As we write, federal judge Bernice Donald has not yet pronounced judgment on the thorny question of who gets to sit in Nashville on behalf of Memphis state Senate District 29. As you read this, her decision has likely already been announced to the consternation of one set of supporters, to the delight of the other.
But there are still matters to resolve, regardless of whether Democrat Ophelia Ford has been sustained as the winner in last falls special election, temporarily or otherwise, or, conversely, whether the state Senate, acting on complaints of fraud and irregularities lodged by Republican Terry Roland, has been permitted a final vote to void the election.
If Ford has been allowed to continue, we trust that conscientious Republicans, certainly those in the Senate itself, will restrain the impulse to heat and reheat the controversy for partisan reasons. We hope they will respond in the spirit of GOP senator Jim Bryson of Franklin, who said to Ford at the close of last Thursdays exhaustive single-day hearing in Judge Donalds court, See you tomorrow. Meaning, presumably, to work together fruitfully and without rancor on legislative business important to the state. If Ford has ended up the loser and is compelled to vacate her seat, we expect the Democrats to suck it up and move forward without recriminations too. After all, theyll still be favored to win a regular-election rematch.
Meanwhile, the loser will presumably be free to appeal the decision.
The real burden of decision is the one that must be borne by the members of the Shelby County Commission in the event that the election, now or later, ends up being voided. In that case, we hope the men and women of the commission will be commissioners of the public trust first and political partisans second. Meaning? That they not attempt to name either Ford or Roland as interim senator to represent the district. By definition, the election results are ambiguous and clouded, and any attempt by the commission to name the winner arbitrarily will be a further act of unfairness perpetrated on the citizens of District 29, who deserve to be the clear arbiters of the matter themselves, the ones who will ultimately set things right.
The appointment of a respected centrist candidate, or whichever party, or even of a political independent, would do just fine in the meantime, thank you.
And, regardless of how this thing has come out, we have the right to expect better henceforth from our local election machinery, as well as from the officials whose responsibility it is to supervise it and sit in judgment over it.
Maybe all the foregoing is so much wishful thinking a fact, however, which wont stop us from either thinking it or wishing it.
CORETTA SCOTT KING
Like the survivors of other great individuals, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., herself now deceased, was faced with the enormously difficult task of enduring through grief and continuing with her own life and that of her family while representing and bearing witness to her husbands legacy. That she did so with dignity for several decades was a great achievement in its own right. She too will be missed.