Up to this point, it has almost been an afterthought to the more high-profile race between Republican Brian Kelsey and Democrat Adrienne Pakis-Gillon for the District 31 state Senate seat. But on Tuesday another major legislative race, and a potentially suspenseful one at that, will share billing with the Senate race.
This is the Republican primary for state House District 83, which was vacated early by Kelsey so as to ensure a turnover before the convening of the 2010 session of the legislature in January.
As with Senate District 31, House District 83 — spanning portions of East Memphis and Germantown — is historically Republican, and though the winner of the GOP primary will still have to worry about Democrat Guthrie Castle and independent John Andreucetti in the January 12 general election, the Republican who wins on Tuesday, December 1, will be heavily favored.
The GOP contestants are high-tech consultant John Pellicciotti, small-businessman and former teacher Mark White, and Michael Porter, an ex-Marine and former law enforcement officer who describes himself now as a real estate investor.
Last Tuesday, at a forum scheduled by the East Shelby Republican Club at Germantown’s Pickering Center, the three displayed themselves together for what would seem to have been the first and only time before this week’s primary. The ideological differences between them were few but illuminating.
Asked to name a role model, for example, White gave his answer as Ronald Reagan, Porter named Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Pellicciotti named Jesus Christ — this after pointing out that “Ronald Reagan did a number of great things. He also spent a lot of money that we need to be aware of.”
All three declared themselves foes of big government and bureaucracy, and all expressed concern about the local crime rate, belief in the positive value of education, and a determination to cut state spending to the amount of already available revenue. Needless to say, all professed to be conservatives when asked to choose between that label and “liberal” and “moderate.”
All, too, put themselves on record as deploring President Obama’s currently evolving health-care package. “Washington,” in fact, was pinpointed as something of a potential adversary for anyone n state government, both for what the three principals agreed were too many unfunded mandates and, as White put it, “just about everything that’s going on there.”
Asked by audience members about such recondite subjects as the state sovereignty movement and the 10th amendment (which reserves power unspecified in the Constitution to the states), all three candidates expressed general solidarity with states’-rights attitudes without tying themselves to anything that might sound scofflaw or secessionist.
White suggested that the Constitution was “not a living document,” but a reliable framework prepared “in a more moral time.” And Porter considered the English language itself to be a bedrock value and the preservation of it as an official tongue to be one of his major goals.
Pellicciotti, like White an unsuccessful candidate in two previous tries for public office, was asked at one point by club member Bill Wood why he had seemingly dropped out of public party activity for the preceding several years.
He had concentrated on other kinds of contributions, Pellicciotti answered, naming his several board memberships related to civic activities and a philanthropic mission on behalf of impoverished people in Africa. White boasted a similar involvement, in the Global Children’s Education Foundation, an organization he co-founded.
Both Pellicciotti and White have abundant campaign signage out on major thoroughfares. In something of a twist, Pellicciotti has challenged what he describes as White’s penchant for campaign spending. Porter would seem to be a comparatively late starter in both expenditures and organization, with little public evidence of an organized campaign as such..