- Norma Lester; George Monger
The other shoe has finally dropped in the aftermath of last year’s Democratic wipeout in the Shelby County general election. Two sets of shoes, actually.
Norma Lester and George Monger, the former a longtime Democratic activist, the latter a rising young star in party ranks, have been nominated by the Democratic members of the General Assembly to become the party’s two designated members on the Shelby County Election Commission. They replace Myra Stiles and James Johnson, both of whom had been frequent targets of criticism in party ranks for what many Democratic activists saw as insufficient vigilance in relation to the 2010 election results.
The entire Democratic slate of countywide candidates was defeated in the August general election, despite the party’s having an apparent preponderance of registered voters. Various alleged irregularities, plus a certifiable election-day glitch that temporarily caused an indeterminate number of potential voters to be turned away on grounds they had already early-voted, prompted party activists to bring suit against the Election Commission in an effort to void the election results.
Both Stiles, the longest-serving commission member, and Johnson, the commission’s former executive director, had joined in certifying the election outcome, and Stiles would issue a public statement endorsing the bona fides of her three Republican colleagues and the commission’s administration.
Chancellor Arnold Goldin would ultimately dismiss the legal complaint, but the feeling grew in Democratic ranks that the party needed new blood on the commission, and numerous Democrats lobbied for that point of view with members of the party’s legislative delegation, which was charged with making nominations to the state Election Commission.
The state Commission will meet on May 4 to confirm the various appointments by both parties to the various county election commissions.
State Rep. Larry Miller, who serves as chairman of the Democratic caucus within the Shelby County legislative delegation, presided over a meeting of the caucus on Monday, just before the House convened for a floor session. “I had passed out some forms and was still giving out instructions for what we needed to do when they started giving me back the forms with names already on them,” said a surprised Miller.
The names of Lester, a nurse, and Monger, a youthful mortgage broker who was active in the post-election legal contest, predominated. Johnson had received a modest number of mentions, but Stiles was omitted altogether, having not been included on a preliminary list of candidates prepared the preceding week.
Meanwhile, Shelby County Republicans have their own decision to make about local Election Commission membership. A vacancy opened up this week with the announcement by Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini that he is resigning to accept appointment as assistant Commissioner of the state Commerce and Insurance Department.
Longtime Republican member Robert Meyers will succeed to the Election Commission chairmanship. And activist Dee Nollner and former Memphis city councilman Brent Taylor have both expressed an interest in serving on the commission, joining Meyers and fellow GOP holdover Steve Stamson. The names of former Shelby County commissioners George Flinn and Joyce Avery have also received some mention.
The GOP legislative caucus is expected to make a decision on the vacancy this week in Nashville.