Herenton concession biggest news of early trends in voting

By , Daily Memphian Updated: October 03, 2019 9:01 PM CT | Published: October 03, 2019 8:51 AM CT

Check here throughout the day to see how balloting is going around the city, and into the evening as ballot tabulation begins. 

Trends so far in the vote totals

8:57 PM CT, October 3

Here are a few observations on the numbers with 46 of 119 precincts citywide reporting. 

Mayor Jim Strickland has 42,701 votes in the combined count, which is more than the 41,829 votes he got total in his 2015 victory over A C Wharton.

Herenton has conceded in his bid to win a sixth election as mayor.

The lead has changed twice in the Super District 9 Position 1 contest between Chase Carlisle and Erika Sugarmon for the seat council chairman Kemp Conrad is giving up.

That's probably unexpected news to a lot of folks. But Sugarmon is fresh off a 2018 special election race for another council seat and really never stopped campaigning after losing to Ford Canale in the Position 2 race.

She decided against another match-up with Canale, who is easily beating challengers Mauricio Calvo and Deanielle Jones.

Should Sugarmon win, this would also be the first change in the make-up of the super districts, three positions held by white council members in a majority white district and three positions held by black council members in a majority black district.

Former council member Edmund Ford Sr. is at least on his way to a November runoff for his old District 6 council seat with a towering lead over his closest challenger, Davin Clemons.

It's 7,054 for Ford and 1,581 for Clemons by the latest count. 

The close race many expected in Super District 9 Position 3, between Jeff Warren and Cody Fletcher, isn't close at all. Warren is leading by not quite 2 to 1 for the seat Reid Hedgepeth is leaving because of term limits.


Follow the returns on Twitter

2:59 PM CT, October 3

We're tweeting the latest elections results as they come in. Or scroll past the Twitter feed (in the dark box) for more stories about election day.



Herenton campaign wants to see audit tape/log of early vote

6:49 PM CT, October 3

Robert Spence, campaign chairman of former Mayor Willie Herenton's campaign, wants the Shelby County Election Commission to run the audit tape of early voting results.

The tape could be one measure to verify the accuracy of the vote count, Spence wrote in an email to election commissioners and staff Thursday afternoon.

Herenton has put a lot of weight on a heavy turnout in the early vote for his bid to return to City Hall. Earlier in the campaign, Herenton told supporters that if he took the early vote, it would lessen the chances of what he believes could be a fraudulent vote count.

"SCEC's refusal to perform this perfunctory administrative task is not only alarming, but also a failure to perform a public duty so as to preserve voter confidence in election results," Spence wrote.


The family that votes together

6:35 PM CT, October 3

Incumbent Mayor Jim Strickland's campaign posted this Tweet of Strickland voting with his son Thursday. 



Pre-afternoon drive voter turnout numbers

5:51 PM CT, October 3

The Shelby County Election Commission says about 25,000 Memphians had voted by about 3:30 p.m. Add that to the 52,000 early voters, and you have a pre-rush hour turnout of about 76,000. As a reference point, total turnout for the 2015 city ballot -- election day and early voting -- was 102,000.


Fun with referendums

4:59 PM CT, October 3

We hope you enjoyed the one debate in this election season that did come to pass -- the Behind The Headlines debate on the sales tax hike referendum that we posted further down in this stream.

Here are a few Behind The Scenes tidbits about the program featuring Thomas Malone, president of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association and Kemp Conrad, city council chairman.

Some of you have asked if this was as tense as it seemed to be once we started rolling. Yes and no. Conrad and Malone were joking before the recording started about what was to come. But neither seemed to take it personally. They've debated -- hotly at times -- many of these points over the past five years.

The take-no-prisoners approach is a reflection of how labor-management differences tend to go. You just don't see it that much on television. Labor politics is a very specific kind of give and take that often doesn't have a whole lot of take in it.

The debate between Malone and Conrad continued after we stopped recording. It continued in the studio, on the parking lot outside the WKNO studios and via Twitter once all reached their separate locations.

By The Daily Memphian count, the sales tax hike Memphis voters are deciding as we speak is the 56th ballot question on a local ballot of some kind here in the past decade. That includes referendums on wine in grocery stores, forming suburban school districts and city as well as county government charter changes.

