Hedging the Bet 

Granted, the August 3rd election ballot confronting Shelby Countians is large, long, and complex, and it remains to be seen whether the new Diebold voting machines being employed for the first time won't present further difficulties on top of all that. Even so, it would be an inattentive voter indeed who failed to develop a sense of déjà vu while working through the ballot.

No fewer than four candidates appear on the ballot in two different races. To start with what on the surface appears most bizarre, John Farmer is running simultaneously for the 8th District congressional seat and the District 89 (Midtown) seat in the state House of Representatives. Correct us if we're wrong, but those two districts don't even seem to overlap geographically. Yes, the residency requirements for the two offices are sufficiently ambiguous as to permit this dual race in the short run, and we suppose that even Farmer, a stout enough soul, would be forthright enough to acknowledge that he has little hope of capturing either seat from the incumbents who hold them.

Then there's Joe Towns, the longtime state representative from District 84 (South Memphis), who was running both for reelection and for the 9th District congressional seat. God only knows why he did the latter, since his lackluster pursuit of that race made his chances only academic, and thus he dropped out. He will probably win his state House race.

And there's Larry Henson, a serious activist for various causes who has offered himself both for the same District 89 state House seat being sought by Farmer and for the Charter Commission. Henson's chances of prevailing in the Democratic primary against state representative Beverly Marrero are as remote and hypothetical as those of Republican Farmer in the general election. So his only realistic expectation is that he can win the Charter Commission race.

The fourth instance of a candidate involved in a dual run is more troubling. This is state representative Henri Brooks, who has a good chance of prevailing in both her race for the District 2, Position 2, County Commission seat and her reelection race in House District 92. There is apparently nothing that would prevent Brooks from holding both seats, although to do so would be awkward, and Brooks has indicated she would be willing to surrender the House seat in the event of a dual victory.

One problem: The candidates opposing Brooks -- Novella Smith Arnold for the commission seat and Michael Saine and Elbert "Skip" Rich Jr. in the House race -- have demonstrated themselves to be worthy of holding the seats in question. Since there is no automatic second-place succession in the event of a winner's withdrawal, Brooks' decision to hedge her bets is unfair to her opponents. Worse, it probably means another in the recent series of special elections to be paid for by the taxpayers of Shelby County, and that's worse than unfair. It's an unnecessary and expensive imposition on the public. Legislation may be in order to prevent such cases as this from happening again.

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