Sara Lewis, the once and (if she has her way) future Memphis School Board member, is mad as hell about a decision by the Shelby County Democratic Party’s executive committee to endorse one of its officers, party vice-chair Cherry Davis, in the multi-candidate Sixth District race involving Lewis, Davis, and five other candidates.
“The Party took a position that It wouldn’t choose between Democrats in a non-partisan race, and here it is doing so,” said Lewis, a public-sector veteran who served several previous terms on the Board before leaving it in 2006.
She also formerly headed the Free the Children organization, Shelby County Head Start, and, most recently, the Office of Youth Services and Community Affairs. During her respective tenures, Lewis acquired ample numbers of both admirers and detractors. She was frequently involved in controversy — particularly over the quality of her administrative oversight.
A former Memphis City Schools superintendent, Johnnie B. Watson, once complained of what he called “harassment” from the strong-willed Lewis, who was always a major figure in School Board debates.
Lewis’s objections to the SCDP endorsement in District 6 aren’t limited to her contention that the Party is violating its own official policy. She wonders why the Party executive committee chose to endorse in District 6 and not in the At Large, Position 2 race, which is also contested.
“They endorsed her because she asked them. But no one else was even informed that an endorsement was coming and was even invited to address the committee,” Lewis said.
Shelby County Democratic chairman Van Turner said Tuesday he was well aware of candidate Lewis’ discontent and had taken steps to address it.
“It’s true that generally we don’t endorse in contested non-partisan races involving more than one Democrat, but there is a precedent.” He cited the committee’s endorsement of School Board member Freda Williams in a previous election in which Williams, a party executive committee member, had opposition by another Democrat.
Turner noted that in both Williams' case and that of Davis, who is the Shelby County Democratic Party’s vice chair, the person endorsed had a prominent active role in the local party. He said the move to endorse Davis was made from the floor by member Howard Richardson at last Thursday night’s monthly meeting of the party executive committee and was approved unanimously.
As for Lewis’ other objection, that no move to endorse was made in the At Large, Position 2 race, involving incumbent K.T. Whalum Jr., Bob Morgan, and Richard Fields, Turner observed that no motion to do so had come from the floor.
On Friday, the day after the endorsement vote of Davis, Turner said he sent out an email to all executive committee members scheduling a conference call to reconsider the action. “Only ten people responded, and all of them were unanimous in favor of the endorsement we had made,” Turner said.
In the two other Board races on the ballot in November, District 2 incumbent Betty Mallot and district 4 incumbent Martavius Jones are unopposed.