Of those 55 ballot questions, 45 have been approved by voters and 10 have been rejected. The rejected include the three city charter changes the council put on the ballot last November to repeal instant-runoff voting, repeal the runoff requirement (which we will talk about in more detail later this evening) and repeal the limit on the Memphis Mayor and council of no more than two consecutive terms.

It also includes in a year's span in 2012 two unsuccessful attempts to raise the sales tax rate and an unsuccessful attempt to raise the local gas tax.


White Station Middle School

4:50 PM CT, October 3

By late afternoon, voters were queuing up at White Station Middle School. 

Audrey Walters, from East Memphis, voted for Mayor Jim Strickland and against the sales tax increase. But like other voters Thursday, she believed there wasn't a lot of information about the other races.

"I know I didn't know as much as I should have," Walters said. 

It was the same for Jennifer Stanford, also from East Memphis. Like Walters, Stanford voted for Strickland and against the tax increase.

As for the long list of candidates in the down-ballot races, it's a problem runoffs might fix.

"Because there are so many, your votes are going to get watered down. There's this big pool to draw from and so you're really not getting a majority, possibly," Stanford said. 


Banned ballots turn up in East Memphis

4:45 PM CT, October 3

Some of the endorsement ballots banned by Thursday's Chancery Court restraining order have turned up outside the Opera Memphis voting site in East Memphis, reports city council contender Mauricio Calvo.

The tweet includes a photo of the Greater Memphis Democratic Club ballot banned along with the Shelby County Democratic Club ballot by Special Judge William Acree. Opera Memphis is precinct 80-02. 


Politics Podcast recap: Our interviews with two candidates

3:23 PM CT, October 3

A couple recent podcast interviews worth checking out:

Politics Podcast

Should the clerk’s job be an elected position? City Court Clerk candidate Delicia DeGraffreed shares her opinion with Politics Podcast host Bill Dries.

Produced by Natalie Van Gundy

Politics Podcast

Hear more about the pact five City Council candidates signed off on as early voting began in Memphis:

Produced by Natalie Van Gundy

Like what you hear? Subscribe to the Politics Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play. And check out more Daily Memphian podcasts (including our brand new "Bluff City Law" podcast!) at The OAM Network.


City Council turnover and change

3:08 PM CT, October 3

The 13 races for Memphis City Council on the ballot are just as important as the race for Memphis Mayor.

And they will be watched closely for signs of change or a shift on a council that has backed incumbent Mayor Jim Strickland on most of his "brilliant at the basics" approach. The majority backing Strickland has included some dissenting voices, but Strickland has usually had at least seven votes – typically more – for much of what he has wanted to do the past four years.

The mayor-council form of government in Memphis began in 1968, with the mayor and council elected in the 1967 elections.

The largest turnover of council seats in a single city election since then was the nine seats that changed hands in 2007. That was followed four years later by the largest return of incumbents on the body for another four-year term. A total of 12 of the 13 incumbent council members were re-elected with Lee Harris – the current Shelby County Mayor – as the only newly elected council member.

For this election year, there will be at least three new faces on the council. But there are four open seats – council positions in which there is no incumbent running.

Three of the current 13 council members are not seeking another term in this election because they are term-limited – Kemp Conrad, Joe Brown and Reid Hedgepeth. The limit for the council and mayor is no more than two consecutive terms of office of four years each. An appointment for part of a term of office does not apply to the limit.

The fourth open seat on the council is the District 6 seat now held by Gerre Currie, who was appointed to the seat in January following Edmund Ford Jr.'s election to the county commission in the August 2018 elections.

Currie decided not to seek a full term in the District 6 seat but instead to run for Brown's open Super District 8 Position 1 seat. 

In the process, she avoided having to run against Edmund Ford Sr., a former council member and the father of Edmund Ford Jr. in District 6.

Currie's appointment, in a field of applicants that included the elder Ford, marked the first time since 1972 that a member of the Ford family has not held that seat on the council.

Former state Sen. John Ford won the seat in the 1971 city elections, defeating Rev. James Netters – the first defeat of an incumbent council member in the 51-year history of the body.

The current council has three appointees serving, including Currie. The other two are Cheyenne Johnson and Sherman Greer. All three are seeking full terms on the council in these elections.

This is the most appointees serving at one time on the council since its inception in 1968.




