Money Talk: A Look at Council Race Funding 

To begin with a correction: In the Politics column for Thursday, August 1st, it was stated that Erika Sugarmon was a candidate for the Super-District 9, Position 3 seat. That was an unfortunate typo. Sugarmon and Chase Carlisle are paired in one of the few one-on-one contests on the council ballot. And they are contending for the Super-District 9, Position 1 (one) seat.

The actual contest for the Super-District 9, Position 3 seat involves four candidates — Jeff Warren, Cody Fletcher, Charley Burch, and Tyrone Romeo Franklin. Most observers see that race to be one between Warren, a physician and former Memphis School Board member, and Fletcher, a development specialist at the University of Memphis who is making his first political run.

Burch, who has run for several previous offices and is a security officer at Memphis International Airport, has raised the only real issue that has surfaced so far, alleging potential or actual conflicts of interest stemming from Fletcher's association with a TIF project in the University of Memphis area, administered by the non-profit d University Neighborhoods Development Corporation. and involving some possible indirect oversight by a council-funded body.

Paul Morris, Fletcher's treasurer, has responded that the charge is "ridiculous, reckless, false, and defamatory" and that a state law cited by Burch as his authority does not apply to employees of the university.

Resource-wise, Warren is a clear leader, with $142,000 on hand as of his second-quarter financial report. Fletcher comes in at $42,000, and Burch and Franklin are not even blips on the screen as of yet.

The aforementioned Sugarmon-Carlisle race for Position 1 is equally lopsided. Carlisle's second-quarter report shows him with $129,000 on hand, while Sugarmon has $820. She has the asset of name recognition, though. Her late father, Russell Sugarmon, was a distinguished lawyer and civil rights pioneer who later served as a General Sessions Court judge. Developer Carlisle's father, the late builder Gene Carlisle, is a well-known name, too, for that matter.

District 5 is the site of another bona fide one-on-one. The incumbent, Worth Morgan, a sales executive with a social pedigree and significant business support, has a campaign balance on hand of $117,000, according to his second-quarter report. Though Morgan did not shy away from public campaigning in scheduled forums and the like during his 2015 race, he was assisted mightily by a well-funded advertising campaign, and a recent Facebook post has alerted supporters that his latest yard signs and ads for this year's campaign are plentiful and ready to go.

click to enlarge John Marek - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • John Marek

The assets, financial and otherwise, of Morgan's opponent, lawyer John Marek, are at this point something of an unknown quantity. Marek has ample political experience as a cadre in numerous Democratic campaigns and managed one of 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen's re-election campaigns. And he is a cannabis entrepreneur, with a stake in a potentially profitable Colorado farm.

Up until now, Marek has been devoting considerable time to the Colorado matter and has done little campaigning. But he arrived Sunday as a visitor to the headquarters opening of candidate Warren with news that he is ready to be a full-time campaigner in his second try for the District 5 seat. Marek has abundant panache but has only just begun to raise money. He has made clear that criminal justice reform is a major concern.

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