as nine of the 13 races for Shelby County Commission.

“We see a big change happening in this election,” former local Democratic Party chairman David Cocke said during a weekend launch and fundraiser at Serenity Funeral Home on Sycamore View Road, one of several funeral homes owned by Ford.

“This is a ballot from the heart,” Cocke said, noting that the effort would accept donations from the candidates.

The Shelby County Republican Party ballot that’s showing up in mailboxes also makes no endorsements in the state and federal primaries. It also backs all of the party’s nominees in the county general election races and makes endorsements in all four of the nonpartisan special judicial races. It prominently features photos of mayoral nominee David Lenoir and nominee for sheriff Dale Lane.

“You may choose to vote in either party’s primary election and still vote for Republican county candidates such as David Lenoir and Dale Lane,” it adds next to the pictures of Lenoir and Lane.

Meanwhile, there were already at least two paid-endorsement ballots in circulation.

The Shelby County Democratic Club ballot paid for by the Committee to Elect Democrats is topped by a picture of former President Barack Obama as well as retired Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown and Mark Clayton, a candidate in the Democratic primary for Tennessee governor.

Clayton is an anti-LGBT activist and leader of a hate group, as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2012, carrying Shelby County in the process and was disavowed by the Tennessee Democratic Party as soon as he claimed the nomination.

The ballot’s endorsements are topped by Lee Harris in the general election race for county mayor and Floyd Bonner in the race for sheriff.

The ballot’s coordinator is listed at the bottom of the ballot as M. Latroy Alexandria-Williams, a candidate in the Ninth Congressional District Democratic primary who went to Chancery Court to have his name put on the August primary ballot after state Democratic Party officials voted not to list him as a candidate.

The local party has quarreled with Williams in the past about several endorsement ballots he puts out that bear the word Democratic prominently.

The Memphis Democratic Club ballot is put out by Greater Memphis Democratic Club Inc., listing Greg Grant as president.

Like the Shelby County Democratic Club, it endorses Democratic state Sen. Reginald Tate for re-election in the August primary despite Tate being censured on Tuesday by the local Democratic Party. The MDC ballot also touts Tate as “a true Democratic.

The ballot endorses Fitzhugh in the Democratic primary for governor as well as Harris and Bonner in the county general election.

Organizers of such ballots say the payments are necessary to pay for not only the printing but paid poll workers to distribute them at early-voting sites and on Election Day as well as mail them to voters.

Meanwhile, a sign for music producer Tyrone Romeo Franklin, a candidate in the special-election race for City Council Super District 9, includes the line “Endorsed By: GOD.”

PROPERTY SALES 93 424 6,970
MORTGAGES 42 281 4,410
BUILDING PERMITS 196 704 16,619
BANKRUPTCIES 38 174 3,570