Cooper bests Castle by one vote in commission race; Luttrell, Wade win primaries for sheriff.


If the two remaining election days in Shelby County in August and November measure up to the year’s first one, -- Tuesday’s party primaries for countywide offices, which saw Democrat A C Wharton and Republican George Flinn nominated for county mayor -- the record books may have to be rewritten.

A number of precedents were established Tuesday. Among them:

  • the closest County Commission race ever run, in which veteran pol Joe Cooper defeated fellow Democrat Guthrie Castle by one vote (count ‘em, er, it, 1). Cooper, who defeated Castle by 1313 to 1312, will square off in the August general election against Republican Bruce Thompson, who defeated GOP mainstay John Ryder, by a shocking two-to-one margin. Whichever party wins the pivotal 5th District (East Memphis) seat will control the commission, also by one vote;

  • the most expensive countywide primary race to date, one in which radiologist/broadcast mogul Flinn spent nearly half a million dollars of his own money to overpower State Rep. Larry Scroggs. Flinn will try his tested air-war tactics in August against Shelby County Public Defender Wharton, who kept runnerup State Rep. Carol Chumney under 20 percentage points;

  • the greatest wipeout of incumbents in the history of the Commission, one in which chairman Morris Fair and longest-serving member Clair VanderSchaaf both went down -- to insurgent Republicans John Willingham and Joyce Avery, respectively -- and two other incumbents, Republicans Linda Rendtorff and Tom Moss, survived without much to spare. At issue in all four races was the incumbents’ support for public funding of the proposed NBA arena downtown, a final vote on which was scheduled for early Wednesday, in the wake of the election.

    Another outcome of consequence:

  • Republican Mark Luttrell and Democrat Randy Wade easily won their parties’ nomination for Sheriff to succeed the outgoing A C Gilless. Ranking officer Wade's three-to-one win was exepcted over the well-credentialed (ex-Marine, Secret Service) if almost apolitical Henry Hooper, but Luttrell coasted much more easily than expected against Chief Deputy Don Wright and Commander Bobby Simmons.
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