Maybe it was the butterfly ballot…..
Oh, there was no butterfly ballot?
There were numerous surprise results Tuesday night, when all the ballots cast in early voting and on election day were counted.
— MAYOR’S RACE: While former County Commissioner Deidre Malone’s victory in the Democratic primary for Shelby County Mayor was no great surprise, the close second place finish of the Rev. Kennth Whalum Jr. was. Whalum raised no money, did no advertising, made few appearances, and left the country for 10 days in the stretch run.
University of Memphis law professor and outgoing County Commissioner Steve Mulroy has to be disappointed at his third-place finish, but, between Malone’s rank-and-file support and big-time endorsements (A C Wharton and The Commercial Appeal, among others), on one hand, and Whalum’s name recognition and obvious grass-roots support on the other, Mulroy’s 30-odd percent doesn’t look so bad.
— DISTRICT 10, DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY, COUNTY COMMISSION: The largely absent Martavius Jones’ near-win over the well-backed and well-funded Reginald Milton was a near miracle. Former School Board member Jones raised no money, spent no money, showed up at no events, etc., etc. Still, he almost won and came so close that he could, and probably will, ask for a recount. Unsurprisingly, Jake Brown turned out to be not much of a factor.
— DISTRICT 9, DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY, COUNTY COMMISSION: A bona fide three-way between incumbent Justin Ford, former School Board member Patrice Robinson, and Memphis Education Association president Keith Williams. Incumbency plus the Ford name may have boosted what was almost a stealth campaign by Ford.
— PROBATE COURT CLERK, DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: In the most populated field of any contested position, with seven (7) contenders, the winner was one William Chism, previously unknown but the lucky owner of a surname owned by at least two other active politicians — current County Commissioner Sidney Chism (not a candidate this year) and George Chism, a GOP activist who won his Commission 2 primary race this year. What’s in a name? Right.
— CIRCUIT COURT CLERK, DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: Granted, it has often been jested that the ever-contentious Del Gill, worry-wart to two generations of fellow Democratic activists, would have trouble winning an election in which he was the only candidate. But his two-to-one victorious opponent Tuesday, Rhonda Banks, is also unique — as the only candidate to confess in a public forum that she really had no idea what the job she was running for entailed.
Those are some of the major surprises. Now, before listing the rest of the results, what can we glean from these cases about causative factors or general trends?
Answer: Not too much. Many of the candidates in several races had some role in the prolonged educational struggles of the last few years for example, but Martavius Jones and Kenneth Whalum, two of the surprise near-missers, were on opposite sides of the charter-surrender issue that began the school crisis; so it wasn’t one point of view or the other that made a difference.
Name recognition? Maybe. That would certainly explain the victory of the aforementioned William Chism in a crowded field, and it obviously helped Justin Ford win his three-way race. So did incumbency in Ford’s case. Democratic activist Eddie Jones had run close enough and often enough in earlier races to make the difference, perhaps, in the crowded District 11 Commission race.
County Commissioner Henri Brooks’ easy victory over Kenneth Moody for the Democratic nomination for Juvenile Court Clerk owes something to name recognition, too, but she also profited from the publicity she achieved in her successful campaign to get the Department of Justice to mandate reforms in Juvenile Court.
Another suggestion comes from 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, who notes that many of the winners had their names first on the ballot in their races. This might indeed have been a factor, especially for a voter in a hurry moving down the ballot.
Endorsements? Hard to see a pattern there. Judge Joe Brown, the de facto Democratic nominee for District Attorney General, was thought early on the have more than usual clout, but none of his endorsees came out ahead. A C Wharton? Certainly , the mayor’s endorsement of Malone, as indicated, helped, but his full-out support of John Freeman in the Democratic primary for County Clerk still left Freeman finishing third. In the Democratic primary for Mayor, Steve Mulroy made a clean sweep of the union endorsements, but he, too, finished third.
Representative Cohen was, on the endorsement scale, 4 for 4. He endorsed winners Melvin Burgess, Willie Brooks, and Reginald Milton in Commission races, and Cheyenne Johnson in the Democratic primary for assessor.
The one given in this first of three election cycles scheduled for 2014 is the fact of low turnout — only 8 percent of the registered voters, 5 percent of whom cast their ballots early. Despite gorgeously sunny weather on Tuesday, people obviously had other things on their mind and better things to do than to vote. The total number of voters was even appreciably below the levels of the May primaries of four years ago, when the positions were roughly the same.
