Here’s Your List: A Teeming Roster of Candidates to Kick Off the Election Year on May 6

Most county races are contested, as the two major parties prepare to choose sides for a rematch.

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UPDATE: Kenneth Moody, whose filing information was previously incomplete on the Election Commission roster, has qualified to run in the Democratic Party for Juvenile Court clerk.

Pending any changes by next week’s February 27 withdrawal deadline, Shelby Countians are guaranteed some brisk action in this election season, though most of it will occur not in the May 6 countywide primaries but on August 7 when the countywide general election and the state and federal primary dates coincide.

In the short view, there will be a brisk race among Democrats for the right to challenge Republican incumbent County Mayor Mark Luttrell in August. Vying in the May 6 Democratic primary are Shelby County Commission chairman James Harvey, outgoing Commissioner Steve Mulroy, former Commissioner Deidre Malone, and the Rev. Kenneth Whalum, a firebrand former School Board member. On the Republican side, Luttrell has only perennial eccentric Ernest Lunati to worry about.

Seven of the 13 County Commission seats are open ones and will have contested races, several in both primaries, and three of the six incumbents running for reelection will have contested primaries.

The main drama to watch this year in county races will be the attempt by Shelby County Democrats to capitalize on their presumed numerical majority in Shelby County, thereby capturing or recapturing the several clerkships and other chartered county offices that were lost to the Republicans in a GOP sweep in 2010.

That victory is largely credited to the effects on voter turnout of the Republicans’ highly contested three-way gubernatorial primary in 2010 between eventual winner Bill Haslam, then congressman Zach Wamp, and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey.

No such factor will be involved in 2014. If anything, another Democratic primary challenge to 9th district congressman Steve Cohen, this time by well-connected African-American lawyer Ricky Wilkins, will likely boost Democratic turnout disproportionately.

And the X factor will be the presence of Democratic challenger Joe Brown — the former Criminal court Judge who logged 15 years as TV’s “Judge Joe Brown” — in a one-on-one in August against GOP incumbent District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

Brown’s celebrity is expected to pump up Democratic turnout (as well as that of Republicans in their effort to meet the challenge). But he is a high-risk candidate whose demonstrated tendency to overstate matters and breach normal political etiquette could cause an implosion with consequences to the rest of the ticket.

As the keynote speaker at a party “roast” of former Mayor Willie Herenton last year, Brown allowed himself some remarks about gays and women that some attendees considered inappropriate, and at a recent meeting of the Shelby County Democratic Committee he made a series of sensational charges against sitting public officials that went largely unreported by a nervous media for lack of documentation.

But if nothing else Brown will make things interesting.

If there were surprises on Thursday’s filing-deadline day for the May 5 countywide primaries, it was not a case of who filed but who didn’t file by the deadline.

IN SHELBY COUNTY COMMISSION RACES:

Firefighter Dennis Daugherty opted not to challenge GOP incumbent Terry Roland for a DISTRICT 1 County Commission seat, leaving Roland apparently re-elected by default.

Similarly, in Commission DISTRICT 5, Tanya Bartee did not file, clearing the way for Midtown yogurt entrepreneur Taylor Berger, a Democrat and a political newcomer, to challenge Republican incumbent Heidi Shafer.

Colonel Gene Billingsley (not to be confused with County Commissioner Mark Billingsley) decided not to make a token run as a Republican in DISTRICT 7, where incumbent Melvin Burgess’ only rival now is fellow Democrat Brandon Echols.

In Commission DISTRICT 10 — destined to be a race between Democrats, despite a Republican filing by one Geoffrey Diaz — community organizer Reginald Milton had reason for satisfaction, in that his main potential rival, stockbroker/former School Board member Martavius Jones was adjudged to have come up with one short of the requisite number of signatures in the Democratic primary. (Louis Matthew Morganfield also lacked enough signatures.) Jones is expected to make a challenge with the Election Commission.

Newcomer Jake Brown filed, apparently with the right number of signatures, and, as of now, has a de facto one-on-one race against Milton, but, long before filing deadline, the wheels had seemingly begun to come off Brown’s campaign with what is now an open schism between himself and former business associate and campaign manager Liz Rincon.

Other Commission races:

DISTRICT 2 will see two Republicans — David C. Radford Jr., and George Chism — with no Democrats running.

DISTRICT 3, another majority-Republican one, offers a relative free-for-all among Republicans, with candidates Kelly Price, David Reaves (currently a Shelby County Schools board member), Sherry Simmons, and Naser Fazlullah
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DISTRICT 4 pits Republican Mark Billingsley against Ron Fittes in the GOP primary, with Democrat Jacqueline Jackson running unopposed as a Democrat.

