Politics » Politics Feature

May 2 Election Results

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What hath Shelby Countians wrought? Well, a brand-new county commission, for one thing, with eight of the 13 commissioners to be newcomers.

Question: Can Henri Brooks and Wyatt Bunker co-exist? What will he do if she won’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance? (The question could be moot if Republican Novella Smith Arnold pulls an upset over Democrat Brooks in the August general election.)

SHELBY COUNTY COMMISSION RACES

Whatever happens in the August general election, there will be a wholesale changeover --of faces, names, profiles, and missions - on the Shelby County Commission. The defeat of District 4 incumbent Tom Moss (and third-place finisher Jim Bomprezzi) by county school board member Wyatt Bunker means that eight of the 13 positions will be filled by newcomers.

            Six of those are known; a bit of mystery remains in District 5, where Democratic winner Steve Mulroy (who will be favored for demographic reasons, if nothing else) will take on the GOP's Jane Pierotti. Both are novice candidates. And District 2, Position 2 has the Brooks-Arnold matchup.

            The district-by-district breakdown:

            District 1, Position 1:

            REPUBLICANS - As expected, retired bank executive/county planner Mike Ritz won easily with 63 percent of the vote over FedEx administrator Mike Rude (25 percent)  and process server Charles Fineberg (12 percent).

            Ritz, one of the most experienced newcomers ever to be elected to the commission, ran a well-funded race and had diverse and influential support.

            No DEMOCRATS ran in 1, 1.

            District 1, Position 2:

            REPUBLICANS - Incumbent George Flinn was unopposed.

            No DEMOCRATS ran in 1, 2.

            District 1, Position 3:

            REPUBLICANS - Mike Carpenter, an experienced political operative and local head of the Associated Builders and Contractors, easily beat educator Karla Willingham Templeton, 72 percent to 28 percent.

            Like her father - outgoing commissioner John Willingham, who won the Republican nomination for mayor in an unexpectedly close race - Templeton espoused "tax reform," a terminology that , rightly or wrongly, spelled out new taxes to voters. But Carpenter had solid support in any case.

            No DEMOCRATS ran in 1, 3.

            District 2, Position 1:

            DEMOCRATS - Businessman J.W. Gibson, with 41 percent,  won a three-way over Walter Bailey (a  term-limited incumbent who could not have served, in any case), with 33 percent,  and Democratic operative Darrick Harris, with 26 percent..

            Gibson had good and diverse support but had been formally repudiated by the Shelby County Democratic executive committee on account of his long-term and close Republican associations. But an ill-considered scheme to "elect" Bailey so as to give the party naming rights to a successor (probably his son Jay Bailey) deprived the underfunded  Harris of enough regular-party support to overcome.

            No REPUBLICANS ran in 2, 1.

            District 2, Position 2:

            DEMOCRATS -  State representative Henri Brooks came close to getting an absolute majority, with 47 percent in a field that also included Melvin Burgess II (35 percent), Reginald Fentress (12 percent), and Teddy King (6 percent).
            This was a case of name recognition plus established organization for controversial political veteran Brooks.

            REPUBLICANS - Social activist and former broadcaster Novella Smith Arnold was unopposed.

            District 2, Position 3:

            DEMOCRATS - Incumbent Deidre Malone was unopposed.

            No REPUBLICANS ran in 2, 3.

            District 3, Position 1:

            DEMOCRATS -  Businessman James Harvey won easily with 42 percent of the vote in a seven-candidate field that also included Adrian Killebrew (18 percent); Georgia Malone (15 percent); Del Gill (13 percent); Johnny Hatcher (5 percent); Bob Hatton (4 percent); and  Paul Springer (3 percent).

            Harvey, a veteran performer in local Gridiron shows,  had some experienced support and started earliest.

            No REPUBLICANS ran in 3, 1.

            District 3, Position 2:

            DEMOCRATS - Veteran political broker Sidney Chism won easily with 85 percent of the vote to 15 percent for  term-limited incumbent Cleo Kirk, who followed longtime colleague/ally  Bailey's example in allowing a campaign to be run in his name. The difference lay in the fact of their opponents. Chism, a confidant of Mayor Willie Herenton's,  has helped organize campaigns for many a local candidate to office; he used the same expertise and network on his own behalf.

            No REPUBLICANS       ran in 3, 2.

            District 3, Position 3:
            
DEMOCRATS --  Incumbent Joe Ford  was unopposed.

            No REPUBLICANS ran in 3, 3.

            District 4, Position 1:

            REPUBLICANS --  Incumbent Joyce Avery was unopposed.

            No DEMOCRATS ran in 4, 1.

            District 4, Position 2:

            REPUBLICANS --  Incumbent Tom Moss, a homebuilder who survived a three-way outcome in 2002 that included former Lakeland mayor  Jim Bomprezzi, out-polled Bomprezzi again, 33 percent to 28 percent   -- but not county school board member Wyatt Bunker, who ran hard and pulled 39 percent of the votes to win.

