Politics » Politics Feature

Showdowns in Shelby County

District Council runoffs, and Luttrell vs. County Commission


Council runoff candidates at Hooks forum were (l to r) Jamita Swearengen (District 4); Worth Morgan and Dan Springer (District 5); and Anthony Anderson and Berlin Boyd (District 7) - JB
  • JB
  • Council runoff candidates at Hooks forum were (l to r) Jamita Swearengen (District 4); Worth Morgan and Dan Springer (District 5); and Anthony Anderson and Berlin Boyd (District 7)

As early voting ends this Friday and the final runoff election date of November 19th, next Thursday, beckons, most attention has been focused on two of the five district city council runoffs: District 5 (Midtown, East Memphis) between newcomer Worth Morgan and youthful activist Dan Springer, and the District 7 race (North Memphis, Frayser) between interim incumbent Berlin Boyd and challenger Anthony Anderson.

District 5 lies astride the Poplar corridor power nexus and is also the bailiwick of current Councilman and Mayor-elect Jim Strickland. Both Morgan and Springer are Republicans, though Springer, who has worked for both Senator Bob Corker and County Mayor Mark Luttrell, won the formal endorsement of the Shelby County Republican Party during the regular election process, in which seven candidates overall vied for the seat.

Morgan, who led by far in fund-raising, with receipts of more than $200,000 to Springer's $60,000 or so, had the support of the city's business elite. Now, both he and Springer have solicited support from the camps of losing candidates. 

A meet-and-greet for Morgan last week hosted by fifth-place finisher Charles "Chooch" Pickard, drew a diverse group including avowed Democrats, African Americans, and members of the city's gay community. Springer, for his part, has actively pitched across party lines as well and has won the formal support of Democrat Mary Wilder, among others. 

Overall, Springer leads in formal endorsements of various kinds. Morgan finished ahead on October 8th, however, with 32 percent of the vote to Springer's 23 percent.

At a forum last week at the Hooks Central Library for candidates in Districts 4, 5, and 7, Morgan and Springer differed only moderately on issues, though Morgan, who has seemed more at ease in debate formats, gave answers that were both more glib and more expansive. He spoke of having transcended several difficult illnesses as evidence of his resolve, while Springer emphasized his experience.

At the same forum, Boyd, too, stressed his existing connections and boasted of having brought $3.6 million into District 7. Anderson, a clergyman who is the entrepreneur behind the Memphis Business Academy charter-school network, countered with a figure of $8 million allegedly invested in MBA and with references to his numerous community involvements.

Both advocated revenue solutions involving assessments of nonresidents who work in Memphis, in the form of sticker fees (Boyd) or payroll taxes (Anderson). Both approaches would seem to require approval by the Tennessee General Assembly. The two differed most obviously on crime, which Boyd saw as a looming danger and Anderson saw as having diminished.

In the regular general election, Boyd had 26 percent of the total vote, and Anderson had 24 percent.

(Go to Politics Beat Blog at memphisflyer.com for more on these races and the three other Council runoffs: Frank Colvett Jr. vs. Rachel Knox in District 3; Patrice Robinson vs. Keith Williams in District 3; and Jamita Swearengen vs. Doris DeBerry-Bradshaw in District 4.)

The power struggle between the Shelby County Commission and the administration of county Mayor Mark Luttrell moved toward another showdown on Monday with the mayor's veto of a recent commission resolution appointing former Commissioner Julian Bolton as its independent counsel.

Commission chair Terry Roland's public response was in a memo to his fellow commissioners, in which he wrote that he had in mind to call a special commission meeting for Thursday. "We must act as a body to protect our legislative duty to the people of Shelby County, Tennessee," the memo concluded.

Roland had previously indicated privately that County Attorney Ross Dyer, who has resisted the independent-counsel idea on grounds that the County Charter does not allow it, might be confronted with a choice between altering his view and facing a possible ouster move from the commission. That could come with a vote to reconsider his hiring.

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