One of several hot primary races brewing on the Democratic side of this year’s countywide election is that for the new District 10 position on the Shelby County Commission.
As of Monday, with Thursday's February 20 filing deadline three days away, only relative unknown Curtis Byrd and Reginald Milton had filed, but of the three other Democrats who had picked up petitions — Jake Brown, Martavius Jones, and Louis Morganfield — two, Brown and Jones, have previously attracted considerable attention.
They, along with Milton, a community organizer whose previous campaigns for office have given him considerable name recognition, had been the subject of frequent speculation among local Democrats regarding the ways in which they might split the primary vote.
Jones, a prominent — even pivotal — member of both the old Memphis City Schools board and ihe provisional Shelby County Schools board which succeeded it, also has significant name recognition. At this point, he may not have as many rank and file party activists on his side as Milton (who has been endorsed by 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, among several influential others), but he has another ace in the hole.
That was demonstrated at a recent well-attended fundraising affair on Milton’s behalf at the Sidestreet Grill at Overton Square.
Off to the side of Milton’s impressive crowd were J.W. Gibson,k Aubrey Howard, and Osbie Howard, three prominent African Americans with both business credentials and political connections. They were there not as attendees of the Milton affair but in pursuance of a regular social ritual of their own, built around a love of good cigars.
But they were also, it turned out, leaning strongly not to Milton, the man of the hour that evening, but to Jones, whose profession is that of stockbroker, and their presence — though not intended as such — was a reminder that the former School Board member has a potential claim on the loyalty of entrepreneurs in the black community.
Brown, on the other hand, is a young white who has made something of a splash as a party activist and hopes to draw on a youth vote. In theory, he stands to benefit from a split in the African-American vote between Milton and Jones, but his problem, from the beginning, has been two-fold: He is a relative newcomer, and he so far lacks strong ties with the black communities that are predominant in District 10.
Brown also has gone through changes in his professional life and campaign. Formerly associated with Liz Rincon and Associates as a consultant, he says he is on “leave of absence” from that relationship, and Rincon is no longer directly supervising his campaign efforts.
At the moment, Milton would appear to have the upper hand, but Jones remains a strong potential challenger. Both he and Brown said early this week they intended to file by Thursday’s deadline.
UPDATE: liz Rincon, whose renamed consulting company, The Rincon Strategy Agency, continues efforts on behalf of several candidates, notably Mike McCusker, candidate in the Democratic primary for Criminal Court Clerk, says emphatically that, as of December, she had dissolved her professional relationship with Brown.
And former County Commissioner J.W. Gibson (mentioned above) has formally endorsed Milton.