One feature of the current county election which has so far gone unreported and almost unnoticed (though, like the Purloined Letter in the Poe tale, it is right before the eye) is this: Whichever major party holds dominance on the Shelby County Commisson after the August 1st general election, one fact will not change; whites will hold a 7-6 majority of the membership.
This is despite the demographic changes which, as reflected in the 2000 census and subsequent population estimates, suggest that African Americans have become a majority of county residents.
As several candidates have noted, and, as John Ryder
, a Republican candidate to represent the 5th commission district (East Memphis), keeps pointing out: Dsitricts 1 through 4 are certain to produce an even balance of Democrats (black) and Republicans (white): six of each. The 5th District, which is unique in that it contains only one positon, will break the party stalemate, depending on whether a Democrat or a Republican wins it.
But, although the ballot contains the names of an obscure black candidate or two, the only fully active contestants with realistic chances of winning the seat are white, whether Democratic or Republican in their party affiliation. For the GOP, there are Ryder, Bruce Thompson
, and Jerry Cobb
. The two major Democratic candidates are Guthrie Castle
and Joe Cooper
. Both nominees and the eventual winner are sure to come from this list of five men, all white.
Only if one of the Democrats wins, however, will the virtually synonymous nature of the terms black and Democratic, on the one hand, and white and Republican, on the other, be suspended as descriptors for commission members and, for that matter, for Shelby County office-holders in general.
County Commissioner Marilyn Loeffel, the only commission incumbent to be unopposed on the 2002 county ballot: My daughter and I prayed that, with her wedding coming up this year, I wouldnt have an opponent. The Lord granted our wish.
District 4 (Outer Shelby) County Commission candidate DAndre Forney, one of only two African Americans to seek the Republican nomination this year, as he faced an overwhelmingly white audience at a Shelby County Republican Womens luncheon Monday: I know what youre thinking. [Pause] Hes so
young -- and good-looking!