            Bunker, who was probably the most conservative member of the county school board, at least on social issues, may own that distinction on the commission as well.

            No DEMOCRATS  ran in 4, 2.

            District 4, Position 3:

            REPUBLICANS - Incumbent David Lillard  was unopposed.

            No DEMOCRATS ran in 4, 3.

            District 5:

            DEMOCRATS - High-powered newcomer Steve Mulroy, a respected man of many causes, won with a convincing 60 percent of the vote against political veteran Joe Cooper's 34 percent and Sherman Perkins Kilimanjaro's 6 percent.

            Kilimanjaro never figured, and Cooper's dogged one-man show was no match for a well-organized Mulroy campaign that united Democratic reformers with their Ford-organization opponents in last year's party battles.

            REPUBLICANS - Jane Pierotti, a newcomer with a well-known last name, easily beat novice Joe Townsend with 86 percent to 14 percent for the right to take on Mulroy in the commission's only genuine swing district (one designed as such).

OTHER COUNTYWIDE PRIMARY RESULTS

"Just goes to show you the power of a name." That was Shelby County mayor A C Wharton, as he watched some televised election returns at his Park Place headquarters Tuesday night and saw the unknown Roderic Ford, who happens to have the same last name as a famous local political family, pull ahead of opponent Johnnie Ruth Williams in the Democratic primary for Circuit Court clerk.

When Wharton, who was easily renominated himself, took the dais to thank a crowd of supporters, he had another thought. "I think people are trusting government more now," he opined.

Maybe so, but there was an awful lot of flux in the major parties' primaries for other countywide offices, just as in the commission races.

THE RESULTS:

Shelby County Mayor:

DEMOCRATS --  The aforesaid incumbent A C Wharton, probably the most invincible politician in Shelby County, defeated opponent Jeffrey Woodard, a jailers' advocate and frequent mayoral critic, by 95 percent to 5 percent .

REPUBLICANS - Retiring commissioner John Willingham with 58 percent had a tougher time than expected with political newcomer Brent Todd with 42 percent, the apparent reason being voter wariness of Willingham's proposed "tax reform" package, which features a payroll tax.

District Attorney General:

DEMOCRATS - Lawyer Gail Mathes was unopposed.

REPUBLICANS - So was incumbent Bill Gibbons.

Sheriff:

DEMOCRATS -  With 49 percent of the vote, Reginald French, a businessman and former aide to Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton dominated three opponents: Bennie Cobb (23 percent); Elton Hymon (19 percent); and Jesse Jeff (9 percent).

REPUBLICANS - Incumbent sheriff Mark Luttrell was unopposed.

Trustee:

DEMOCRATS --  Becky Clark was unopposed.

REPUBLICANS - So was four-term incumbent Bob Patterson.

Circuit Court Clerk:

DEMOCRATS - The aforesaid Roderic Ford beat the aforesaid Johnnie Ruth Williams, 53 percent to 47 percent.

REPUBLICANS - Incumbent Jimmy Moore was unopposed.

Criminal Court Clerk:

DEMOCRATS - Veteran bail bondsman Vernon Johnson beat lawyer Kevin Gallagher by an unexpectedly large margin of 58 percent to 42 percent - perhaps a testament to the simple demographics favoring Johnson, an African American.

REPUBLICANS - Incumbent Bill Key was unopposed.

Juvenile Court Clerk:

DEMOCRATS - Former clerk Shep Wilbun beat city school board member Wanda Halbert 56 percent to 44 percent - an outcome that owed much to a sympathy vote for Wilbun, who was widely  regarded as having been done wrong when put in legal jeopardy during his brief term of service from 2000 to 2002.

REPUBLICANS - Incumbent Steve Stamson was unopposed.

Probate Court Clerk:

DEMOCRATS - Former assistant clerk Sondra Becton beat Leon Dishmon, by the whopping margin of 82 percent to 18 percent, for the right to take one more shot at her former boss, whom she has opposed both on the ballot and in court.

REPUBLICANS - Republican incumbent Chris Thomas is that former boss and was unopposed.

County Clerk:

DEMOCRATS - Otis Jackson edged out Charlotte Draper, 10,829 to 10, 695, 37 percent to 36 percent Others were Joe Young, with 22 percent, and Zoltan Scales, with 5 percent.

REPUBLICANS - Debbie Stamson, husband of the Juvenile Court clerk and endorsee of outgoing clerk Jayne Creson, turned back outgoing county commissioner Marilyn Loeffel by a surprising margin of  55 percent to 45 percent. In retrospect, it would appear that Loeffel peaked a month ago when her first signs went up. But name recognition in this case proved less valuable than the good funding and establishment support possessed by Stamson.

Register:

DEMOCRATS --  Coleman Thompson was unopposed.

REPUBLICANS - So was incumbent Tom Leatherwood.

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