Friday, August 5, 2005


Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Political newcomer Ophelia Ford may not have been the smoothest candidate for the District 29 state Senate seat. But she was the only one named Ford, and that fact proved enough – if just barely – to give Ford a victory Thursday ( by 20 votes) in the special Democratic primary for the seat held for 30 years by her brother John Ford, who vacated it after being indicted in the Tennessee Waltz scandal last May.

Finishing second in the eight-person Democratic field was state Rep. Henri Brooks. Third was political newcomer Steve Haley, who campaigned hard and outpolled state representative Barbara Cooper, at one time considered the favorite in the race.

On the Republican side, Millington businessman Terry Roland easily beat John Farmer in the Senate primary, while newcomer Gary Rowe won the Democratic nomination for the District 87 state House of Representatives seat. No Republican sought the House seat, vacated by now state Senator Kathryn Bowers, ironically another Tennessee Waltz indictee.

Meanwhile, new Shelby County Democratic chairman Matt Kuhn presided over his first meeting of the local party’s new executive committee at the IBEW union hall on Madison. The meeting produced virtually no fireworks, and Kuhn’s self-effacing remark, “I better not say too much; I might end up endorsing everybody in the room,” was the closest he came to apologizing out loud for his apparent endorsement at a rally last Saturday of the U.S. Senate candidacy of 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr., Ophelia Ford’s nephew.

However, Kuhn had earlier released a statement of apology to members of the new 67-member executive committee for remarks he described as "not appropriate" that seemed to back Rep. Ford. (See text at foot of story.)

The party’s Ford faction received its share of party offices Thursday night on a Kuhn-backed “unity” slate that was voted in by virtual acclamation

Together with the Ophelia Ford win, spurred on by intensive last-minute campaigning overseen on the part of onetime Democratic boss and former congressman Harold Ford Sr, the Democratic committee election underscored the fact that the Ford era in local politics was not quite over.

Winner Ford polled a total of 1,336 votes, followed by 1,316 for Brooks and 647 for Haley. Further back were Cooper with 598 votes and State Rep. John DeBerry with 425 votes. Other candidates with vote totals: Jennings Bernard, 118; Kevin McLellan, 111; John A. Brown, 104; Laura Davis, 26.

Roland defeated Farmer by 1,217 to 126. Ford and Roland will square off in the Sept 15 general election, which will also feature as an independent perennial candidate Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges.

In the Democratic House primary, Rowe’s 323 votes gave him an unexpectedly comfortable win over Andrew "Rome" Withers, with 183; Alonzo Grant, with 163, and Omari Faulkner, with 123.

As the relative scantiness of the vote total indicated, turnout for Thursday’s special election, which took place with temperatures in the mid-90s, was sub-par.


Statement on Endorsements

I have become aware that my remarks at the recent breakfast reception hosted by Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. for the Shelby County Democratic Party have led some to wonder whether I endorsed Congressman Ford in his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

In the excitement Saturday of seeing so many Shelby County Democrats coming together, I made comments that were not appropriate for the Chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party. My remarks about Congressman Ford were intended to show our gratitude for his significant accomplishments on behalf of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, my words went beyond my intentions; I regret any misunderstanding this has caused.

As chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party, I cannot and will not endorse any Democratic candidate for elected office unless and until that candidate is the sole Democratic candidate for the position.

This is a new day for Shelby County Democrats. Our newly elected executive committee reflects the diversity of our community, and is a mix of new energy and political experience. Together we have the opportunity to ensure that the Democratic Party elects great Democrats to local and national offices.

I look forward to being with you Thursday.


Matt Kuhn

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