VOL. 133 | NO. 89 | Thursday, May 3, 2018
Harris, Lenoir to Battle for County Mayor
By Bill Dries
Republican David Lenoir and Democrat Lee Harris will meet in the Aug. 2 county general election to decide who will be the next Shelby County mayor. Lenoir and Harris won their respective primaries easily Tuesday, May 1, 2018.
Lenoir, the outgoing county trustee, beat county commissioner Terry Roland and juvenile court clerk Joy Touliatos.
Harris, a state senator, beat former county commissioner Sidney Chism.
With all 166 precincts in, the unofficial combined results – early vote and election day vote – for the Republican primary are: Lenoir, 18,408; Roland, 8,655; Touliatos, 3,115
The unofficial combined results in the Democratic primary are: Harris, 34,081; Chism, 10,425.
The results become official after an audit and certification by the Shelby County Election Commission.
The total number of votes in both mayoral primaries comes to approximately 75,000 votes which is better than the 56,117 voters who turned out for the same election cycle four years ago. The 2014 turnout was 10.7 percent.
The turnout Tuesday by the number of "active" voters in Shelby County, 500,384, was 14.9 percent. By the total of inactive and active voters in Shelby County, 551,506, the turnout Tuesday was 13.4 percent.
The general election campaign for mayor features two nominees who have each said Shelby County faces critical choices if it is to change a course in which poverty is high, economic development is difficult and education is still in a state of flux.
Lenoir, while endorsed by Republican incumbent Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, has called for a tax cut by resetting the recertified county property tax rate of last year that was then reduced by the commission 2 cents further.
Lenoir has said the new tax rate following the property reappraisal was a tax increase on average.
He has also said he will appoint what amounts to a cabinet position if elected that will deal exclusively with the needs of public education in a county that has seven public school systems. Improving education, Lenoir has said, should be the top priority in trying to deal with the county’s historically high level of poverty.
Harris has campaigned as the leader of what he calls a “new era” movement that is as much about shaking up the ranks of Democratic Party leaders as it is challenging Republicans. But Harris has also made clear that he intends to challenge local Republicans to define where they stand on the policies of Republican President Donald Trump.
Harris has emphasized his ability to get legislation passed in the Legislature with the support of members of the Republican supermajority in the Senate. Harris is one of five Democrats in the chamber of 33 members.
In other countywide races, chief sheriff’s deputy Floyd Bonner won the Democratic primary for sheriff by a 3-to-1 margin over retired sheriff’s office supervisor Bennie Cobb, who was the Democratic nominee in 2014. Bonner had the backing of incumbent Republican Sheriff Bill Oldham, who was term limited from running again. Bonner meets Republican Dale Lane, director of the county Office of Preparedness and a former sheriff’s office supervisor who last ran for sheriff in 2010. Lane ran unopposed in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
Incumbent Republican Probate Court Clerk Paul Boyd was upset by former probate court clerk, county commissioner and Memphis City Schools board member Chris Thomas in Tuesday’s primary with George “Dempsy” Summers finishing third. Thomas meets Memphis City Council member Bill Morrison in the August general election. Morrison ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. Independent Jennings Bernard is also on the August ballot.
Another city council member, Janis Fullilove, easily won the Democratic primary for Juvenile Court Clerk, beating rivals Morrie Noel and Harold C. Smith. She will face Republican Bartlett alderman Bobby Simmons, who beat trustee’s office employee Robert Hill, in the August county general election.
Former city council member Wanda Halbert is the Democratic nominee for Shelby County Clerk over Jamal Whitlow and Mondell Williams. She will face Donna Creson, who beat Sohelia Kail and Arnold Weiner in the Republican primary. The winner succeeds Republican incumbent Wayne Mashburn who was term limited from seeking another term and is running as the Republican nominee for register of deeds.
The unofficial results in the Democratic primary for county clerk are: Halbert, 32,536; Whitlow, 7,600; Williams, 3,266.
The unofficial results in the Republican primary for county clerk are: Creson, 12,666; Weiner, 7,458; Kail, 5,383.
The primary wins by Thomas, Halbert and Fullilove demonstrate the value of incumbency, even if it is a different office than the one being sought, and the power of name recognition depending on who is in a race.
Outgoing Register Tom Leatherwood, who was term limited after two terms, is the Republican nominee for Circuit Court Clerk, beating rivals Michael Finney, John Lackey and Steve Moore for the position Republican incumbent Jimmy Moore decided not to seek re-election to. Leatherwood, a former state senator, faces Temika Gipson, who beat Del Gill in the Democratic primary.
The unofficial results in the Republican primary are: Leatherwood, 23,058; Moore, 1,968; Finney, 1,872; Lackey, 999.
The unofficial results in the Democratic primary are: Gipson, 30,840; Gill, 11,065.
Leatherwood said later that he ran without ordering any yard signs or campaign literature in what amounted to a test of sorts.
“I thought I’d let my public service speak. I did a little test of the decades of public service and what it would mean,” he said. “Going into it with that perspective, it makes me feel good. Nothing against the opponents. I’ve tried to stress customer service.”
Outgoing Shelby County commissioner Melvin Burgess easily took the Democratic primary for assessor of property over Lorie Ingram while Robert “Chip” Trouy of the assessor’s office claimed the Republican nomination over Keith Alexander – the 2014 Republican nominee for assessor who in the interim made several appearances on a white nationalist radio talk show. The winner in the August county general election, which includes independent Katherine Culverhouse, succeeds Democratic incumbent Cheyenne Johnson who was term limited.
The unofficial results in the Republican primary are: Trouy, 16,540; Alexander, 10,018.
The unofficial results in the Democratic primary are: Burgess, 29,707; Ingram, 13,946.
Trouy’s victory eliminates the need for what local Republican Party chairman Lee Mills said would have likely been a challenge to the party primary board of Alexander’s status as party nominee. Mills disavowed Alexander’s candidacy.
If Trouy had lost, he would have made the challenge of Alexander under party rules.
Former county trustee Regina Morrison Newman is the Democratic nominee for the office Lenoir is leaving in his bid to become county mayor. Lenoir upset Newman eight years ago when Republicans swept every countywide office from Democrats in the 2010 elections.
Newman beat former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president Joseph Lee and Derrick Bennett in the primary. She meets outgoing Shelby County commissioner George Chism, who beat Dexter Orman in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
The general election race for register is a matchup between Democrat Shelandra Ford, who beat Adrienne Pakis-Gillon Tuesday, and Republican Wayne Mashburn, who ran unopposed in Tuesday’s companion primary, as well as independent Lady J. Swift.
Heidi Kuhn, a former executive director of the Crime Victims Center and deputy director of the county Community Services Division, will challenge Republican incumbent Criminal Court Clerk Richard DeSaussure in the August county general election. Kuhn beat rivals Carla Stotts-Hill and Amanda Scott Hill in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, in the closest countywide race on the ballot – a 688-vote margin. DeSaussure ran unopposed in his primary.