Here's how some key races for the General Assembly are shaping up for 2018:
The District 96 House seat of first-term Democrat Dwayne Thompson is being targeted by Patricia Possel, a de-annexation activist who will be running against him as a Republican. The seat, which overlaps southeast Memphis and adjacent suburban areas and has a somewhat mixed demographic population, formerly was occupied by the GOP's Steve McManus, who was upset in 2016 by a Thompson campaign that was well-organized locally and well-backed by the state Democratic Party.
The adjacent District 97 state House seat, currently held by Republican Jim Coley, is also regarded as contestable by the Democrats, and Allan Creasy, a party activist and a bartender by trade has announced he will make a run at it.
There was speculation that Coley, who suffered a serious heart attack earlier this year, would not be seeking reelection, a circumstance that would open the seat for other GOP contestants, but the latest word is that Coley, regarded by fellow Republicans as a major asset on the House Judiciary Committee, has made a dramatic recovery and may well be seeking to return to Nashville for another term.
The District 29 seat is one of two state Senate seats that will be wide open for newcomers in 2018. The seat is being surrendered by Democrat Lee Harris, who is making a run for his party's nomination for Shelby County mayor. A passel of ambitious Democrats are eyeing it seriously — state representatives Raumesh Akbari, Joe Towns, and G.A. Hardaway, as well as term-limited County Commissioner Justin Ford.
The collective appetite of so many state representatives for promotion could well result in the opening-up of multiple opportunities for new faces in the House. It is already common knowledge that, should Akbari take aim at the Senate seat, London Lamar, the current state Young Democrats president, will seek to win her vacated District 91 House seat.
District 32 in the Senate is the equivalent prize on the Republican side. The seat, based in heavily Republican eastern Shelby County, is due to be vacated by state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Trump and, with his testimony in a Senate hearing last week, has begun his passage through various hoops to an inevitable confirmation.
The known Republican aspirants for the seat (none of whom will declare until he is safely confirmed) are Shelby County Commission chair Heidi Shafer, former Deputy Commerce Commissioner and ex-Shelby County GOP chair Bill Giannini, and Representative Mark White.
Norris, an able parliamentarian, had long meditated on a run for governor, but he is also an accomplished constitutional lawyer, and he found the lure of the judgeship hard to resist. In last week's confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Norris made a point of distancing his new vista from the practice of politics: "I know, having served as a legislator, as an advocate for constituents, and as an attorney, an advocate for clients, the importance that the court not be a public policy-making body," he said. And the social conservative had no difficulty telling the senators that he regarded as settled law the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. • The well-liked W.C. "Bubba" Pleasant, a firefighter and longtime Republican state representative from Bartlett, was scheduled to be honored on Thursday at Bartlett's Cedar Hall at a meeting of the Northeast Shelby Republican Club that is expected to draw influential Republicans (and maybe even some Democrats and independents) from all over. Pleasant, who has been retired from politics for more than a decade, will receive the "American Citizenship for Freedom and Excellence Award."