State representative Carol Chumney, matched against George Flinn in a November 13th runoff election for the District 5 city council seat, announced Monday that she is resigning her legislative seat immediately “in order that the people of District #89 will have the opportunity to choose my replacement.”

As Chumney noted, state law requires a special election to fill a legislative seat vacated more than a year prior to the next regularly scheduled statewide election. Vacancies created with less than a year to go before such an election would be filled locally by the Shelby County Commission. Had she waited until the conclusion of the runoff, the cutoff date would have passed. “The people of my district would rather choose their own representative than have the Board of Commissioners choose one for them,” Chumney said.

Chumney’s announcement follows a good deal of local discussion about the method of choosing her successor -- especially in the ranks of her fellow Democrats, where concern has been expressed that a Republican might be appointed by the commission, which is dominated 7-6 by the GOP.

Chumney conceded there was “risk” in offering her resignation now but added that she was confident of success in the runoff election if her supporters remained motivated to cast their votes in what is likely to be a low-turnout affair.

Primary contests for the special election would be held on December 14th or December 16th, Chumney said, citing advice given her by Bob Cooper, Governor Phil Bredesen’s legal adviser. Cooper informed her that the general election would follow on February 10th, Chumney said.

Among those known to be considering a race for the vacated seat are Democrat David Upton and Republican Jim Jamieson, the latter of whom is definite about his candidacy.. Others, including Chumney friend Mary Wilder, may also throw their hats into the ring.

A surprise entry is the likely one of Maura Black Sullivan, director of planning for the Shelby County school system. Sullivan, a longtime friend of veteran activist Upton’s, will be giving birth in mid-Decenber, at roughly the time of the special election.

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