Shelby County

Reorganized Shelby County Democrats elect new chairman

A restructured Shelby County Democratic Party elected Naval Reserve officer and lawyer Corey Strong as chairman on Saturday, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Strong, 36, became the party’s first chairman since it was forcibly disbanded by the Tennessee Democratic Party a year ago.

“My goal is to have a unified message across various interest groups and people of different backgrounds,” Strong said. “The values that we share are the values we want represented in our government, our communities and our neighborhood.”

Strong, a graduate of White Station High and the U.S. Naval Academy, served eight years on active duty in the Navy. He received a law degree from the University of Memphis in 2014 and is a special project manager in the Shelby County Schools finance department under a foundation residency program.

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Shelby County Mayor Luttrell backs Boyd for governor

From the Commercial Appeal:

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell on Wednesday endorsed Randy Boyd in the Tennessee gubernatorial Republican primary election.

Standing next to Boyd at Evolve Bank & Trust on Poplar in East Memphis, Luttrell emphasized Boyd’s business background, emphasis on education and heritage in West Tennessee. Boyd, who formerly headed up state economic development efforts under Gov. Bill Haslam, was born in Knoxville but has family on this side of the state.

Luttrell said he and Boyd became friends as they worked together on development and education initiatives for Shelby County. Boyd, who resigned as commissioner of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to run for governor earlier this year, managed Haslam’s “Drive to 55” and Tennessee Promise education initiatives as an un-paid adviser.

“Randy Boyd is an entrepreneur who has a passion for education,” Luttrell said before quipping that they were probably the only two people in the room who knew the location of Fruitvale, a small town northwest of Jackson.

From the Boyd campaign

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Report bashes Shelby County DA Amy Weirich for ‘misconduct;’ She bashes ‘grossly inaccurate’ report

A Harvard Law School project has ranked Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich highest in Tennessee for prosecutorial misconduct, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Researchers with the Fair Punishment Project reviewed court opinions involving allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in California, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee from Jan. 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2015.

“In the time period we reviewed, the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office had the highest number of misconduct findings—with more than a dozen—and the most reversals in Tennessee,”  according to the report. (Note: The document is HERE.)

…Weirich disputed the report’s finding.

“This is a grossly inaccurate and incomplete account of these cases as seen through the eyes of a defense advocacy group,” Weirich said in a statement released by her office Thursday. “I became a prosecutor to hold the guilty accountable and to protect the innocent in every case, and that is what I have tried to do throughout my career. I will never apologize for trying to seek justice for victims of crime.”

… The Fair Punishment Project is a project of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and Criminal Justice Institute, The Bronx Defenders and the Accountable Justice Collaborative at The Advocacy Fund.

Republican Vaughan wins House District 95 special election

Republican Kevin Vaughan defeated Democrat Julie Byrd Ashworth with 62 percent of the vote to win a special election Thursday for state House District 95, vacated by former Republican Rep. Mark Lovell after he was accused of sexual harassment.

Vaughan, a business owner and member of the Collierville school board, had 3,099 votes to 1,737 for Ashworth, an attorney, according to the Shelby County Election Commission.

There were two independent as well. Robert Schutt got 143 votes and Jim Tomasik 25. And there were three write-in votes.

Since Vaughan replaces fellow Republican Lovell, who resigned in February, the state House’s partisan alignment remains the same as it was at the outset of the 110th General Assembly – 74 Republicans, 25 Democrats.

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Collierville school board member wins GOP nomination in House District 95

Collierville Schools board member Kevin Vaughan won the Republican primary election for state House District 95 by 49 votes over former Germantown alderman Frank Uhlhorn, reports the Memphis Daily News.

The unofficial results show Collierville alderman Bill Patton running third in the seven candidate contest. (Vaughan had 1,066 votes; Uhlhorn 1,017. Full results on Shelby County Election Commission website, HERE.)