‘We could do better here’

2:42 PM CT, October 3

Sitting under an umbrella and wearing a Herenton T-shirt outside Robert R. Church Elementary School in Whitehaven, Verlene Patterson said it had been a busy voting site Thursday. And that voters seem to like her candidate.

"It seems like they've been receptive when we're giving out flyers. And some of them have said they're voting for him," Patterson said, referring to Herenton.

Jenny Wells and James Smith Jr. have both lived in Whitehaven for more than 30 years and were among the voters at the school. Both planned to vote against the referendum to raise the sales tax and to vote for their current city council representative.

Neither would say who they chose for mayor. 

They want a lot for Memphis. 

"We've got to do something about this city. Because of the location of this place, it could be booming," Wells said. 

"We could do better here," Smith added. "And start investing in some of our neighborhoods instead of all the way Downtown and Overton Square."


The Heated Debate Over the Sales Tax Referendum

2:37 PM CT, October 3

The debate over the sales tax referendum got very heated when City Council Chairman Kemp Conrad and Memphis Fire Fighters Association President Thomas Malone came on Behind the Headlines recently. 



Temporary restraining order granted in endorsement ballots hearing

2:34 PM CT, October 3

Special Judge William Acree has granted a temporary restraining order in the endorsement ballots lawsuit in Chancery Court.

The order bars Greg Grant and Latroy Williams from distributing ballots the Shelby County Democratic Party contended were misleading. The party said the ballots gave the appearance the local party endorsed those on the handouts at the polls and in mail pieces.

Still to come is a full hearing and ruling on the matter, with the next hearing in November.

The party didn't come after these two ballots just for using the word Democratic. The party's case was that the logo on Grant's Greater Memphis Democratic Club ballot too closely resembled the party logo. Williams was allegedly telling voters when he handed them his Shelby County Democratic Club ballots that they were the party's endorsements.

There was some evidence in recent days that both ballots had been pulled from distribution, although some were still showing up in mailboxes as late as Oct. 2.

As we reported this morning, Williams, who is running for city council, abandoned his literature festooned with the Shelby County Democratic Club trappings this week. Instead, he was handing out a black-and-white photo copy of his 2016 campaign literature from his run for U.S. Congress as an independent.

He cut off the corner of the 2016 piece -- the part that had the word Democrat on it. Williams billed himself as a Democrat three years ago in the November general election even though he was running as an independent in a challenge of incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen.


The Lunch Hour on Election Day

1:06 PM CT, October 3

Lunch hour on election day is a quandary.

Your mind -- the part of it that is political -- tells you this would be when people are likely to go vote. Right up there with morning drive and afternoon drive.

To be sure, some people do use their lunch break to exercise their right to vote. But from several decades of covering Memphis elections, I can tell you the lunch voting crowd isn't as big a group as the two drive times.

It's just a theory on my part, but I think the lunch vote may be a casualty of early voting, which we've had now for about 25 years in Memphis.

This isn't scientific or statistical, but most of the lunch time voters I encounter are during the early voting period.

And since we're talking about crowds at polling places, this is as good a spot as any to point out that the last Memphis election in which a majority of the city's voters turned out was the 65.1% turnout in 1991.

Early voting this time around was several hundred ahead of the early voting turnout four years ago. For the 2015 election, just over 102,000, or 28%, of the city's voters turned out.

Make of that what you will and let me know if you are having lunch or having democracy at 


Sawyer and Strickland go ‘Behind the Headlines’

3:03 PM CT, October 3

Incumbent Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and City Councilwoman Tami Sawyer each appeared on WKNO-TV's "Behind the Headlines" in August, where they discussed their platform and goals with Daily Memphian CEO Eric Barnes and reporter Bill Dries.

(Former Mayor Willie Herenton, another major contender in the race, declined an interview.)

Here's Tami Sawyer on the Aug. 16 episode:

Sawyer says Strickland is not ‘an anti-racist’

And here's Jim Strickland, two weeks later:

Strickland responds to Sawyer, saying mayor’s race ‘about results, not rhetoric’


The first Memphis mayor wasn’t the first elected mayor

12:07 PM CT, October 3

So you are in the bicentennial spirit as well as all abuzz about election day in Memphis. And you might be thinking of past mayors -- I mean really past, like 19th century.

That might bring you to Marcus Winchester, the city's first mayor in 1827. And you might be wondering what that first election day was like in Memphis.

