Primary Rosters Set for Shelby County Races 

One deadline down for the Election 2018 cycle. All candidates who will be running in the May 1st Democratic or Republican primaries for a variety of countywide positions managed to get their petitions into the Shelby County Election Commission and validated by last Thursday's noon deadline.

The next deadline, for candidates having second thoughts to withdraw, is this Thursday, a week later. Beyond that, there is a deadline of April 5th for candidates wishing to run in the August primaries for state and federal offices. That deadline also applies to independents wanting to run in the August 2nd county-wide general election.

As usual, there were some last-minute surprises in Thursday's filings. Chris Thomas, the former Probate Court clerk, qualified to run against his successor, Paul Boyd, in the GOP primary, thereby hoping to correct the error he made eight years ago when he opted against reelection, apparently assuming that the growth of the local Democratic 

Chris Thomas
  • Chris Thomas

demographic, as of the 2010 cycle, made his return to office impossible.

Thomas guessed wrong. In an upset pattern that continued for the next several county elections, the Republicans swept the 2010 county elections. Boyd replaced Thomas, who meanwhile ran successfully for the Shelby County Commission, where he served the better part of two terms before leaving to pursue other livelihoods.

Other candidates for Probate Court clerk are Republican George "Dempsy" Summer, Democrat Bill Morrison (currently serving on the Memphis City Council), and independent Jennings Bernard.

Another last-minute entry was that of Wanda Halbert, a veteran of the old Memphis School Board and of the Memphis City Council, as a Democrat for county clerk. That office is being sought by two other Democrats, Jamal Whitlow and Mondell B. Williams, and four Republicans, Arnold Lee Weiner, Donna Creson, Maurice Denbow, and Sohelia N. Kail

There were no great changes in previously reported races, including the closely watched one for county mayor, which features Republicans Terry Roland, David Lenoir, and Joy Touliatos, and Democrats Lee Harris and Sidney Chism. (Independents Charles Nelson and Thorne Peters will also be on the ballot.)

click to enlarge David Lenoir
  • David Lenoir

Sheriff candidates include Democrats Bennie Cobb and Floyd Bonner, with Dale Lane the only Republican running.        

Vontyna Durham White, the candidate for the Shelby County Commission District 10 seat who originally filed as a Democrat, withdrew that petition last week, following criticism from Democratic party members that she had accompanied Republican mayoral candidate Roland as a supporter on his visit to the Election Commission office to pick up a mayoral petition. But White, who re-filed for the commission seat as an independent, still has a live petition for a position on the state Democratic executive committee. The Democrats' primary board was scheduled to meet this week to consider White's viability for the committee seat.

Lee Mills, the acting chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, sounded a note of caution to his party members last week at a meeting of the Lunch Hour Republicans at Owen Brennan's Restaurant. Obviously hoping to counter any sense of over-confidence, Mills foresaw more contested circumstances at the polls this time around, in which Democrats are contesting every one of the 13 positions on the Shelby County Commission (often with multiple candidates in their primary) and seem certain to have nominees with substantial financial support and name recognition in this year's statewide races. 

Mills had this to say: "Since 2010, we've been lucky in Shelby County. Thanks to the leadership we've had, we've had good organization and we've had good candidates. The Democrats, on the other hand, have had just the opposite. They haven't had good candidates and they haven't had good organization. But for the first time in a long time, they have both of those things. They have a good organization. They have a good leader. And they have decent candidates at the top that'll drive all the way down to the bottom. So we have got to turn our voters out."

Mills' warning came just before Shelby County's Republicans will hold their Lincoln Day banquet on Saturday evening at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn, featuring North Carolina's U.S. Senator Tim Scott as speaker.


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