With dispatch and unanimity, the five members of the Shelby County Election Commission agreed Tuesday afternoon to reset the special mayoral election from October 27h to October 15th and to set the latter date, contingent on Governor Phil Bredesen's consent, as the appropriate one for the Democratic and Republican primaries for state Senate District 31.
As commission chairman Bill Giannini and commission director Rich Holden explained it the media, the change would save the taxpayers some $160,00 by avoiding separate votes in those city precincts which also belong to District 31.
Mayor Willie Herenton's recent retirement made the mayoral special election necessary, and the resignation of scandal-plagued state Senator Paul Stanley created the need for another special election to replace him. Governor Bredesen must still issue the writ for the special Senate election, but Giannini and Holden said that preliminary discussions with the governor's office indicated that agreement was likely on the October 15th primary date. Once it is settled on, a subsequent general election date for the Senate seat must be agreed on — "between 40 and 47 days after the primary," said Giannini.
Yet another reason for changing the mayoral election date was the fact, as the two SCEC officials explained it, that state law, which calls for a 60-day maximum from the time a vacancy is declared, trumps the city charter, which allows for a maximum of 90 days before an election must be held. As Giannini noted, the new mayoral-election date of October 15th satisfies both sets of criteria.