But in the case of Winchester and the nine mayors who followed him, election day was a vote of the city's aldermen. No ballot boxes or polling place. No endorsement ballots to go to court over.

Memphis voters didn't elect the city's mayor until 1842. That was Edwin Hickman, and he was elected by popular vote as the cities of Memphis and South Memphis were about to become a bigger Memphis, according to the Paul Coppock book "Memphis Sketches." The annexation of South Memphis wouldn't become official for a few more years.

Hickman came back for two more terms, which were not consecutive.

After his last term, he was followed by A.B. Taylor, who had been one of the three mayors of South Memphis.

The last mayor elected by the aldermen was William Spickernagle, who was head of a reform ticket that, it could be argued, reformed Spickernagle out of a job. But Spickernagle was the first mayor to be paid -- $500 a year that he got for the second half of the year he served.


Herenton, Strickland work Whitehaven site

12:03 PM CT, October 3

Unity Christian Church in Whitehaven was a popular spot during the lunch hour.

Both incumbent Mayor Jim Strickland's and former Mayor Willie Herenton's campaigns made their presence known at the location on McCorkle Road.

Herenton's campaign, via the Herenton Express, dropped off lunch for campaign workers. Strickland, meanwhile, showed up in person to greet voters at the site. 

Strickland showed up about 11:30 a.m. He said he spent the morning calling voters before he got out to visit polling locations. 

“This is my first stop and then I’m going to other areas and then to vote,” Strickland said.

He said he is voting at his precinct at Second Presbyterian Church.

As Strickland shook hands and greeted voters, Herenton’s van pulled up to drop off lunch for his campaign workers.

Cheyenne Johnson, former Shelby County Assessor who is running for the Memphis City Council Super 8-2 seat, was also at the Whitehaven polling place.

Johnson said she had been to six or seven polling places and everything was going smoothly. While in the area, she made a stop on Lakeview and Mart, where two women were shot Wednesday. One of the women died and the other woman is critical.

“We have got to do something about this because it goes beyond guns. Something is making them pick up these guns,” Johnson said.


Herenton’s Election Eve Message

11:54 AM CT, October 3

Mayoral contender and former mayor Willie Herenton sent out an election eve message Wednesday evening that doubled down on his campaign mantra that incumbent Mayor Jim Strickland is representing "a privileged elite."

Herenton also used the phrase "Memphis for Memphians" as the latest of several campaign slogans he's used during his sixth bid for mayor. 

Despite being elected mayor five times -- more than any other person in the city's 200-year history -- Herenton writes that the campaign is a "David versus Goliath" battle with Strickland -- Herenton being David and Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer being mentioned nowhere in the page-and-a-half message.

"The current mayor has spent, and will continue to waste over $1 million on his campaign," Herenton wrote.


Exit polling

11:15 AM CT, October 3

Yes, there is exit polling underway at some voting sites around the city. It's being done by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based policy group that has a conservative to libertarian outlook.

They are asking about the mayor's race and the sales tax referendum and also about Trump's popularity as well as where you are on the traditional political spectrum as you vote in this nonpartisan election.

We will see what they have when the polls close. We will abide by the national model of not going with exit polling results until the polls are closed.

Also another housekeeping measure: Yes, the Twitter feed @bdriesdm will be part of this stream. This is where you will get the numbers once the count begins at the O.C. Pleasant Operations Center at Shelby Farms.

Right now, it's just my normal retweets and morning musings -- which, contrary to popular belief, are not always about politics. But it will be here as we get further into the election day.


The Great Ballot Controversy

11:11 AM CT, October 3

All sides in the 2019 election season's great ballot controversy are at the courthouse this morning for the latest chapter in the issue.

At issue is what, if anything, to do about endorsement ballots that use the word "Democrats" when the endorsements are not those of the Shelby County Democratic Party.

A special judge from Union City is now hearing from both sides. One side is the party and the other said is Greg Grant and Latroy Williams -- the two ballot purveyors the party is taking to court.

Ballots by both have become a regular part of the local politics and most, if not all, of those endorsed pay to be on the ballots. 

That's why the matter has gone to a judge from Union City -- the judges here run for office and so several have recused themselves because they have been on these ballots.

