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HEAT TURNED UP HIGHER IN DISTRICT 89 RACE

HEAT TURNED UP HIGHER IN DISTRICT 89 RACE

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The bitterness level continues to escalate in the District 89 Democratic primary to determine a successor to former representative Carol Chumney,. who vacated the seat during her successful recent city-council campaign. The newest developments include (1) a formal legal complaint by one candidate, Beverly Robison Marrero, against her opponent, Jeff Sullivan; and (2) Sullivan’s accusation that Marrero and her chief adviser, state Senator Steve Cohen, are engaging in “harassment and sabotage” against his campaign. Sullivan said Wednesday that someone affiliated with Marrero’s campaign, presumably Cohen, had prevailed on “a prominent Nashville lobbyist” to pressure a supporter of Sullivan’s into terminating an arrangement providing Sullivan with headquarters for campaign phone-bank activity. The lobbyist, said Sullivan, was Tom “the Golden Goose” Hensley, who reportedly called Johnny Barzizza, proprietor of Southwestern Liquor Distributors, advising Barzizza that state law prohibits the donation of such space as “an in-kind contribution” by a corporation. In response, said Sullivan, he arranged to pay Barzizza for the use of the space and, henceforth, to transfer his phone-bank activities to the Madison Avenue headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Meanwhile, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons remains a supporter of Sullivan’s, but he has felt obliged to withdraw his signature from a list of the candidate’s Republican supporters. Reason? As an officer of the law, Gibbons was forced into technical neutrality after a formal complaint to his office by Marrero, who alleges that her rival has feloniously misrepresented the facts of his residence. Two other prominent local Republicans, State Senator Curtis Person and Memphis city council chairman Brent Taylor, remain as signatories to a support letter the Sullivan letter has prepared for distribution within the district. Gibbons’ statement reads as follows: “State House of Representatives candidate Beverly Marrero has submitted to this office a complaint against her opponent, Jeff Sullivan, alleging a violation of Tennessee’s election law. Marrero and Sullivan are opposing each other in next week’s Democratic primary to succeed Carol Chumney in the Tennessee House of Representatives. “Because of my personal friendship with, and support of, Mr. Sullivan, I have referred this matter to District Attorney Jerry Estes of the Tenth Judicial District, which is in east Tennessee, to serve as a special prosecutor. General Estes will be responsible for reviewing the matter and making a determination as to what action, if any, is appropriate.” Next Tuesday’s Democratic primary will in effect determine Chumney’s successor. No Republican filed for the District 89 seat, a fact which will leave next week’s primary winner unopposed on the February 10th general election ballot. Sullivan filed a formal affidavit alleging a change-of-address before casting an early vote at Berclair Church of Christ last week, and Marrero’s legal complaint disputes the validity of that affidavit under state law defining what a residence is for purposes of voting. The residence Sullivan provided at early voting was on Graham Street. Cohen and Marrero allege that Sullivan and his expectant wife Maura Black Sullivan actually continue to reside at the home they own on Reese St., which is several blocks outside District 89. Compounding the situation is the fact that Maura Sullivan is nine months’ pregnant with the couple’s first child and is scheduled to give birth or about Election Day.

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