Democrat Flinn, With Heavy GOP Support, Gets Interim Senate Seat 

Contractor Neal Named to Fill Brooks' House Seat

Shea Flinn, a Democrat, was named by the Shelby County Commission as the new interim state Senator from District 30. Flinn, who received a healthy majority over three other nominees at a special commission meeting Monday morning, will serve until the winner of next year's special election to fill the seat vacated by congressman-elect Steve Cohen.

Three other persons received nominations besides Flinn. They were: businessman/activist Joseph Kyles; activist/civic leader Cordell Orrin; and lawyer Robert Spence, a former city attorney. All except Spence, a Democrat who is on the ballot in next year’s special election for District 30, sought only an interim appointment.

The vote, which yielded Flinn eight votes (and two more from Democrats who formally changed over in his favor afterward), crossed party lines and came after a flurry of discussion about matters of partisanship and whether only a “caretaker” candidate (as Flinn described himself) should be considered.

The new senator, a lawyer, works in the broadcasting and other enterprises of his father, commissioner George Flinn, a Republican.

On hand for the vote were Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle and District 33 senator-elect Reginald Tate, who was selected by the county's Democratic Party as a ballot replacement for Senator Kathryn Bowers, a Tennessee Waltz indictee who resigned her seat last year for what she described as health reasons.

The commission also named an interim state representative to the District 92 seat vacated by current county commissiner Henri Brooks. Appointed without opposition was Eddie Neal, a construction-company owner. Neal is not on next year's special election ballot.

Dissension Among Democrats

Though all of the nominees for the state Senate vacancy were Democrats, pledged to support party goals in the legislature, three commission Democats saw potential partisan mischief in the nomination of Flinn by Republican Joyce Avery and in Flinn's support by the full complement of six GOP commissioners.

Democrat Deidre Malone expressed discontent with the fact (a "precident-changing" move, she called it), as did Henri Brooks and Sidney Chism.

In particular, Chism -- whom many considered the chief power broker in the new commission -- confessed to being blindsided by the vote for Flinn by Democrat James Harvey, who, along with Democrat Steve Mulroy, Flinn's former law professor, provided the basis for a bi-partisan coalition.

Before this week, it had been widely believed -- by Chism himself, among others -- that Harvey, who was endorsed by Chism in this year's Demcoratic primary, could be counted as a reliable member of a "Chism bloc."

Harvey, though, made a point of belying that premise. "I'm my own man, nobody else's, no matter what Sidney thinks," he said bluntly after Monday's vote.

Though both a Democrat and an African American himself, Harvey also said he deplored the idea of bloc-voting on the commission.

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