Democrat Kathryn Bowers and Republican Mary Ann Chaney McNeil were easy winners Thursday in their party primaries for an open District 33 state Senate seat and won the right to oppose each other in the special general election on May 10th
In a relatively light turnout, Bowers won with 50 percent of the vote against Michael Hooks and James M. Harvey. Political unknown Harvey, a mortgage broker and former truck-driver, campaigned steadily and surprised most observers by finishing ahead of Hooks, the Shelby County Commission chairman who had counted on high name recognition and late-breaking endorsements to give him a chance against state Representative Bowers. Harvey had some 27 percent of the primary vote against HooksÕ 23 percent.
McNeil, a retired educator, polished off three Republican opponents with relative ease, polling 63 percent of the vote against 24 percent for Jason Hernandez, 6l6 percent for Barry Sterling, and 6.5 percent for Mary Lynn Flood.
BowersÕ victory can be attributed to a number of factors, including industrious campaigning, the support of a small but dedicated corps of supporters, and a promise, which events may have overtaken, to resist Governor Phil BredesenÕs plan for pruning the stateÕs TennCare rolls. Hooks rolled the dice with last-minute literature that featured endorsements from numerous city and county office-holders, including Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and Shelby County mayor A C Wharton. He had campaigned in support of alternate revenue measures initiated by Wharton and endorsed by the county commission Ð including a controversial real estate transfer tax, one that Bowers made a point of opposing.
If elected on May 10th, Bowers could establish two precedents Ð becoming the first African American female to serve in the Senate from Shelby County and becoming the first person to be both the House and Senate sponsor of a bill to pass the General Assembly. That bill, a complex financing measure to benefit The Med, has already passed the House and would be signed ÒBowers, BowersÓ if it passed the Senate under her sponsorship.
ÓThat can happen if the legislature stays in session past May 10th, and I think it will,Ó said Bowers. ÒOh, weÕll make sure it stays in session that long!Ó jested state Senator Steve Cohen, a prospective colleague.
Should she prevail instead, McNeil, who received a statewide Outstanding Principal Award in 2003 , has no shot at such dual sponsorship, but she, too, would become the first African American female to serve in the state Senate from Shelby County.
Two independent candidates, Ian Randolph and Mary Taylor Shelby, will oppose Bowers and McNeil on the May 10th special general election ballot.
Bowers: 2,129 or 50 percent
Harvey: 1,184 or 27 percent
Hooks: 994 or 23 percent
Flood: 79 or 6.5 percent
Hernandez: 294 or 24 percent
McNeil: 757 or 63 percent
Sterling: 81 or 6.6 percent