Anyone possessing enough claim to citizenship to have registered to vote surely realizes what the marquee race on the local November 8th election ballot is — a duel to the death (politically speaking) between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.
Never mind that the results of this race are basically foreordained for local voters. Clinton will win Shelby County handily on the strength of the county's largely African-American voting majority. This is a majority that rarely bothers to come out for local partisan elections, which Republican or GOP-endorsed candidates manage to win with regularity.
But the presidency is a different matter. The votes will be there for Clinton, as they were for Barack Obama and other Democrats going back, including the first Clinton, husband Bill, back in 1992 and 1996.
Trump, however, will win Tennessee and its 12 electoral votes on the votes of diehard Republican voters, coupled with those of assorted new believers in his movement — which is hard to define but real as rain to those who have been caught up in it since June 16, 2015, when the billionaire developer made that famous elevator descent in his Trump Tower to announce his candidacy to an assembled media.
At the time, Trump's candidacy was widely considered a joke, notable mainly for an attack, regarded as highly impolitic, upon "rapists" and other putative offenders streaming across the nation's porous southern border from Mexico.
The candidate's flamboyant wealth, his playboy lifestyle, and his The Apprentice TV show were further aspects of Trump's vita known to his fellow Americans. His political profile was sketchy at best, though he attracted widespread attention in 2012 when he flirted with a presidential race, largely via his public endorsement of the controversial and later discredited "birther" theory, which held that President Obama had been born in Kenya and hence was ineligible to hold his office.
To the surprise of most political observers, and certainly to the 17 or so other declared contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump's passionate advocacy of building a wall on the Mexican border, his determination to expel an estimated 11 million illegal aliens, and his denunciation of "bad" trade deals like NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) became the chief ingredients of a bare-bones platform that, aided by a volatile attack-mode style vis-à-vis his "establishment" opponents, gave Trump the aura of an all-purpose change agent and made him the sole survivor of a tempestuous GOP primary period.
For her part, Clinton had first become known nationally as the wife and political partner of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and as his loyal, steadfast supporter during a series of crises, including proven and suspected sexual escapades, that bedeviled his initial presidential candidacy as a Democrat in 1992 and continued through his two terms as president. Despite his turbulent tenure, which included an impeachment at the hands of congressional Republicans and his acquittal, the charismatic president presided over a long stretch of peace and prosperity and remained popular in the nation at large.
After they left the White House, the former first lady won a U.S. Senate seat from New York and waged a hotly contested Democratic primary race for president in 2008, which she lost to Illinois Senator Obama, who then asked her to serve as secretary of state. Though her service in that office remains a point of contention with partisan Republicans, Clinton earned a reputation in that and her other incarnations as a tenacious and able, even gallant personality, though her penchant for secrecy and absence of transcendent charm like her husband's remained liabilities.
Through it all, Hillary Clinton remained a heroine to many for her championing of diversity and her implicit assault on the glass ceiling of male dominance, and she won the Democratic nomination for president on her second try in 2016, though Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a declared "democratic socialist," would give her a difficult primary challenge via the appeal to youthful voters of his call for a "political revolution."
In some ways, the Trump-Clinton contest, though generating what may well be a near-record turnout, has been a race to the bottom, with both candidates struggling to maintain the loyalty of their rank-and-file party members and each suffering major embarrassments — Trump through erratic debate performances and revelations of a rakish past, Clinton through an unending crisis over her admittedly ill-advised use of a private email account as secretary of state.
For more on developments in the presidential race, see this week's editorial.
Contested races on the Shelby County ballot:
Republican nominee David Kustoff (8th District) and Democratic incumbent Steve Cohen (9th District) each have challengers of record: Democrat Rickey Hobson and five independents for Kustoff, Republican Wayne Alberson and a single independent for Cohen, but neither Cohen nor Kustoff will have much trouble winning. Both, as it happens, are expending considerable effort for their party's presidential candidates.
STATE HOUSE RACES:
District 83: Republican incumbent Mark White has an energetic (but under-funded) Democratic opponent in University of Memphis professor Larry Pivnick, and the challenger has the additional obstacle of running in a former swing district, bridging city and suburbs, that has turned dependably GOP red.
District 86: Democratic incumbent Barbara Cooper once again faces her biennial GOP challenger George T. Edwards III and once again will turn him away easily in this inner-city district.
District 88 incumbent Larry Miller and District 91 incumbent Raumesh Akbari, both Democrats, will make short work of independents Orden Williams and William King, respectively. How many times must it be pointed out that independent candidates, with neither money nor networks, do not win in partisan elections? Much the same handicaps apply to Samuel Arthur Watkins, a Republican running against incumbent Akbari, a Democrat in a Democratic district and a rising legislative star, to boot.
District 96, in greater Cordova, features a determined Democratic candidate, Dwayne Thompson, in a challenge both to the GOP's better-funded and established incumbent Steve McManus and to the thesis that the district is forever dyed red, the odds heavily favor McManus, but Thompson is certainly trying hard.
All Bartlett aldermen and school board members are running unopposed.
In Collierville, the aldermen's races are unopposed as well, but the race for mayor features a second rematch between incumbent Stan Joyner and Tom Allen, a two-term alderman who has run for mayor four times already, twice previously against Joyner.
In Germantown, there is no mayor's race on the ballot, but incumbent Mayor Mike Palazzolo is backing a slate for aldermen and the city's school board that is mainly composed of incumbents against a group of challengers for each position.
Two aldermen's races are contested. Palazzolo is supporting incumbent Dave Klevan versus Dean Massey in Position 3 and Rocky Janda versus David Nischwitz in Position 5.
Three school board seats are on the ballot. Incumbents Linda Fisher in Position 1 and Natalie Williams in Position 3, and newcomer Mindy Fischer in Position 4 have the mayor's support versus Laura Meanwell, Suzanne Jones, and Amy Eoff, respectively.
In Millington, Mayor Chris Ford is opposed by Terry Jones. Aldermen's races are Missy Boyd Ervin vs. Bethany K. Huffman in Position 1; Al Bell vs. Hank Hawkins in Position 2; Frankie Dakin vs. Roger Taney Henderson in Position 3; Larry Dagen vs. Sherrie Hopper in Position 4; Donald Holsinger vs. Thomas L. McGhee in Position 5; and Jon Crisp vs. Don Lowry in Position 6.
Contested school board races feature Roger Christopher vs. Gregory Ritter in Position 1; Mark Coulter vs. Rosie Crawford in Position 3; and Louise Kennon vs. Ronnie Mackin in Position 5. REFERENDA:
Lakeland voters will decide on whether to impose term limits of two four-year terms on city officials, while voters in unincorporated Shelby County will vote on allowing wine sales in grocery stores.
Memphis voters are asked to vote on a complicated charter amendment that, in effect, would redistribute to the city's general fund some $5 million worth of utility tax revenues annually that have previously been destined to the county's fund. (Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has publicly opposed the amendment.)
And all voters within Shelby County can vote on a charter amendment requiring County Commission approval of any mayoral dismissal of the County Attorney. (Luttrell is opposed to that one as well.)