Few Surprises At Filing Deadline

On April 7, 2008, in News 2008, by Mark Norris

BILL DRIES | The Daily News
April 7, 2008

About half of Shelby County’s delegation to the Tennessee Legislature won re-election at Thursday’s filing deadline for candidates on the Aug. 7 ballot.

Eight of the 16 state House seats had only one candidate – the incumbent. And all three of the state Senate seats on the ballot were incumbent-only affairs.

This Thursday at noon is the deadline for any candidates to withdraw.

The only political surprise at last week’s filing deadline was a short-lived candidacy in the 9th Congressional district primary by state Rep. Joe Towns Jr. Towns filed his petition near the noon deadline. But he didn’t have enough signatures from registered voters living in the district so he was disqualified.

Days earlier, Towns had filed for re-election to his District 84 state House seat. While Towns didn’t make the congressional race, he had no opponents in the state House race and was effectively re-elected to another two-year term at the deadline.

It is normal for some would-be candidates to gather just enough signatures only to have a critical few disqualified because those who signed either don’t live in the district or aren’t registered to vote or both.

And the winner is …

Towns was one of eight state House members from Shelby County who had no opposition, primary or otherwise.

The seven others are District 83 Republican Brian Kelsey; District 88 Democrat Larry Miller; District 89 Democrat Jeanne Richardson; District 90 Democrat John DeBerry; District 96 Republican Steve McManus; District 97 Republican Jim Coley and District 99 Republican Ron Lollar.

All three state Senate seats up for election this year are also one candidate affairs. Republican Mark Norris and Democrats Beverly Marrero and Jim Kyle will begin new four-year terms in January.

Only three of the state legislative races have candidates in both primaries, meaning only those three will be decided at the November general election.

Meanwhile, the race for Memphis’ 9th U.S. Congressional District seat will have no Republican contenders.

At the deadline, no Republicans had filed.

Incumbent Steve Cohen will face four challengers in the Democratic primary as he runs for a second two-year term. His challengers include attorney Nikki Tinker, who finished second to Cohen in the hard-fought 2006 primary.

The other contenders are James Gregory, M. Latroy Williams and Isaac Richmond, a perennial independent candidate for the congressional seat when it was held by Harold Ford Sr. The seat has been held by a Democrat since Ford’s victory over Republican incumbent Dan Kuykendall in 1974.

Ford’s son, Jake Ford, has filed to run as an independent and automatically advances to the November general election ballot – just as he did two years ago. There are two other independent candidates, perennial Mary Taylor Shelby Wright and Dewey Clark, a campaign staffer and aide to former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell.

Clark testified at Campbell’s 2006 corruption trial that he also made a $9,000 cash payment to Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton. Herenton has not been charged with any wrongdoing and also has repeatedly declined to comment on Clark’s testimony.

Two more candidates joined John T. Fowlkes Jr. and Michael G. Floyd in the nonpartisan race for Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Division 6. Fowlkes was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to the vacant division earlier this year following the abrupt resignation of veteran Judge Fred Axley. At the deadline, attorneys Latonya S. Burrow and Claiborne Ferguson joined the field.

One of the busiest county general election races on the August ballot is for the Shelby County Schools board seat that had no candidates until the end of March. The district 2 school board seat being given up by state Rep. Ron Lollar has five candidates. It and the district 6 seat, being given up by appointee Dr. Fred Johnson, will be held by newcomers. District 4 incumbent Joe Clayton is running for re-election.

National level

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has no opposition in the Republican statewide primary. There are seven contenders in the Democratic Senate primary including former state party chairman Bob Tuke. Six independent candidates had filed by the deadline.

In the two other congressional races involving Shelby County voters, 7th District Republican incumbent Marsha Blackburn will have opposition in the August primary from Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood.

Jay Sparks of Lakeland and James Tomasik of Memphis have filed to run in the 7th District Democratic primary. Randy G. Morris also filed for the Democratic primary in Nashville.

Eighth District Congressman John Tanner of Union City has no opposition in the Democratic primary. He will face Republican James L. Hart in the November general election. Hart, who has advocated racial separation and “white rights,” has challenged Tanner before.

Some of the petitions were still being reviewed and signatures verified at press time.

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