Sweep predicted in reverse

Sweep“It will be a long time before Republicans are elected in significant numbers countywide,” was the last quote in a front page story in The Commercial Appeal on Sunday, June 27.

You probably remember the story and the headline: “Democrats talk of election sweep in Shelby County.”

It caused quite a bit of queasiness  and fear on the part of  Shelby County Republicans.

Author Zack McMillin went on to say “In 2010, admit even the area’s most optimistic Republicans, conservatives should be afraid, very afraid. Because it is possible, perhaps even likely, that the Aug. 5 elections will create a county government run almost completely by Democrats beholden to a voting base that will expect greater attention to Memphis concerns.

“Shelby County’s demographics – low median income, large African-American voting base, urban white voters – have made it reliably Democratic in presidential elections, with Barack Obama in 2008 getting 63 percent of the vote and 100,000 more votes than Republican John McCain.”

“We have the numbers and the numbers don’t lie, as the rapper said,” said Van Turner, the county’s Democratic party chairman. “We all win if you vote for 10.”

Flash forward to the night of August 5.

There was a sweep, all right, but not in the direction they wanted or predicted. The headline the next morning read: “Republicans sweep all 9 of the contested Shelby County races.”

So what happened?

Hard work by a galvanized Shelby GOP won the day.

To those breast beating when the story came out, I remember saying the story was a good thing. If this was true, the predictions would light a fire under all hesitant Republicans and get them to the polls.

And the more likely case, that the newspaper wanted to dispirit Republicans and funnel perceptions in the direction they wanted, seemed closer to the truth. With all the activity I saw coming from the Shelby GOP, I just couldn’t believe we wouldn’t get our voters out.

Now I wonder what the political geniuses see for November 2? I suggest you print out the story, as I did, and refer to it any time you have some doubts. Plus, it will always provide me with a laugh when I need one.

Cocky Cohen

Fresh off his Democrat primary victory, Congressman Steve Cohen wasted no time praising himself and dismissing his Republican opponent, Charlotte Bergmann.

He has already assumed that he will have a third term and looks to tackle the issues of infant mortality, employment discrimination and jobs.

Question: What has he done in his first two terms besides push for more women’s restrooms in public facilities and try to join the Congressional Black Caucus? I think the infant mortality rate and lack of jobs here have been growing since he went to D.C.

As for Bergmann, Cohen calls her a “right winger” and refuses to debate her because of her “agenda.” Ludicrously, he says that she can’t possibly understand the African American voter as well as he does.

Hmm.

Whenever someone refuses to debate his opponent, you have to ask what they are afraid of. If she’s that out of touch with Memphians he should relish the opportunity to show this in a debate.

Why We Are

What’s the point of a political club? Why did we form one?

People have asked that of members of the Midtown Republican Club.

My answer: yesterday’s election.

Yesterday, when I was a judge at my precinct, people complained that they didn’t understand the ballot. Why did you have to choose a party, was a question frequently asked. Who are these judges and clerks running? Why should I care? Does it really matter who they are? An election official even said to me that with families, kids, work and schedules, it was impossible to make an informed vote.

I couldn’t disagree more!

If you value your freedom, if it means something to you, you’ll take the time.

If you realize the import these people’s decisions will have on your income and personal life, you’ll take the time.

If you care about the direction of the city and country, you’ll take the time.

And that’s where our club comes in. You can attend candidate rallies, read their positions in the newspaper (if you trust they will not be biased) and watch some of them on TV. But the club allows a forum for the candidates to come and talk directly to the voter, especially in the smaller races that won’t be profiled on TV. It gives us the opportunity to ask them questions directly and hear what they have to say without any editing.

It means that if we like a candidate we can make calls for them, write letters and inform our friends. It doesn’t mean we are all in lockstep. Members make their own decisions on voting.

The result, I think, is that more informed voters stepped forward and helped our near total Republican sweep.

Big turnout as club meets

Bill Giannini
Club members, including some new first-timers, listen to Shelby County Election Commission Chairman Bill Giannini.
Midtown Meets Downtown
Georgeann King, left, welcomed new downtown club organizer Joan Schmitt.

“This is the easiest country in the world in which to vote, but the one where the fewest people do,” declared  Bill Giannini to the Midtown Republican Club last night at Cafe Eclectic. Making it easy and fair is what he has been tasked to do as  Shelby County Election Commissioner and Mr. Giannini can report much success in his efforts since he took control of it last year.

“We’ve knocked 80,000 voters off in the last year and a half,” he said, “reduced the precinct number from 274 to 236, moved the Election night headquarters from downtown to Shelby Farms and reduced the cost of advertising by 50%.” In addition, they have added  early voting centers in Lakeland and at Bellevue Baptist, alleviating  crowded polls and making it easier for residents there to vote early.

The EPBs – electronic poll books – are another innovation he points to as helping increase efficiency and cut down on costs.

“It costs $375 per day per site for early voting alone. It takes 2,000 people to do an election,”  Giannini notes, explaining why cost cutting is so important. “We have to train everyone of them and it’s a challenge to find 2,000. ” He cites his cost cutting methods have saved the county a lot of money. In this election, it has also resulted in a big early voting turnout.

“We had 10,700 people vote last Friday. On Saturday, which is 6 hours as opposed to the 9 hour opening, 6,300 people voted.

“We have not had a single problem with a machine.” he said.

The situation, however, is slated to change in 2012.

“Few people realize this, but there was a state law passed to force us to have paper ballots in the next election. We will take the $5 million spent on computers and turn it to pen and paper unless the law is changed,” he said. “We’ll be selling EPBs and equipment on Ebay and the paper cost will be astronomical. The storage, transfer and security cost will come into play unless the legislature stops this, he warns.” We’ll be using optical scanners and it will take longer.  Our legislators need to hear from voters about this,”

Commenting on tomorrow’s election Giannini concludes “small elections have more importance than the presidential ones as they affect our lives more. Go out and vote, get your neighbors to vote!”