DISTRICT 6, predominantly Democratic, features four candidates — Karl Bond, Willie Brooks, Edith Moore, and Kendrick Sneed. Brooks is a former Memphis City Schools board member, and Moore is a former interim Shelby County Commissioner. David Shiffman is a solitary Republican entry.

DISTRICT 8 sees veteran Democratic incumbent Walter Bailey being challenged by former interim Memphis City Council member Berlin Boyd, with David Vinciarelli also in the primary. Julie Diane Ray is running as a Republican.

Educator James O. Catchings, a frequent candidate, dropped out of the DISTRICT 9 Democratic primary, but incumbent Justin Ford still has two name opponents — former MCS board member Patrice Robinson and Memphis Education Association president Keith Williams. No Republicans in this one.

Commission DISTRICT 11, an inner-city one, is totally a Democratic affair and something of a free-for-all, with six candidates qualifying. For the record, they are: Curtis Byrd, Donnell Cobbins, E. Jefferson Jones, Eddie Jones, Hendrell Remus, and Claude Talford.

DISTRICT 12, too, is all Democrat, with former party chairman Van Turner faced with a single opponent, Bryant Boone. Turner, who had a well-attended fundraiser Thursday night, will be highly favored.

DISTRICT 13, a suburban one, is safely Republican, and GOP incumbent Steve Basar is unopposed. One Democrat, Manoj Jain, qualified to oppose Basar in August.

IN OTHER COUNTYWIDE RACES:

In the race for SHERIFF, neither GOP incumbent Bill Oldham nor Democrat Bennie Cobb, a former deputy now running his own security service, have primary challengers.

To the surprise of many, who remember incumbent ASSESSOR Cheyenne Johnson’s victory in the off-year cycle of 2012, she will have to do it again because of new legislation requiring all countywide offices to be run simultaneously. Her primary opponent is Lorie Ingram. Two Republicans, Keith Alexander and Mary Royko, are contending in the GOP primary.

County TRUSTEE David Lenoir has a challenger in the Republican primary, Jeff Jacobs, while three Democrats — Rhonda Banks, Derrick Bennett, and M. LaTroy Williams — qualified on the Democratic ballot. Problem is, Banks is also qualified as a candidate for Circuit Court Clerk. Grist for the Shelby County Election Commission to mill, if they can.

If Banks ends up off the ballot for CIRCUIT COURT CLERK, veteran Democrat Del Gill will get the nomination by default. Incumbent Republican Jimmy Moore, who held a successfully fundraiser Thursday night, has a primary opponent for the record, Michael Finney.

{Interesting aside, for those remembering local Democratic Party chairman Bryan Carson’s declaration of non-tolerance for Democrats who support GOP candidates: Democratic attendees at the Moore fund-raiser included Moore’s finance chairman, Karl Schledwitz; his campaign manager, former County Mayor Bill Morris; and such other Democrats as state Senator Reginald Tate and state Representative Joe Towns.)

The race for CRIMINAL COURT CLERK is chock-full. Only one Republican, Richard DeSaussure III, is on the ballot, after incumbent Kevin Key chose not to file. But four Democrats, all with some name recognition, are running: City Council member Wanda Halbert, a late entry; city court clerk Thomas Long; county prosecutor Michael McCusker, making his second bid for office after a faction on the Democratic executive committee challenged his credentials four years ago; and the Rev. Ralph White, a frequent candidate.

JUVENILE COURT CLERK Joy Touliatos is unopposed in the Republican primary, but Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks, is opoposed by Kenneth Moody, the former city director of Public Services, in the Democratic primary.

Republican Paul Boyd, an unsung candidate in 2010 who won an upset victory for PROBATE COURT CLERK, has eight Democrats vying for the right to try to reverse that electoral verdict. They are: Regina Beale, veteran candidate Jennings Bernard, William Chism Jr., Darnell Gatewood Sr.., Cynthia R. Gentry. W. Aaron Hall, Heidi Kuhn, and Clay Perry.

SHELBY COUNTY CLERK Wayne Mashburn, the Republican incumbent, will be opposed in August by one of three Democrats: Charlotte Draper, John H. Freeman, or Yolanda R. King Kight. Draper has run for office previously, and Freeman is well known as a longtime Democratic operative.

Tom Leatherwood, the incumbent Republican REGISTER, is unopposed in his primary; two Democrats, Stephen R. Christian and Coleman Thompson, the latter a 2010 candidate making another try, are contending for their party’s nomination.

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