So what happens in a low-turnout election? All other factors being equal, the campaign which has the most enthusiastic cadres and the best-organized means of getting them to the polls will win. Malone, for one, seems to have had such an edge.
One other factor worth mentioning: It is no secret that voters’ party identification has tended to polarize by race, with white voters moving toward the Republican Party and African-American voters generally going Democratic. Activists in both parties have made serious efforts toward broadening their reach beyond those boundaries, with minimal success.
Cases in point for the Democrats in this cycle were white candidates Mulroy, Freeman, David Vinciarelli in the District 8 Commission race, Brown in District 10, Michael McCusker in the Criminal Court Clerk’s race, and Aaron Hall and Heidi Kuhn in the Probate Court Clerk’s race. To be sure, some of these candidacies were more serious than others. The point is that no white Democrat won a race in a bi-racial field, and make of that what you will.
And, though there were only two black candidacies on the Republican side — Kelly Price in the four-way race for County Commission District 3 (won by school board veteran David Reaves, closely trailed by Sherry Simmons) and Michael Finney in the Circuit Court Clerk’s race easily won by incumbent Jimmy Moore — the same principle has applied historically.
There is, of course, a crossover instinct in the voting population (which, however, the right circumstance or individual has to activate). It has benefited, among others, Steve Cohen, Mayor AC Wharton, and County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who romped to a wipeout win over the hapless Ernest Lunati in the GOP mayoral primary.
It remains to be seen, in a county whose demographics would seem on the surface to be trending Democratic and African-American, whether Malone, a sunny presence, an able campaigner, and a well-credentialed candidate whose business success as a P.R. executive helped her both reputation-wise and strategy-wise, has a chance of beating Luttrell, whose crossover totals, both racial and partisan, have always been better than good.
In any case, the August 7th county general election, which shares ballot space with beaucoup races for judge and with state and federal primaries, should beget a substantially better turnout than did the county primaries. And, besides the mayor’s race, which could be close, the race for District Attorney General — between Democrat Joe Brown and Republican incumbent Amy Weirich — should be a doozy as well.
Here, according to unofficial Election Commission totals, is how it all went:
DISTRICT ATTORNEY GENERAL (Republican)
DISTRICT ATTORNEY GENERAL (Democratic)
COUNTY MAYOR (Republican)
MARK H. LUTTRELL
COUNTY MAYOR (Democratic)
KENNETH WHALUM, JR.
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 1 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 1 (Democatic
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 2 (Republican)
DAVID C. BRADFORD
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 2 (Democatic)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 3 (Republican)
KELLY D. PRICE
SHERRY S. SIMMONS
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 3 (Democatic)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 4 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 4 (Democatic)
JACKIE D. JACKSON
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 5 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 5 (Democratic)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 6 (Republican)
DAVID M. SHIFFMAN
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 6 (Democratic)
KARL L. BOND
EDITH ANN MOORE
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 7 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 7 (Democratic)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 8 (Republican)
JULIE D. RAY
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 8 (Democratic)
BERLIN F. BOYD
DAVID W. VINCIARELLI
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 9 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 9 (Democratic)
PATRICE J. ROBINSON
KEITH O. WILLIAMS
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 10 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 10 (Democratic)
MARTAVIUS D. JONES
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 11 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 11 (Democratic)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 12 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 12 (Democatic)
BRYANT K. BOONE
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 13 (Republican)
COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 13 (Democratic)
ASSESSOR OF PROPERTY (Republican)
MARY PETERS ROYKO
ASSESSOR OF PROPERTY (Democratic)
COUNTY TRUSTEE (Republican)
COUNTY TRUSTEE (Democratic)
M. LATROY WILLIAMS
SHERIFF (D) (219 of 219 Precincts Reporting) ... (100.00%)
CIRCUIT COURT CLERK (Republican)
CIRCUIT COURT CLERK (Democratic)
CRIMINAL COURT CLERK (Republican)
CRIMINAL COURT CLERK (Democratic)
MICHAEL R. McCUSKER
JUVENILE COURT CLERK (Republican)
JUVENILE COURT CLERK (Democratic)
HENRI E. BROOKS
PROBATE COURT CLERK (Republican)
PROBATE COURT CLERK (Democratic)
WILLIAM CHISM, JR.
CYNTHIA A. GENTRY
COUNTY CLERK (Republican)
COUNTY CLERK (Democratic)
CHARLOTTE B. DRAPER
JOHN H. FREEMAN
YOLANDA R. KIGHT
REGISTER OF DEEDS (Republican)
REGISTER OF DEEDS (Democratic)