As noted this week in our Politics column, key members of the Shelby County Republican Party are actively rethinking the viability of partisan primaries for local countywide offices. Ironically, it was the local GOP which took the initiative in instigating such primaries back in 1992, and they quickly became institutionalized, when the local Democrats, to keep pace, followed suit.
Primaries for local office — county mayor, sheriff, various clerkships, and seats on the Shelby County Commission — were a bad idea then, and they are a bad idea now. We commend current Republican chairman Lang Wiseman for lending his authority to what he calls "a conversation we need to be having" in talking about getting rid of the primaries now. And we agree with his immediate predecessor as chairman, Bill Giannini, now chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission, for saying "Shame on us," for having proposed partisan primaries in the first place.
It is a matter of fact that partisan primaries were opposed by virtually all county officeholders back in the early 1990s, including then commissioner Jim Rout, who would go on to become the first county mayor with a party label by his name (Republican, in his case). Rout and other officeholders would make their peace with the process, once it was under way. But numerous party-label candidates were known to lament privately the wall that had grown up between one set of campaign supporters and another, now forced to campaign for rivals on the other side of the party line or to sit out active politics altogether.
Partisanship, as we have observed often in the past year, has caused needless rifts on the county commission — yet another reason to ditch the process.
The primaries were adopted in the first place only because the demographic numbers seemed to favor Republicans. Now they don't, and the GOP would be well advised to drop their local primaries. And we hope the Democrats would follow suit in this as well.
... And Push Polls
A local physician friend of ours reports having recently received a phone call from a pollster who began asking him about various Democratic candidates for governor. All seemed on the square until the pollster began asking a series of leading questions regarding one candidate in particular, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter.
The questions all took some such form as "Would you tend to look favorably on Mike McWherter, knowing he is ... " The son of a former governor. Someone who knows business and how the banking system works. A pioneer in the field of green technology. Etc., etc., etc.
In short, the good doctor had been on the receiving end of a "push poll," one designed more to influence answers than to solicit them. And candidate McWherter will not be the first nor the last to employ such polls in the 2010 election cycle.
McWherter may indeed be all of the fine things indicated by his pollster's questions. But have your salt shaker ready to pour out a few grains when his or anybody else's home-grown poll results are published.