The bitterness level continues to escalate in the District 89 Democratic primary to determine a successor to former representative Carol Chumney,. who vacated the seat during her successful recent city-council campaign.
The newest developments include (1) a formal legal complaint by one candidate, Beverly Robison Marrero, against her opponent, Jeff Sullivan; and (2) Sullivans accusation that Marrero and her chief adviser, state Senator Steve Cohen, are engaging in harassment and sabotage against his campaign.
Sullivan said Wednesday that someone affiliated with Marreros campaign, presumably Cohen, had prevailed on a prominent Nashville lobbyist to pressure a supporter of Sullivans into terminating an arrangement providing Sullivan with headquarters for campaign phone-bank activity.
The lobbyist, said Sullivan, was Tom the Golden Goose Hensley, who reportedly called Johnny Barzizza, proprietor of Southwestern Liquor Distributors, advising Barzizza that state law prohibits the donation of such space as an in-kind contribution by a corporation.
In response, said Sullivan, he arranged to pay Barzizza for the use of the space and, henceforth, to transfer his phone-bank activities to the Madison Avenue headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Meanwhile, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons remains a supporter of Sullivans, but he has felt obliged to withdraw his signature from a list of the candidates Republican supporters.
Reason? As an officer of the law, Gibbons was forced into technical neutrality after a formal complaint to his office by Marrero, who alleges that her rival has feloniously misrepresented the facts of his residence.
Two other prominent local Republicans, State Senator Curtis Person and Memphis city council chairman Brent Taylor, remain as signatories to a support letter the Sullivan letter has prepared for distribution within the district.
Gibbons statement reads as follows:
State House of Representatives candidate Beverly Marrero has submitted to this office a complaint against her opponent, Jeff Sullivan, alleging a violation of Tennessees election law. Marrero and Sullivan are opposing each other in next weeks Democratic primary to succeed Carol Chumney in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Because of my personal friendship with, and support of, Mr. Sullivan, I have referred this matter to District Attorney Jerry Estes of the Tenth Judicial District, which is in east Tennessee, to serve as a special prosecutor. General Estes will be responsible for reviewing the matter and making a determination as to what action, if any, is appropriate.
Next Tuesdays Democratic primary will in effect determine Chumneys successor. No Republican filed for the District 89 seat, a fact which will leave next weeks primary winner unopposed on the February 10th general election ballot.
Sullivan filed a formal affidavit alleging a change-of-address before casting an early vote at Berclair Church of Christ last week, and Marreros legal complaint disputes the validity of that affidavit under state law defining what a residence is for purposes of voting.
The residence Sullivan provided at early voting was on Graham Street. Cohen and Marrero allege that Sullivan and his expectant wife Maura Black Sullivan actually continue to reside at the home they own on Reese St., which is several blocks outside District 89.
Compounding the situation is the fact that Maura Sullivan is nine months pregnant with the couples first child and is scheduled to give birth or about Election Day.