Monday, January 11, 2010

Commission to Decide Monday on Legislative, Commission Seats

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 7:19 AM

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As the Shelby County Commission meets on Monday to decide the holders of two interim positions — one legislative and one on the commission itself — two women appear to have the best shots at selection, extending a trend begun with the appointment, late last year, of new commissioner Edith Moore.

The hopefuls are Johnnie Turner, who wants to succeed her late husband Larry Turner as representative from state House District 85, and Linda Kerley, the former mayor of Collierville, who is vying for the District 4, Position 3 seat on the commission vacated by the resignation of Matt Kuhn to become policy advisor to interim county mayor Joe Ford.

Turner, the longtime executive director of the local NAACP chapter, is considered the odds-on favorite in her race, though both Eddie Jones, a city code enforcement officer, and attorney Errol D. Harmon have some prominent backers. Jones appears to have the support of District 3 commissioner Sidney Chism, while Harmon is being vocally boosted by author and former Circuit Court Judge D’Army Bailey.

Kerley’s case is harder to call, in that several of her rivals for the commission vacancy would seem to have reasonable prospects themselves — among them Millington store-owner Terry Roland, a longtime presence in Republican politics, and John Pellicciotti, a computer networker and restorer of vintage automobiles.

The commission race is complicated by the question of party identity and the matter of whether the contenders intend to seek election for a full term later this year.

During last week’s interviews of candidates, current commission chair Joyce Avery, who represents District 4 herself, made a point of insisting that the district’s Republican heritage and voting history be accounted for in naming a successor. .Several Republicans on the commission are still somewhat aggrieved by the Democratic majority’s selection last February of fellow Democrat Kuhn to fill a position vacated by the GOP’s David Lillard, who became state treasurer.

Kerley is a Republican, with a documented history of voting exclusively in GOP primaries, but some Republican commissioners are unhappy with her past support for such Democratic campaigns as those of former county mayor and current Memphis mayor A C Wharton, Governor Phil Bredesen, and former congressman Harold Ford Jr. in his 2006 U.S. Senate race.

That fact hampered Kerley’s chances in previous bids to be appointed commissioner and interim county mayor, but her prospects are considered better this time around

Some commissioners continue to prefer that applicants for interim positions should, like Kerley, eschew running for regular terms. Pellicciotti has also taken that position. But Roland and another hopeful, George Chism, have declared their intent to run for a full term if appointed.

Moore’s surprise election as commissioner against better-known candidates makes it clear that surprises could happen and unheralded candidates could achieve victory, especially in the case of extended ballots.

The full roster of candidates for the two positions are:

District 85 — Turner, Harmon, Jones, Paul Lewis, and Jacqueline Camper.
District 4, Position 3, Shelby County Commission — Kerley, Roland, Pellicciotti, chism, Kevin Bailey, Jim Bomprezzi, Harold Bill, James Michael Hivner, Charles McGowan, and John Wilkerson.

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