Rep. Johnnie Turner addressing attendees at a Diversity Memphis forum last week
Name confusion has played a significant role in many a past election in Memphis and Shelby County.
Just ask Roderick Ford, a sometime candidate who has never been elected to anything, although he has netted a few extra votes in a race or two from people who (mistakenly) assumed him to be a member of the long-established Ford political clan.
Or, even better, ask William Chism, a novice candidate whose 2014 win in the Democratic primary for Probate Court Clerk, no doubt owed much to his last name, identical to that of non-relative Sidney Chism, well-known political broker, former state Senator and, at the time, a prominent member of the Shelby County Commission.
But those were, in the end, minor distractions that came to nothing much, bumps in the road compared to the more serious misunderstanding that could confront Democratic voters in state House District 85, where veteran state Representative Johnnie Turner has two primary opponents, one of whom bears a name long familiar within the councils of local public education.
from left: the pro-vouchers Keith Williams who is Rep. Turner's opponent; Keith O. Williams, the anti-voucher executive director of the MSCEA and a Turner supporter
would be Keith Williams, whose candidacy is indeed focused on education. Sort of. This Keith Williams — identified as a pastor, Memphis parent, and senior adviser for the “Tennessee Black Alliance for Educational Options” — testified to the General Assembly this past year in favor of state vouchers for use in private school.
That’s something that is pure anathema to another and much better known Keith Williams (Keith O. Williams, more fully) who has served as both chairman and executive director of the Memphis/Shelby County Education Association and who is a vehement and vocal opponent of school vouchers.
To compound the potential confusion, Keith Williams of the MSCEA ran unsuccessfully last year for the Memphis City Council, and the presence on this year’s election ballot of someone with the same name could be a real voter snag.
Rep. Turner, a former teacher and a decided opponent of school vouchers herself, says that Keith Williams of the MSCEA has pledged his support to her and will do what he can to clear up such voter confusion as might be.