Politics » Politics Feature

Filling in the Blanks

More names for the 2018 political season, plus a brewing controversy.

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Shelby County Assessor Cheyenne Johnson, a Democrat, will not be running for reelection and instead will be supporting the candidacy of Shawn Lynch, a legal adviser in her office and the son of well-known local businessman and civic figure Terry Lynch.

Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer, now in her second term, has not been bashful about proclaiming a desire to serve in the state legislature.

​During last year's Republican primary for the then-open 8th District congressional seat, ultimately won by current Congressman David Kustoff, Shafer loyally and fully supported her employer, George Flinn, in whose medical office she serves. But, if state Senator Brian Kelsey had won instead and made it all the way to Washington, there was little doubt among those who know her that she would have been a definite contender to succeed him in the state Senate.

And there is little doubt, either, that the surprise victory last year of Democrat Dwayne Thompson over GOP incumbent Steve McManus in state House District 96 gives her a target to go after as soon as next year, when Thompson has to run for reelection.

​All Shafer will say for the record regarding such a contest is, "I'm looking at it." But Thompson indicated Saturday at the annual Sidney Chism political picnic on Horn Lake Road that he is expecting a challenge from Shafer and is girding for it.

As has long been known, Chism himself will be back on the ballot in 2018, running for Shelby County mayor. The former Teamster leader and longtime Democratic political broker served an interim term in the state Senate and two full terms on the commission, chairing that body for two years running, until he was term-limited off.

​But he may have serious opposition in the Democratic primary for county mayor. Word going around the picnic grounds at his event on Saturday was that state Senator Lee Harris is getting strong encouragement to seek the office, which incumbent Republican Mark Luttrell, now in his second term, will have to vacate because of term-limit provisions in the county charter.

​Among those reportedly urging Harris to run for county mayor is University of Memphis associate law dean and former Democratic Commissioner Steve Mulroy, a former mayoral candidate who is himself considered a theoretical possibility to seek the office again.

​Harris, who serves as the leader of the five-member Senate Democratic Caucus, has meanwhile embarked on a series of "Senator Lee Harris on Your Street" events at which he promises "updates on the latest legislative bills and issues we tackled in Nashville this year."   

The Republican side of next year's mayoral race will feature a showdown between Commissioner Terry Roland, who has been openly running, in effect, for well more than a year, and County Trustee David Lenoir, whose intentions to be a candidate are equally well known.       

It will be interesting to see how Lenoir responds to a gauntlet thrown down by Roland at Monday's regular meeting of the commission, a four-hour affair that was nearing its end when Roland made a point of notifying Luttrell and County CAO Harvey Kennedy that he intended to seek an amendment to the pending county budget to provide funding for an add-on position sought by Judge Tim Dwyer for the Shelby County General Sessions Drug Court.

To pay for the position, Roland announced that he would offer a resolution at the next commission meeting to strip $50,000 from the amount already allocated to the Trustee's office. Roland says he can demonstrate that an equivalent sum is currently being paid to an employee of Lenoir's office who isn't "showing up for work" — a contention almost certain to bring a hot protest from Lenoir at next week's committee sessions, where the resolution will get a preliminary vetting.

Roland will also seek to re-allocate $100,000 currently slated to the Juvenile Court Clerk's office to provide funding for the Shelby County law library, which, he said, faces the threat of closure for financial reasons. He accused state Senator Kelsey of letting a funding bill for the library "sit on his desk" during the legislative session just concluded.

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