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School voucher bill dies in House Budget Sub

This year’s leading school voucher bill, declared a “pilot project” that would apply only in Shelby County, died quietly in the House Budget Subcommittee Wednesday.

Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, sponsor of HB126, officially put off further consideration until next year in the Budget Subcommittee. Voucher bills have failed repeatedly in the past six years and proponents had hoped that narrowing this year’s version to just Shelby County would change the tradition.

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Low turnout in House District 95 early voting

Only 2,535 people cast ballots in early voting on choosing a successor to former state Rep. Mark Lovell, Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips tells the Commercial Appeal. That’s 4.9 percent of registered voters in House District 95.

Of those voting early, 2,313 voted in the Republican primary and just 222 in the Democratic primary.

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Shelby Commissioner Justin Ford charged with domestic violence

Shelby County Commissioner Justin Ford was released from jail Monday afternoon following his arrest earlier in the day after his girlfriend accused him of punching and choking her during an argument, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The 32-year-old faces charges of aggravated assault/domestic violence and false imprisonment.

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No interim appointment to vacant House District 95 seat

The Shelby County Commission voted Monday night against making an interim appointment to fill the House District 95 seat vacated by former Rep. Mark Lovell, reports the Memphis Daily News. The vote was five for making an appointment; six against.

Democrats hold a majority on the commission and there had been some talk of appointing a Democrat to the seat, though Lovell was a Republican. A special election to fill the vacancy has been scheduled, though the general election vote will not be held until June 15.

“I don’t see any sense in us going through with this,” commissioner Terry Roland said of the appointment.

But five of the commission’s seven-member Democratic majority voted to move ahead with the appointment. Democrat Justin Ford voted with the five Republicans present not to make the appointment. Democratic commissioner Eddie Jones was absent from Monday’s meeting.

The commission also approved $320,000 in funding for the special primary and general elections for the state House seat as well as another $40,245 for a special Lakeland election in May to fill a vacant commissioner’s seat.

“Not to throw anyone under the bus, but when people run for office it’s serious,” said commissioner Mark Billingsley. “Be sure you know what you are getting yourself into.”

Ten file qualifying papers in House District 95

Seven Republicans, one Democrat and two independent candidates filed qualifying petitions by Thursday’s deadline to seek the House District 95 seat in Shelby County vacated by former Rep. Mark Lovell, R-Eads, after he was accused of sexual harassment, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Candidates can withdraw their petitions until March 20. The primary election will be April 27, a Thursday, to be followed by a general election on June 15.

The Shelby County Election Commission received qualifying petitions from the following Republican candidates: Keep Tennessee Beautiful Executive Director Melissa “Missy” Marshall of Collierville; Collierville School Board member Kevin Vaughan; Collierville Alderman Billy Patton; Germantown Alderman Frank Uhlhorn; attorney Joseph Crone of Eads; attorney Gail Williams Horner of Collierville; and Curtis D. Loynachan of Collierville.

Democrat Julie Byrd Ashworth of Collierville and independents Jim Tomasik of Cordova and Robert Paul Schutt of Eads also qualified for the race. Tomasik doesn’t currently live in the district but has until the special general election to move his residency.

Although he received a petition, Republican John Bogan did not file his by the deadline. Republican Diane George, who placed third in the 2016 election behind Lovell and incumbent Curry Todd, did not file a petition even though she was quick to express interest in the seat after Lovell’s resignation.

… Some of the qualifying candidates may aim for a Shelby County Board of Commissioners appointment to fill the seat in the short interim. The commission will accept applications March 21-27 for the interim position and is slated to pick an applicant April 3, although some commissioners — Terry Roland, most vocally — have argued the legislative session will probably end before the appointment.

Still, in case the session goes long, several commissioners say they want to appoint someone who will oppose a controversial voucher bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey.

The debate over the appointment will continue in the commission’s 3:30 p.m. meeting March 20. The deadline to withdraw from the election is noon Monday.

Note: The Shelby County Election Commission news release is HERE.