Thursday, December 27, 2001

PERSON LOOMED LARGE IN SAVING SHELBY'S 6 SEATS

PERSON LOOMED LARGE IN SAVING SHELBY'S 6 SEATS

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2001 at 4:00 AM

State Senator Curtis Person (R-Memphis) is a big man in more than one way. Impressively sized physically, the amiable Person (whose father, the late Curtis Person Sr., was a well-known amateur golfing champion and entrepreneur ) has been unopposed in his reelection bids since 1966. He chairs the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and exercises his considerable clout as quietly as he speaks.

Most recently, Person's influence was felt in the redistricting process. He served as chairman of the GOP's legislative redistricting committee, and, as he confided last week at the announcement for Shelby County Mayor of State Rep. Larry Scroggs (R-Germantown), whom he introduced), he was able to work out a formula whereby Shelby County would get to keep all six of its Senate seats after reapportionment. The deal, Person said then, had been signed off on by State Senator Jo Ann Graves (D-Gallatin),who chairs the full legislative redistricting committee, and Lt. Governor John Wilder (D-Somerville), the Senate's longtime presiding officer and a close Person ally.

"I'll be going further east," acknowledged Person, whose base is in the Republican wards of East Memphis, "but Mark and I won't be in together, and he can continue to present Shelby County."

Which is to say, the long-presumed need to eliminate one of Shelby County's six Senate seats, a circumstance that almost surely would have required freshman Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to run in the same district as Person, has evaporated. The lines will be drawn so as to allow Person's district, as he indicated, to expand eastward, taking in part of Norris's present one, while the Collierville Senator's district, already representing parts of Fayette and Lauderdale counties, will expand even further into those reaches. But it will keep its anchor in east Shelby County.

The new Norris district, predominantly rural now, won't be a slam-dunk for the suburban senator to win in, but his reelection task will be considerably easier than it would have been if required to run against the venerable Person.

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