Apparently, the old phrase “tantamount to election”-- which in antique times applied to all local Democratic primary contests-- can be taken out of mothballs and applied to the forthcoming special election to succeed Carol Chumney in District 89 of the state House of Representatives. Chumney, a Democrat who opposes Republican George Flinn in next week’s nominally bi-partisan runoff election, recently resigned her legislative seat just before a cutoff date that would have required the GOP-dominated Shelby County commission to appoint a successor. It is no secret that Democrats, at both local and state levels, were importuning Chumney to do so in order to facilitate their chances of holding on to the seat. And, with several Democrats in the running and with Thursday’s filing deadline looming, it now appears that Republicans won’t even contest the issue. At least temporarily, that became the case when Republican Jim Jamieson, who had been the earliest declared candidate for the seat, even before Chumney’s resignation, said Tuesday he was withdrawing from the campaign. In a news release, Jamieson took Chumney to task for timing her resignation so as to force the special election. “Had Ms. Chumney resigned the seat in August, the special election could have been placed on the October and November ballot and would have saved the taxpayers about $100,000. Instead, she resigned just before the November 4th deadline that would have prevented the County Commission from naming a replacement. Her reasoning for this was to make sure a Republican would not get the appointment. She followed the Governor's office suggestions and is now costing the taxpayers another $100,000.” Jamieson continued: “After long and emotional discussions with various citizens of District 89 and advisors of mine, I cannot with good conscience be a part of this wasteful spending Ms. Chumney has caused the citizens she claims to be so concerned about. I therefore announce that I will not be a candidate for the Tennessee State House of Representatives, District 89 in the upcoming special election.” Although such other Republicans as Henry Loeb Jr. and former state Representative Tim Joyce had talked up a race, there have been no GOP filings yet to match those of Democrats Jeff Sullivan and Kevin Gallagher, with one from Beverly Robison Marrero and, potentially, filings from toher Democrats expected Thursday. Jamieson’s explanation for his departure may be stretching a point, but, as local GOP chairman Kemp Conrad pointed out, District 89 is not an ideal venue for a Republican candidate. Al Gore defeated George W. Bush there by a margin of two-to-one in 2000 and Democrat Bob Clement prevailed over Lamar Alexander, the eventual winner, in last year’s U.S. Senate race. Moreover, despite the state Republican Party’s proclaimed emphasis on gaining control of the Tennessee legislature, the party hierarchy in Nashville has not designated the District 89 position as a “target” seat. No funds have been set aside to support a Republican aspirant in 89, and the local party, which has concentrated on city election contests, also has a limited to non-existent budget for the purpose.


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