Voter registration in Memphis and Shelby County is key for the next two months. There are 10 elections city and suburban wide between now and Thanksgiving.
A special election set for Oct. 8 to fill the Tennessee District 91 legislative seat held by the late Lois DeBerry is almost off the buzz radar.
What if they gave an election and no voters came? As improbable as that may sound the trend toward small voter turnout continues on a downward slide in Memphis. Indications are interest in the Oct. 8 special election could quietly nestle into that category.
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There are three weeks before the District 91 Democratic primary election, where the winner will have the inside track on succeeding the late Memphis political legend on the hill in Nashville. Unfortunately, voter apathy could prove to be the true decider of the outcome.
Special elections never generate a whole lot of public interest and this one's no exception," said Jackson Baker, Memphis Flyer political columnist.
The low key approach taken by the believed frontrunner in the race, Kemba Ford, is perplexing to the media and voters unfamiliar with her views, but in a contest where name recognition figures to play a key role it could be working.
"By virtue of her last name and the fact that she's got all kinds of family, relatives, out there working for her, kind of stealthily, but, kind of in the open as well," Baker said. "I think she's probably got the lead."
But, for the other six candidates in the race, Ford's absence from public forums leaves them plenty of spotlight available to toot their own horns. With an engineering and MBA degrees, county employee Terica Lamb is ready to put her extensive knowledge to good use in politics.
"My engineering degree brings me a certain perspective," Lamb said. "I'm able to digest large amounts of information and distill it down to what's the basic issue."
Economic development of District 91, with an emphasis on helping the areas small business owners, is a hallmark of Memphis attorney Raumesh Akbari's message to voters.
"If you look at the beauty shops, the barber shops, soul food restaurants in that community, they have sustained a generation," Akbari said. "They have helped to put children through college and they're helping to maintain that community."
The only thing guaranteed in this contest is the winner will be hard pressed to immediately begin to fill the shoes of the 41-year veteran DeBerry. With an already polarized and weakened Shelby County legislative delegation, can a freshman representative be counted on to be a champion for the area's interests?
"Any of them could be the greatest potential legislators mankind's ever known," Baker said. "But, they're Democrats. They're going to be a very small minority. When they get there they're not going to have any impact."
"Just because you're new or just because you might have never done that before, but everything we ever do we've never done before," Akbari said. "We just have to have the heart and the skill and the desire to keep moving forward."
"When you bring a different perspective to the General Assembly and you have some common sense, you're able to work both sides of the room of the table," Lamb said. "I might be able to get some things done."