An immediate decision by Senior Judge William Acree is unlikely. Look for him to take it under advisement and maybe have a decision in time for the November city council runoff contests -- unless he dismisses the matter. 

The party's claim is that the ballots are intentionally misleading, that they are meant to give the impression in this majority-Democratic county that those pictured on the ballots are backed by the party.

The attorneys for Grant and Williams will probably argue that a Democrat is more than someone who is in the party leadership. They will also argue that this amounts to freedom of expression.

This is primarily a Democratic phenomenon. Local Republicans have had one instance of this in recent memory and it involved a ballot that specifically used the name Shelby County Republican Party. The local GOP immediately lawyered up and the ballot was withdrawn.

We will keep you posted.


Voting’s a breeze despite heat

10:50 AM CT, October 3

The temperature outside was already 85 degrees at 9:45 a.m. on Election Day in Memphis, but casting ballots was a breeze for voters at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. There were no lines midmorning Thursday at either voting location at the Midtown church. 


Campaign workers outnumber voters in early going at Greenlaw poll

10:35 AM CT, October 3

Jerry Robertson greeted voters arriving at Greenlaw Community Center with a smile and a sign touting City Council candidate Craig Littles.

“It’s going great,” said Robertson, one of a dozen or so campaign workers who outnumbered voters inside the poll at Third and Mill in Uptown Thursday morning.

“People have been coming in and voting. A little while ago, they said more than 100 had voted this morning, and I think there’s going to be a big crowd this afternoon,” she said.

Littles is one of four candidates trying to unseat City Council Super District 8, Position 2 incumbent Cheyenne Gibson.

Nearby, Madison Nelson was bedecked in University of Memphis Tiger blue as she waved a sign supporting council District 7 incumbent Berlin Boyd.

Half a dozen voters were inside the poll at 9:20 a.m., and a poll worker said 120 had voted so far.

Outside, an exit poll taker asked voters the biggest issue in the election for them, who they supported for mayor, if they voted for or against a sales tax referendum, whether they approved of President Trump or not, and whether they were liberal, moderate or conservative.


Lines minimal at Davis Community Center

10:31 AM CT, October 3

There was virtually no wait for voters at 9 a.m. at Davis Community Center. 

The polling place is at 3371 Spottswood, at the corner of Prescott. 

Workers for several candidates greeted voters as they approached the entrance, including one who handed out "Vote Herenton For Mayor 2019" flyers.

The alternate side of the flyer read, "Let Us Do It Again."


Voters out in Whitehaven

8:58 AM CT, October 3

At Greater Faith Tabernacle Church on Shelby Drive in Whitehaven, Lucrecia Louis was there before the polls opened.

“I got here at 6:40 and got in right at 7, and everything went smoothly,” Louis said. “No lines here.”

Things were a little busier at Christ United Baptist Church on Raines Road as campaign worker Stanley Payne Jr. directed traffic to help drivers get in and out of the church parking lot.

“You have to do what you can to help,” said Payne, who was working for the J.B. Smiley Jr. campaign.

With temperatures expected to hit the upper 90s, Payne said he was about to call his “cooler crew” to bring him water and juice to keep cool in the heat.

“We stay in the shade and keep hydrated out here because it is going to be a long, hot day,” he said.

He then excused himself as vehicles pulled into the lot and poll workers from various campaigns handed out campaign material before voters headed inside to vote.


Election day opens for business

8:59 AM CT, October 3

Welcome to our day-long election coverage.

A total of 119 polling places are open Thursday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. During early voting Sept. 13-28, 52,201 Memphians cast their ballots.

At stake are 18 offices -- Memphis Mayor, all 13 Memphis City Council seats, City Court Clerk and three City Court Judges -- as well as a referendum on a proposed half-percent sales tax hike.

Seventy-eight candidates competing for the 18 offices are on the ballot. The largest field is the 11-person race for mayor. Nine candidates are competing in each of the races for City Court Clerk and Memphis City Council District 7.

Our updates will include the election totals via Twitter that begin after the polls close at 7 p.m. As well as updates here, you can follow @bdriesdm for updates.

We will also let you know what is happening at the different polling sites across the city as the day progresses. And you'll find updates from the campaign parties as the vote count is underway and analysis of what the numbers mean. We will be here at least until the last precinct returns are posted and probably a bit beyond that to talk about what it all means.



2019 Memphis Elections Election


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