Thursday, November 10, 2011

Harris Romps to Easy Win in District 7

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 8:09 PM

Lee Harris
  • Lee Harris
University of Memphis law professor Lee Harris has won the runoff election for the District 7 seat on the Memphis City Council, amassing 67.25 percent of the total vote.

With all absentee and early-voting ballots counted, the unofficial totals had been: Lee Harris, 960 votes, or 68.42 percent of the total; Kemba Ford, 443 votes, or 31.58 percent. Unofficially, Harris would finish with 2,587 votes to Ford's 1,259 (32.73 percent).

Both candidates had worked hard since they were paired off as the survivors of a multi-candidate race on October 6. But, in adddition to his credentials and campaigning skills, Harris, a veteran of the 9th District congressional race in 2006, had greater resources, more financial support, and a larger number of politically experienced backers.

Though she could boast a well-known political name -- that of the extended Ford family -- Kemba Ford was not personally well known at the start of the race, having spent most of the last several years in California, where she had been working at an acting career.

She performed impressively on the stump, though, and had the support of most of the city's employee unions, whose members felt aggrieved by the pay and benefit cuts imposed on them in this year's city budget.

After the initial round of voting on October 6 showed Harris and Ford with virtually identical totals, members of Mayor A C Wharton's political circle vowed to spare no effort in backing Harris, a Wharton endorsee.

Harris' ability to generate an impressive vote downtown and on Mud Island (site of both his and Ford's residence), as well as more than holding his own in the district's North Memphis precincts, seems to have made the difference. "I think it's possible that we won every precict," he said.

Harris, regarding himself as a "political unknown," saw the question of name identification as working in his opponent's favor, overall. "Service and dedication beat the brand name," he said at his victory celebration.

The District 7 seat was vacated earlier this year by longtime incumbent Barbara Swearengen Ware, who retired upon accepting a plea bargain on charges of official misconduct in circumventing automobile registration procedures. Berlin Boyd had subsequently filled in as an interim councilman.

Harris is expected to fit in smoothly with an existing corps of young professionals on the Council.

A statement was released from the Ford campaign conveying news that Ford had called to congratulate Harris and bearing these lines: "Ford says she told Harris by phone that she hopes he does right by the people in District 7, and that she hopes he lives up to his promises. 'I will be watching,' she said. 'This is my first race, and it will not be my last. I will be very active in the community.'"

Harris, who said he was "surprised" by the somewhat edgy tone of her concession statement ("which was a little more tense over the telephone than it appears to be in the print version"), nevertheless praised Ford for having run a positive race overall and described her as someone with fine personal qualities and "real contributions" to make to the district and the city.

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