Election 2020

Calvo withdraws from SCS race, backs Harris in challenge of McCormick

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 20, 2020 4:54 PM CT | Published: July 17, 2020 12:39 PM CT
<strong>Mauricio Calvo, head of Latino Memphis, on Friday, July 17, withdrew from the race for the District 5 seat on the Shelby County Schools board. He cited his work with Latino Memphis and efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic among Latinos.</strong> (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Mauricio Calvo, head of Latino Memphis, on Friday, July 17, withdrew from the race for the District 5 seat on the Shelby County Schools board. He cited his work with Latino Memphis and efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic among Latinos. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Latino Memphis Executive Director Mauricio Calvo announced on the first day of early voting Friday, July 17, that he will suspend his campaign for the District 5 seat on the Shelby County Schools board.

Calvo also announced he is backing candidate Sheleah Harris in her challenge of incumbent Scott McCormick.

Calvo’s exit accented an opening day that saw lines of voters at Anointed Temple of Praise on Riverdale Road in place right up to the afternoon rush hour, but no waiting at most of the other 25 early-voting locations.

More than 5,000 early votes were cast on opening day in preliminary numbers from the Shelby County Election Commission. That compares to 221 on opening day for the same election cycle four years ago, plus 630 absentee and nursing home votes before opening day 2016 for a combined total of 851.

Workers at the polls passing out endorsement ballots for candidates found voters to be more scarce than shade at some sites on a hot day.

Most of the campaigners wore face masks – a few with the logo of the candidate they backed emblazoned across their faces. Other than that, social distancing didn’t seem to really affect them getting their material in the hands of voters. In some cases, their reach was longer and more tentative. The balance of yard signs to campaign workers did seem to skew more toward the yard signs than in past elections.

Early voting continues Saturday, July 18, through Aug. 1.

Ballot Basics: Early voting July 17-Aug. 1

<strong>Jesse Chism</strong>

Jesse Chism

In his first re-election bid, District 85 state Rep. Jesse Chism said handshakes are out.

“It’s different. Many of us were used to going out and touching people and seeing people and shaking hands with people,” he said. “We’ve had to find creative ways to stay in contact with people.”

Door-to-door campaigning, with some candidates proudly logging and touting how many doors they knocked on in a day, is at least endangered.

Chism says door to door has become an “information drop.”

“Instead of knocking on the door and making sure they come out to speak to us, we just dropped some information to let them know we are here,” he said.

August ballot includes some surprise races

As Chism voted Friday afternoon at Abundant Grace Fellowship Church in Whitehaven, usually one of the busiest early-voting sites in the city and a site to which many campaigns will devote multiple polls workers, the church parking lot was mostly empty.

A group of five poll workers, paid by various and sometimes competing campaigns, gathered under a church awning around the corner from the church entrance to early voting.

“I ain’t got my lipstick on. But I’m still cute,” one of the poll workers said. “COVID done took that away.”

Calvo’s name wasn’t on any of the endorsement ballots being handed out at the church.

Boyd and Brown battle for General Sessions Court Clerk

His withdrawal came as he gave up hope that the pandemic would lift somewhat in Memphis, allowing him time to campaign.

He cited his work with Latino Memphis, specifically in efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, which in Memphis is disproportionately affecting Latinos.

Calvo said the school board “needs and deserves more members who are able to immediately devote the necessary energy and attention to the duties that have never been more important.”

“Unfortunately, because of the ongoing surge in the pandemic, I cannot guarantee that I can be that person at this time,” he said.

Calvo had run for a city council Super District seat in 2019.

In withdrawing Friday, he also called on McCormick to withdraw from the race, saying he represents the “status quo.”

And Calvo called for better representation that includes more Latino teachers and administrators in a school system whose student body is approximately 15% Hispanic.

Shelby County Schools board races feature a majority of positions

<strong>Scott McCormick</strong>

Scott McCormick

<strong>Sheleah Harris</strong>

Sheleah Harris

Harris is founder of Living Grace Inc., a nonprofit for homeless youth in the city. She is also manager of state and local government affairs for Verizon and a former high school teacher with Shelby County Schools and Bartlett City Schools.

“I think representation matters for all children,” Harris said when asked about the call for more Latino teachers and administrators. “I think every child should see themselves in the classroom and the leadership of the schools.”

Harris made a Zoom call with Calvo for the joint announcement as she was leaving the early-voting site at Briarwood Church and on her way to Anointed Temple of Praise. Both had a steady stream of voters in the afternoon rush hour.

In addition to McCormick, the race also includes Paul Evelyn Allen and April Ghueder.

The race is one of five school board seats on the Aug. 6 ballot, representing a majority of the seats on the nine-member body.

Chism too sees a finish line once the votes are counted Aug. 6. He faces Young Democrats leader Alvin Crook in the Democratic primary with the winner facing no Republican opposition in the Nov. 3 general election.

“I’m going to come out here and outwork any two men and out love any three,” Chism said.

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our election coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do


2020 Election Mauricio Calvo Sheleah Harris early voting Jesse Chism

Bill Dries on demand

Never miss an article. Sign up to receive Bill Dries' stories as they’re published.

Enter your e-mail address

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


Want to comment on our stories or respond to others? Join the conversation by subscribing now. Only paid subscribers can add their thoughts or upvote/downvote comments. Our commenting policy can be viewed here