We won't know for sure who's running for what until this week's withdrawal deadline is past, but the basic list of this year's candidates for Shelby County elective positions would seem to be a done deal.
There are a bountiful number of races on the May 4th countywide ballot, and a few of them have an interesting backstory. Take the District 2, Position 2 race for the Shelby County Commission, for example. In the Democratic primary, incumbent Henri Brooks has opposition from soon-to-be-perennial candidate David Vinciarelli. No big deal, except for what almost happened.
Lurking about the Election Commission's second-floor offices on Washington Avenue last Thursday just before noon was one Tom Guleff, the inventive and indefatigable activist who had been set to run for Shelby County mayor as a Republican until Sheriff Mark Luttrell, a prohibitive favorite on the GOP side, decided to go for it himself.
On Thursday, Guleff showed up with a fully signed petition in hand. Was he going to run for mayor anyhow? Guleff replied with an impish grin. As it happened, Brooks had turned in an incomplete filing the day before. She had her 25-plus signatures in order but had left the cover sheet for her petition at home, and, without it, her filing would have been null and void.
Somehow Guleff had learned of this mischance and was sporting a brand-new, freshly signed petition of his own for the District 2, Position 2 commission seat, for which he intended to run as a Republican, maybe grabbing off an unlikely seat for the GOP in the event that Brooks didn't correct her error.
Ah, but she did, returning just before noon with the missing sheet in hand to attach to the rest of her filing. And Guleff, seeing it happen, merely tucked his own petition away.
Then there was the sudden pressure put on Chris Thomas, the outgoing Probate Court clerk who for upward of a year has been a declared candidate for the District 4, Position 1 commission seat which is being vacated by a term-limited Joyce Avery, the current commission chair.
Former Lakeland mayor Jim Bomprezzi, a frequent candidate in recent elections, would end up filing for the seat, too, but the real heat came from John Pellicciotti, who was recently appointed by commissioners to fill a vacancy for the District 4, Position 3 seat, and having promised not to seek a regular term in that one, chose to run for the Position 1 seat instead.
Thomas, meanwhile, was getting a lot of arm-twisting from GOP intermediaries to avoid the conflict by running instead for another seat, in District 1, Position 2, which was being vacated by George Flinn, now a candidate for Congress in the 8th District. (Flinn's assistant, Heidi Schafer, had filed for that one, along with Albert Maduska, an unknown quantity.)
"I wasn't scared off," said Thomas, who stayed right where he was, thereby acquiescing in a showdown with Pellicciotti that is likely to be one of the hot races of the political season.
And there's the situation of Mike Carpenter, incumbent Republican commissioner in District 1, Position 3. Right up to the filing deadline, it had seemed as though Carpenter, who has earned a reputation as an independent-minded member who toes the party line only when it suits him, would get a pass.
But right at the last minute came a filing from Joe Baier, the wealthy owner of a medical clinic who last ran for office when he sought a City Council seat in 2007. Carpenter suspects, apparently correctly, that Baier's candidacy is a form of retribution for his occasional apostasy, such as his vote in 2007, along with the commission's Democrats, in favor of creating a second Juvenile Court judge.
Various Republicans had come to Baier with complaints that Carpenter "votes all the time with the liberals," says the challenger, and a group of them helped him get a petition signed on Thursday morning, just hours before the deadline.
There are two other cases — the apparently aborted races for sheriff of Elton Hymon and James Bolden, both former law enforcement officers. Although Hymon and Bolden got their filing petitions in on time, they had neglected to file for certification by the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission in Nashville by a February 4th deadline.
Bolden complained that no information about the POST deadline was contained on the Election Commission's website and said he learned about it, days after it had expired, when he went to pick up his petition for filing for the office in Shelby County.
Although, technically, no decision has been made on appeals made by both Hymon and Bolden, the commission's director, Rich Holden, has made it clear that he will recommend that neither candidate be certified.
Other filings for County Commission:
Two commission candidates are unopposed. Incumbent Republican Mike Ritz has no opposition in District 1, Position 1, and Democrat Walter Bailey, who was term-limited off the commission four years ago, will return to the commission in District 2, Position 1 with no opponent. Bailey's once and future seat has been held for the past four years by J.W. Gibson, who is retiring.
Contestants for District 2, Position 3, an open seat, are Norma Lester, Reginald Milton, Eric Dunn, Reginald Milton, Melvin Burgess, and Freddie L. Thomas, all Democrats.
Incumbent Democrat James Harvey faces primary opposition from James Catchings in District 3, Position 1. Incumbent Sidney Chism is opposed by Andrew Rome Withers in the Democratic primary for District 3, Position 2, while incumbent Edith Moore and Justin Ford will vie in the Democratic primary for the District 3, Position 3 seat that both sought when Moore was awarded the appointment by the commission last month.
There are three contestants as well for the GOP nomination in commission District 4, Position 2: incumbent Wyatt Bunker, Ron Fittes, and John Wilkerson. In commission District 4, Position 3, the three candidates, all Republicans, are George Chism, Edgar Babian, and Terry Roland. In commission District 5, there are two Democrats, incumbent Steve Mulroy and Jennings Bernard, and one Republican, Rolando Toyos.
• The race for Shelby County mayor boasts races in both party primaries. As expected, interim mayor Joe Ford and Shelby County commissioner Deidre Malone will fight it out on the Democratic side, and they will be joined by an unexpected last-minute filee, Otis Jackson, who currently serves as General Sessions Court clerk.
In the Republican mayoral primary, Luttrell is opposed by perennial candidate Ernest Lunati, in what is expected to be a walkover for Luttrell.
Leo Awgowhat filed for mayor as an independent, as did Sandra Sullivan. Only Awgowhat had the requisite number of correct signatures, however.
The Shelby County sheriff's race promises to be interesting on both sides of the party line. Besides Hymon and Bolden, Democrats who filed included Randy Wade, Reginald French, Bennie Cobb, and Larry Hill. Republicans running for sheriff are James Coleman, Dale Lane, Bill Oldham, and Bobby Simmons.
Trustee candidates are incumbent Regina Morrison Newman and M. LaTroy Williams, both Democrats, and Jeff Jacobs, David Lenoir, and John Willingham, all Republicans.
Candidates for Shelby County clerk are Charlotte Draper, Corey Maclin, and Keith Miller (all Democrats) and Wayne Mashburn and Steve Moore (Republicans).
Running for Juvenile Court clerk are Sylvester Bradley Jr., Charles R. Marshall, and Shep Wilbun (all Democrats); Republican Joy Touliatos; and independent Julia Robinson Wiseman.
Candidates for Circuit Court clerk are Ricky W. Dixon, Carmichael Johnson, and Steve Webster (all Democrats) and incumbent Jimmy Moore, a Republican.
Seeking the office of Criminal Court clerk are Republicans Michael Porter and Kevin Key (son of outgoing clerk Bill Key) and Democrats Ralph White, Minerva Johnican, and Vernon Johnson. Independent Jerry Stamson also seeks the position.
Probate Court clerk candidates are Democrats Sondra Becton, Peggy J. Dobbins, Danny W. Kail, Clay Perry, Anita Sawyer-Hamilton, and Kevin Tyler and Republican Paul Boyd.
Finally, candidates for register are incumbent Tom Leatherwood, a Republican, and Carlton W. Orange, Lady J. Swift, and Coleman Thompson, all Democrats.