A Lot Up to Shelby County

Bill Dries writes in the Daily News about the important role Shelby County will play in the 2014 election.

He spoke with Chairman Justin Joy about the two big races, for governor and for Senate. Sara Kyle of Memphis is considering a run for the governship but has not yet decided.

“I’m not saying that there is going to be an empty spot come next November in the ‘D’ column for the candidates,” Joy said. “It may be a possibility. But you saw what happened last year with their U.S. Senate candidate. I think they are trying to at a minimum avoid a repeat of that situation.”

Joy is referring to the candidacy of Mark Clayton, who won the 2012 Democratic nomination to oppose Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. The state Democratic party disavowed Clayton for his stands on racial issues after ignoring his candidacy in the primary. Nevertheless Clayton carried Shelby County in the general election as Corker easily won re-election statewide.

A Tea Party candidate has stepped forward to challenge Alexander for the Senate seat, but there may be others, too.

Joy said the local party won’t take sides in the primary.

“The primary process plays itself out amongst voters at an individual level,” he said. “In some aspects, it’s not necessarily a surprise that another candidate has emerged. It’s still a little bit early, but given the amount of money that has to be raised to mount a serious statewide campaign, the time is certainly coming for people to make some decisions and see what they are going to do.”

What happens in Shelby County during such intra-party contests is important to the statewide results.

“Shelby County, at least in some regards, is just about the last Democratic stronghold in this state,” Joy said. “But at the same time, of the 95 counties in Tennessee, no fewer than one out of 10 Republican primary votes cast across the state come from Shelby County. So it certainly plays a very important and quite possibly decisive role in deciding who Republican nominees are in statewide primary contests.”

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