To no ones surprise, Memphis Mayor Willlie Herenton won a record fourth term Tuesday, garnering almost 70 percent of the vote (72,043) while his closest competitor, Shelby County Commissioner John Willingham, finished with 25 percent (25,656). Turnout was low for the election (23.4 percent, including two weeks of early voting), both because of the lack of suspense in the mayors race and most other races and because of rainy weather for the last two hours that the polls were open on Thursday. Two races -- for the District 5 city council seat and the District 1 school board seat, both open -- will require runoff elections on November 13th. The council race will be contested between State Rep. Carol Chumney, who had 38 percent of the vote (6,578), and businessman/physician George Flinn, with 31 percent (5,207). A third candidate, lawyer Jim Strickland, came close, with 26 percent (4,479), but suffered from relatively poor name recognition despite running a spirited race. Businessman Scott McCormick, who ran a low-key but well-financed and organized race, got a resounding vote (16,881) in the crowded field of candidates for Super-District 9, Position 1, ousting longterm incumbent Pat VanderSchaaf (10,046), who clearly fell victim to the same voter discontent that saw her ex-husband, Clair VanderSchaaf, deposed form his seat last year. McCormick, the endorsee of the Shelby County Republican Party, experienced surprisingly little drainage from his vote totals due to campaigning by two other active Republican candidates, Arnold Weiner and Don Murphree, and by an independent candidate, businessman Lester Lit, who evidently had peaked weeks earlier. Third-place finisher Lit (8,656) may have actually garnered votes that ordinarily would have gone to VanderSchaaf, a moderate Republican whose party membership is largely nominal. The District 1 school board runoff matches lawyer J. Bailey, son of Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey (3,340) , against FedEx administrator Willie Brooks (3,082), who has support from several public officials. The two are separated by a razor-thin margin, as were incumbent city court clerk Thomas Long (40,049) and his major challenger, former radio talk-show host Janis Fullilove (39,464). The latter race, however, was citywide and thus doesnt qualify for a runoff under judicial rulings which limit run offs to district elections in which no candidate receives a majority in the first balloting. An expected close race for the council in District 1 between incumbent E.C. Jones and challenger Wyatt Bunker failed to develop, with Jones (6,575, 55 percent) winning easily over Bunker (4,238, 35 percent) For Kemp Conrad, chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, Thursdays results were something of a vindication. Of four GOP endorsees running for council positions (two of whom, incumbents Tom Marshall and Jack Sammons in Super-District 9 positions, were gimmes), only Bunker fell short. And Conrad, who had withstood criticism from Willingham and the commissioners partisans concerning the chairmans non-involvement in the mayors race, might well have taken satisfaction from the mayoral challengers disappointing showing. (Further details and analysis to follow)
State Rep. Carol Chumney, who led the vote in city council District 5, meets the press Thursday night and issues a challenge to runoff opponent George Flinn for a series of debates.