The latest round of Election 2004 was concluded last Thursday without surprise -- at least in the Shelby County results.
• Assessor Rita Clark, a Democrat, won a third four-year term in the countywide general election, handily turning back a challenge from Republican Harold Sterling, whom she had ousted in 1996. Unofficial totals from all 283 county precincts showed Clark with 43,518 votes, or 59 percent of the total, and Sterling with 29,741, or 41 percent.
Though there were charges and countercharges in the bitterly contentious race, things may ultimately have been decided by simple arithmetic, with Clark's incumbency, gender, and status as a white Democrat all contributing to her margin.
• General Sessions Court clerk Chris Turner, a Republican, won a narrow victory over his Democratic challenger, state senator Roscoe Dixon, with independent H.A. Branch, like Dixon an African American, conceivably taking enough votes to have influenced the outcome.
Totals from the 283 precincts had Turner with 36,549, or 50 percent of the total vote; Dixon with 35,088, or 48 percent; and Branch with 1,738. Though Branch made a point of endorsing Dixon on Wednesday, the day before the election, there were cynics who suggested -- as is customary in such circumstances -- that he was in the race as a spoiler.
• Chancellor Arnold Goldin, a 2002 appointee by former Governor Don Sundquist to succeed the late Floyd Peete, easily defeated challenger Karen Tyler in a special election.
Though Goldin took nothing for granted and ran hard, he was the prohibitive favorite over the virtually unknown Tyler. Though he was billed by local Republicans as a member of their ticket, the judicial position is officially nonpartisan, and Goldin -- who had been recommended to Sundquist by a nonpartisan lawyers' panel -- had the avowed support of numerous prominent Democrats as well as the GOP establishment.
Vote totals were: Goldin, 37,283 (57 percent); Tyler, 27,824 (43 percent).
• In the most closely watched (and theoretically most competitive) of several contested legislative primaries, lawyer Brian Kelsey won out over five Republican opponents in the GOP primary for the District 83 seat vacated this year by longtime Republican incumbent Joe Kent. Kelsey will oppose Democrat Julian Prewitt in November.
Totals for all 21 precincts were: Kelsey, 3,169 (45 percent); Chuck Bates, 1,784 (25 percent); Mark White, 1,102 (15 percent); Charles W. McDonald, 538 (7.5 percent); Stan Peppenhorst, 307 (4 percent); and Pat Collins, 257 (3.5 percent).
Kelsey's larger-than-expected margin surprised most observers. His focus on mailouts, phone banks, and door-to-door canvassing proved a superior strategy in the end to the TV-heavy tactics of his two main opponents, Bates and White, though Bates too had gone door-to-door.
• In other contested legislative primaries, District 95 House incumbent Curry Todd easily beat newcomer Dan Dickerson in the Republican primary with 4,151 votes (81 percent) to Dickerson's 956 (19 percent); District 85 House incumbent Larry Turner won renomination with 3,264 votes (70 percent), over Errol Harmon, 1,087 votes (23 percent), and Paul Lewis, 319 votes (seven percent).
Neither Democratic incumbent Mike Kernell nor Republican challenger John Pellicciotti had opposition in their respective District 93 primaries, but Pellicciotti made a point, early in the evening, of noting that he had polled slightly more votes than had Kernell. It didn't end that way, however. Kernell finished with 1,526, votes and Pelliciotti had 1,233.
That race, plus one in District 89 between Democratic incumbent Beverly Marrero and GOP challenger Jim Jamieson, will be closely watched in November. So will the race in District 92 between Democratic incumbent Henri Brooks and write-in Republican candidate D. Jack Smith, a former Democratic member of the House who achieved national attention in the 1960s for sponsoring a bill to repeal the state's "Scopes law" outlawing the teaching of evolution.
Smith, who lost a previous comeback race in 1992 against then incumbent state representative Karen Williams, now a Circuit Court judge, has indicated he will make an issue of Brooks' well-publicized refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in sessions of the General Assembly. n
POLITICS by JACKSON BAKER
"In the Clutch":
Shelby County Democrats played host last week to Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards at a well-attended Beale Street rally. For detailed coverage of that event, go to the "On the Fly" section of the Flyer Web site, MemphisFlyer.com.