The Shelby County Democratic Party is waiting on legal advice from the Tennessee Attorney General's office as to how to proceed with choosing a successor to outgoing State Sen. Jim Kyle (D-District 30).
Sen. Kyle requested AG Robert Cooper Jr.'s help as potential nominees continue to line up to succeed the retiring legislator, who is wrapping up a 31-year career.
As a leader of the Shelby County legislative delegation for years Sen. Kyle always felt the need to assume a leadership role even as Republicans took over the hill in Nashville. So, as he departs the political arena for the judicial branch, he's trying to help his fellow Democrats get their act to together one last time as they wrangle over how to pick his successor.
As he has been during the last 31 years Sen. Kyle, is constantly on the move. Only this time he's moving out of his downtown law office and into his new digs as a newly-elected chancery court judge.
"This is something, I've wanted to do for quite a while," he said. "Thought about it for a long time. Thought I could put it together, put it together."
Even as he awaits his swearing-in on Sept. 1 as Shelby County Chancery court judge on Sept. 1 Kyle finds himself at the center of another potential political squabble among local Democrats who are unsure on how to legally proceed with choosing his replacement for the last two years of his District 30 Senate term.
Still feeling the sting of disaster at the polls earlier this month, a show of party-unity in selecting Kyle's successor could begin the healing process for the self-inflicted wounds of fragmented Shelby County Democrats.
"All of the different sides in this, who may disagree on who should be he nominee are saying, 'We need to have our act together,' because Democrats don't need to lose anymore seats in the state senate," said Bill Dries, Memphis Daily News reporter. "There's only about seven of them now in the 33-member body."
Having been the senate majority leader for years, before the Republican domination, Kyle is riding to the rescue to save his party's colleagues from possible embarrassment.
"I felt having our state attorney general, who really doesn't have a dog in this fight, come in say, 'I'll read the statutes, cause there's lots of ways to read those statutes,' and this is the process and this is what the law as we see it is," Kyle said.
AG Cooper's opinion might even help to avoid a pending logjam of candidates who've expressed or hinted interest in getting the nomination. Known to covet the seat is former State Sen. Beverly Marrero, who was ousted at the polls by Kyle himself, after the passage of the Republican-created redistricting plan, forced political "cage matches" between Democrats.
Another announced candidate is Kyle's wife Sara, the former long term member of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. But, then there are the "wildcards" as represented by the possible entries of either State Rep. Antonio Parkinson or G.A. Hardaway, with both there are "reward versus risk" factors in the November election.
"The state legislator can't be on the November ballot twice," said Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Bryan Carson. " So, if the receive the nomination to be on the ballot what they would have to do is give up their seat. If say State Rep. Antonio Parkinson wishes to give up his seat, he is unopposed in November. So, ultimately it becomes a write-in election."
But, as for Kyle, he'll be watching from an unaccustomed seat, still a cushy one at that. One of the legendary lions of the Tennessee senate has some advice for those chosen to carry the Democratic banner in Nashville.
"Become more knowledgeable, more cohesive, and with that knowledge and limited skill set, become specialists in those areas and then try to move the government down the road they choose," Kyle said.
If Rep. Parkinson chose to run for the state senate, Chairman Carson said potential write-in candidates for his house seat would have to declare with the Shelby County Election Commission by Sept. 15 to get on the ballot in November.