Lester, Democratic Election Commission Member, Slams Justin Ford "Betrayal"

In echo of Bailey complaint, County Commission chair is hit for "getting in bed with Republicans" and cutting "deal" on committee assignments


Norma Lester
  • Norma Lester

The battle over the Shelby County Commission may have come to an end with last Wednesday’s preliminary vote to accept the committee appointments of chairman Justin Ford, but with that vote, by the Commission’s general government committee, due to be ratified by the full Commission on Monday,the fallout continues in other parts of the local political universe.

Even as Republicans hashed out their internal disagreements on the appointments issue at a GOP steering committee meeting week before last, Democrats showed signs of beginning their own internal debate on the issue.

Norma Lester, a vocal Democratic representative on the Shelby County Election Commission, has issued an “open letter” to her party-mates, expressing her view that Ford, who was elected chairman on the strength of his own vote, plus those of six Republicans, had subsequently fulfilled GOP wishes in the manner of the committee appointments.

Essentially, Lester’s public missive puts her in solidarity with Democratic Commissioner Walter Bailey, who has charged that Ford’s committee assignments were made as part of a “deal” with the Commission’s Republican contingent. The text of Lester’s letter:

My fellow Democrats, in reflecting upon recent activities, I am of the opinion it is time to WAKE UP!!

Personally, I applaud Republican Leadership in holding firm to keeping members in line, for that is as it should be. I am also a strong proponent of bipartisan decisions, HOWEVER, when Republicans court Democrats to get in bed with them but see it as taboo to get in bed with Democrats that should send a resounding wake up call!!! Carefully read the following recent statements by Republican Commissioner Steve Basar who was “bullied” for doing the exact same thing Republicans had gotten Democrat Commissioner Justin Ford to do. What a slap in the face DEMOCRATS!!!!

“Commissioner Steve Basar spoke to the “bullying” tactics of his fellow Republicans after he voted with Bailey and five other Democrats during the last commission meeting, sending the appointments back to committee, an unprecedented tactic. Basar argued that when six Republicans and one Democrat vote together, “that’s a bipartisan victory” but when a Republican sides with Democrats, the Republican should be thrown out”. (Memphis Flyer, October 8, 2014)

Getting in bed with Republicans is NOT new and not a bad thing “IF” they are willing to do likewise. I am reminded of friends who not long ago did the same thing. There is however a difference in cutting a deal and blatant betrayal, which is what happened with young Ford and the basis for the contempt amongst fellow Democrats. His behavior far exceeds that of Democratic State Senator Rosalind Kurita several years ago which resulted in her being out cast! I was in the audience the day the Ford votes were taken and it honestly looked as if the six Democrat Commissioners were in need of resuscitation! It was overwhelming being blind-sided by one someone reneging on a “gentlemen’s agreement.” Deal cutting when necessary should be for the overall benefit of those you serve NOT for personal gain. That seems to be forgotten by far too many elected officials and unfortunately without consequences. Where pray tell is the trust factor?

I refuse to accept being treated less than equal and for those in leadership positions that choose to do otherwise, the Democratic Party needs to hold them accountable and Democrats as a whole should not forget! Business as usual should no longer be acceptable. We should never settle for anything less than fair and equal treatment! To do otherwise desecrates the blood and tears of those that paved the way for us. We cannot forget!!

Democratically Yours,

Norma Lester

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