VOL. 133 | NO. 45 | Friday, March 2, 2018
May Primaries Feature More Candidates, Women
By Bill Dries
The May 1 Shelby County primary ballot is set, with 33 Republicans and 50 Democrats seeking 23 county offices – specifically the right to advance as the nominees of their respective parties to the August county general election.
The Shelby County Election Commission certified the ballot Tuesday, Feb. 27, and set early voting for April 11-26.
The 83 contenders top the number of Democratic and Republican candidates in the 2010 and 2014 county primary elections – 77 in 2010 and 69 in 2014.
With Shelby County’s May primary election ballot certified, 83 contenders are running for 23 county offices, including more women candidates than in the 2010 and 2014 primaries. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
Democrats are touting the 17 women running in their county primaries as a response to the policies and remarks of President Donald Trump in a county that was carried by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential general election.
The 2018 ballot count compares to 13 women each in the 2010 and 2014 county Democratic primaries.
The group of 17 women were to be featured at a Democratic rally Thursday morning in the Broad Avenue Arts District.
Women led last month’s Take Back Tennessee rally, which was held at the National Civil Rights Museum and featured leaders of Trump resistance and other progressive political organizations.
“We’re the blackest and bluest county in the state. We are the one that makes it count,” said Katrina Robinson, owner of The Health Care Institute, who is challenging incumbent Democratic state Sen. Reginald Tate in District 33 on the August state and federal primary ballot.
Robinson likened the plight of progressives in general and women in particular to sitting at the “kiddie table” instead of the “grown folks table” at Thanksgiving.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the reality is we are still sitting at the kiddie table,” she said. “Part of our challenge is having people at the table who don’t know they belong there. It’s incumbent upon us, the people in this room, to do the work.”
Ken Taylor, who organized the rally, said any local progressive coalition depends on women.
“It’s very clear that women and African-American women have led the way time after time again.”
There are eight women among the 29 Republican primary candidates, including Joy Touliatos, who is running for county mayor as she completes her second term as Juvenile Court clerk.
Republicans had six women running in the 2014 county primaries and two in 2010.
Fielding candidates in every one of the 23 primary races was among the priorities of the Shelby County Democratic Party, which re-formed last year after its charter was dissolved by the state Democratic Party.
Two of the Democratic women on the ballot – J. Racquel Collins and Monica Timmerman, who are both running in primaries for Shelby County Commission seats – are among a group of eight contenders who effectively won their Democratic primary at the filing deadline in February because they had no opposition.
The other early Democratic primary winners are Tom Carpenter and Kevin Haley, who are also running for County Commission; incumbent Democratic commissioners Willie Brooks, Reginald Milton and Van Turner; and Bill Morrison, the Memphis City Council member running for Probate Court clerk.
Seven Republican contenders won their primaries by virtue of being unopposed in the May primaries at the filing deadline. Four are contenders for Shelby County Commission, including incumbent Mark Billingsley, along with David C. Bradford, Sam Goff and Sharon Webb, who are running for three of the four open seats now held by Republicans not seeking re-election this year.
The other contenders unopposed in the May Republican primaries are incumbent Criminal Court clerk Richard DeSaussurre, Shelby County Sheriff candidate Dale Lane, and Wayne Mashburn, who is running for Register of Deeds from his current position of Shelby County Clerk.
There are some differences in the last three county primaries in this even-year election cycle.
The 2010 primaries did not include Assessor of Property, which was still on the other even-year county election cycle. It moved to this election cycle in 2014.
And the Shelby County Commission did not have a set of 13 single-member districts in 2010. It had four districts, each represented by three separately elected commissioners, and one single-member district.
The multimember districts covering a large area prompted what amounted to a political understanding among Democratic and Republican partisans.
In 2010, there were no Democratic candidates in the primaries for the six commission seats in the two majority-Republican districts. And there were no Republican candidates in the primaries for the six commission seats in the two majority-Democratic districts.
The only commission race featuring a Democratic and Republican nominee was in the single-member commission district that determined which party would have a seven-seat majority.
The 2010 elections were the last for that commission structure. In the redistricting based on the 2010 census, the commission voted to change to all single-member districts.
The primaries in 2014 included the race for district attorney general, which is held every eight years and won’t be on the ballot again until 2022.
Republicans had 13 uncontested county primaries in 2014, reflecting the Republican incumbents who swept every countywide office in the 2010 general election seeking re-election.
Five Republican countywide office holders were term-limited as a result of winning re-election in 2014, with three of them – Trustee David Lenoir, Register Tom Leatherwood and County Clerk Wayne Mashburn – seeking other countywide offices in the transition. Lenoir is running for county mayor, Leatherwood for Circuit Court clerk and Mashburn for county register.
The County Commission will have at least seven new faces with five current commissioners – three Democrats and two Republicans – term-limited. Republican commissioners George Chism and David Reaves decided not to run for second terms on the commission. Chism is running for county trustee.