VOL. 133 | NO. 54 | Thursday, March 15, 2018
August State and Federal Primary Ballot Taking Shape
By Bill Dries
With less than a month to file for the August state and federal primary elections, there are still a few decisions to be made by would-be candidates working in the shadows of those running in the May 1 county primary elections.
But the primaries for the Tennessee Legislature are already looking different than they have in recent years when Democrats tended to avoid running in predominantly Republican districts and Republicans avoided running in predominantly Democratic districts.
Of the 14 incumbent House members who represent Shelby County in the Legislature, four had no opposition in either party primary as of the end of business Monday, March 12.
The state and federal primary ballot in August is starting to take shape with less than a month to the April 5 filing deadline. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
That could change by the noon April 5 filing deadline.
The incumbents are District 84 Rep. Joe Towns; District 87 Rep. Karen Camper; District 98 Rep. Antonio Parkinson; and District 99 Rep. Ron Lollar.
Towns, Camper and Parkinson are Democrats. Lollar is Republican.
The three other Republicans in the Shelby House delegation will have Democratic opposition after the August primary. That compares to three state House seats held by Republicans in 2016 that had no Democrat opposition and four in 2014.
Six of the eight state House seats held by Democrats who are seeking re-election had no Republican primary contenders as of Monday. That compares to seven state House primaries for seats held by Democrats where there were no Republican primary candidates and five in 2014.
Local Democratic Party leaders have been calling for a greater Democratic presence in the largely Republican suburbs outside Memphis – Shelby is the largest Republican base in a single county in the state when voters turn out. The Democratic base within Memphis is the largest Democratic base in a single county in the state when its voters turn out.
Democratic state Rep. Dwayne Thompson’s 2016 upset of Republican incumbent Steve McManus in District 96, which takes in parts of Cordova and Germantown, has been a recruiting tool by Democratic Party leaders to field more candidates in the suburbs.
Thompson, so far, has no primary challenger and faces the winner between Shelby County Schools board member Scott McCormick or Patricia Possell, a de-annexation proponent, from the August primary.
Two of the 14 House incumbents for Shelby County are not seeking re-election this year.
District 85 Democrat Johnnie Turner announced in February that she will not run again.
And District 91 Democrat Raumesh Akbari is running for the District 29 state Senate seat that Democrat Lee Harris is giving up to run for Shelby County mayor.
Joining Akbari in the Democratic primary for Harris’ Senate seat are County Commissioner Justin Ford and Ricky W. Dixon. Republican Tom Stephens has filed in the Republican primary.
All four of the incumbent Shelby County Schools board members whose nonpartisan positions are on the August ballot have pulled or filed their petitions to seek re-election and all have potential challengers. The four incumbents are board chairwoman Shante Knox Avant, Chris Caldwell, Billy Orgel and Mike Kernell.
The remaining five seats on the school board are on the other even-year county election cycle. State law requires the staggered terms.
Since General Sessions Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter announced his retirement in February effective March 1, four attorneys have pulled petitions to run for the vacancy on the August ballot. They include city public works deputy director Patrick Dandridge, whom Potter has said he would like to see get the interim appointment by the Shelby County Commission; attorney Danny Kail, who was a candidate earlier for County Clerk before his wife, Sohelia Kail, who works for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office as a finance manager, filed for that race in a joint decision; attorney Robert “Price” Harris, who is the first contender to file in the race; and Carlyn Addison, a magistrate judge with Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County and former Environmental Court referee.
There are three other judicial special elections on the August ballot – two for Circuit Court judge and one for Criminal Court judge. In all four cases, the contenders are running for the remainder of the eight-year term of office through the 2022 elections when all of the judicial offices with eight-year terms are on the ballot.
The only new contender to pull for any of those three races so far this month is attorney Joe Townsend, who is running for Circuit Court Division 4. Townsend joins candidates David Rudolph, who was appointed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to the vacancy, and attorney Yolanda R. Kight.
The Circuit Court Division 7 race remains between Mary Wagner, also appointed by Haslam to the vacancy, and attorney Michael G. Floyd.
The race for Criminal Court Division 10 is between Jennifer Smith Nichols, appointed to the vacancy by Haslam, and attorneys Handel R. Durham Jr. and Jennifer J. Mitchell.
There are a handful of independent candidates for non-judicial county offices who automatically advance to the Aug. 2 ballot without a primary to meet the Democratic and Republican nominees.
Vontyna Durham, who had pulled several qualifying petitions, has filed for Shelby County Commission District 10. Durham was recently indicted by the Shelby County grand jury for felony littering charges. Durham owns a property management business that has contracts with city and county government for anti-blight efforts.
Jennings Bernard has filed to run as an independent in the August general election for Probate Court Clerk.