Mano-a-Mano Developing in Contest for Chairmanship of County Commission

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Sidney Chism; Mike Carpenter
  • Sidney Chism; Mike Carpenter

It won’t happen for a couple of months yet — sometime in August, in fact — but a serious battle is shaping up in the Shelby County Commission over next year’s commission chairmanship.

The two contenders are Mike Carpenter, current commission vice-chair, who by tradition would be expected to ascend to the chairmanship, and current chairman Sidney Chism, who has decided to buck that selfsame tradition and is seeking a second term.

All kinds of backstories are mixed into this scenario, including the fact that Carpenter, a Republican from District 1, which encompasses Memphis’ suburban rim, has pursued a largely independent course on the commission since his first election in 2006, enough so to periodically antagonize his five fellow Republicans. Carpenter became vice chair last year by adding his own vote to that of six Democrats.

As for Chism, a Democrat from District 3, s south-side enclave, he has never made a secret of his wish to serve as chairman for two consecutive terms. And two years ago he was instrumental in preventing a second chairmanship term for fellow Democrat Deidre Malone, who was about to launch a campaign for county mayor. Chism’s vote and that of Democrat Steve Mulroy went instead to Republican Joyce Avery,

Both Chism and Carpenter have lined up some cross-party commitments. Chism can count on votes from the GOP’s Mike Ritz and Terry Roland to go with an indeterminate number of Democrats. Carpenter has probable support from Democrats Mulroy and Henri Brooks and hopes to get other votes from members of both parties.

If Chism should prevail, more than one tradition would fall. Besides deviating from the expectation that a vice-chairman automatically ascends to the chairmanship, such an outcome would also break with the habit of alternating Democratic and Republican chairs year-by-year.

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