Several important races may be decided in the May 5 primary. MemphisWatch provides a voter’s guide.
Yes, we here at MemphisWatch have decided to jump on the bandwagon and start endorsing candidates for political office. Since people have extremely busy schedules these days, we’re going to give our endorsements before the early voting period starts.
Generally, to gain a coveted MemphisWatch endorsement, candidates must show support for libertarian positions. This obviously means that we cannot give an unequivocal endorsement to any candidate running in the May 5 primary; however, some candidates do come closer to meeting libertarian ideals than others, and those individuals do deserve support.
For those of you unfamiliar with libertarianism, libertarians generally believe that the role of government in society should be minimized and limited to essential functions. The political theories of John Locke and some of the American founders (particularly Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) constitute the basis for most modern libertarian thought.
The practical implications in Shelby County are that an endorsed candidate should generally support MemphisWatch’s views on the following topics:
Annexation/Incorporation: Our view is that municipal annexation without the consent of the affected property owners and residents is an affront to the principle of self-determination. While we do not agree that incorporation of numerous additional municipalities in Shelby County is the best possible resolution to the annexation/incorporation controversy, it is infinitely preferable to annexation without consent by the City of Memphis. We have on several occasions made known our support for consolidation with substantial local control over zoning and other development; however, support for consolidation is not a prerequisite for our endorsement.
Judicial primaries: We believe that any political party should be free to endorse any candidate for political office. However, we do not support partisan primaries for judicial candidates, on the grounds that judges should not be required to swear allegiance to any political party in order to be elected.
Education: Our view is that any local board of education should be chosen by the voters of the area that board serves. Ideally, Shelby County should have one school system free of any desegregation orders, in which parents have the right to send their children to non-neighborhood schools at their own expense and can receive vouchers toward tuition at private schools. We also believe that religious proselytizing has no place within the public school system.
Fiscal matters: We believe that government should be operated in a fiscally sound matter, that taxation should be minimized, and services should be paid for by those who benefit directly from them. For example, the public transportation system should be paid for by its users and those areas which receive regular service. “Work runs” should be paid for by either the users or the employers who directly benefit from the availability of workers the service provides.
Now that we’ve clarified our ground-rules, we will proceed to the endorsements. There are three recommendations assigned to candidates:
MemphisWatch supports the election of this candidate. He or she has demonstrated support for a notable number of our criteria. This candidate did not oppose more than one of our positions enumerated above.
We make no recommendation as to whether this candidate should be elected. We either have insufficient information to make an endorsement, or are not significantly biased in favor of or in opposition to this candidate.
MemphisWatch opposes the election of this candidate. We recommend that you vote for another candidate in this election. If this candidate is unopposed, we recommend you write-in the name of someone else. There are few candidates for which we will make an Oppose recommendation, all of whom have shown a casual disregard or disdain toward our positions on issues or have serious flaws that, in our opinion, make them unfit to serve in public office.
We will update these endorsements during the campaign, if we actually find out anything more about the candidates. Also, we will provide links to campaign web sites where available (for all candidates, regardless of our editorial opinion).
District Attorney General – Republican Primary
Bill Gibbons (I): Support. We recognize Mr. Gibbons’s hard work in leading Shelby County’s fight against crime and wholeheartedly support his re-election.
County Mayor – Republican Primary
Ernest Lunati: Oppose. Mr. Lunati has not actively campaigned so far. Judging from his past bizarre behavior, however, one must question whether he is a fit candidate for public office.
Jim Rout (I): Support. Mr. Rout has demonstrated responsible leadership as County Mayor. We particularly recognize his wise decision to remain “above the fray” during the annexation/incorporation controversy when other local leaders were posturing and grandstanding, and his calm, rational analysis of all of the issues surrounding that situation.
District 1 – Democratic Primary
Position 1 – No Incumbent
Irma Waddell Merrill: No recommendation. We know absolutely nothing of this candidate. However, we are unlikely to support her in the general election unless she has a significantly divergent agenda from that of the Shelby County Democratic Party.
District 1 – Republican Primaries
Position 1 – No Incumbent
Marilyn Loeffel: Oppose. We do not support Ms. Loeffel’s reactionary political agenda, and she has not provided us with any redeeming reason to support her. She does not support consolidation, but this fact did not enter into our decision to oppose her election.
Scott McCormick: No recommendation. We know virtually nothing of this candidate. Therefore we can’t endorse him. He supports consolidation.
Paul Stanley: Support. He has more yard signs than Mr. McCormick. He’s been endorsed by the Commercial Appeal (this may or may not be a good thing). Most importantly, from his campaign literature he appears to be willing to stand up for suburban interests; this has earned him our endorsement. Mr. Stanley apparently supports consolidation in some form.
Linda Rendtorff (I): Support. Ms. Rendtorff apparently is only facing opposition due to her opposition to judicial primaries in Shelby County. She has demonstrated leadership on that issue, and does not actively oppose our positions on any other issues.
Lyle Tudor: No recommendation. Mr. Tudor is a Republican activist from Cordova. He apparently supports consolidation in some form, and presumably supports judicial primaries. In the Position 1 race, he might have earned our endorsement. However, Ms. Rendtorff has generally been supportive of MemphisWatch’s agenda, and we do not see any reason for her to be replaced.
Morris Fair (I): Support. While we were originally skeptical as to whether Mr. Fair would make a good commissioner, his opposition to judicial primaries and his sense of compromise have earned our support. He does support consolidation.
John Willingham: No recommendation. Like Mr. Fair, he apparently supports consolidation. His support for judicial primaries and position as a “party activist” of sorts, while presumably important to the Republican faithful, hold little sway with us. Like Mr. Tudor in Position 2, he might have received an endorsement had he chosen to run for the Position 1 seat.
Districts 2 and 3 – Democratic Primaries
In the case of districts 2 and 3, while we support the election of African-Americans to the Shelby County Commission to represent this segment of the county’s population, we cannot in good conscience recommend that any of them be re-elected. This is mainly due to their consistent support of the Herenton administration’s pro-annexation position. It is also in no small way motivated by their pointless boycott of County Commission meetings last summer. While their sensible position on the issue of judicial primaries is laudable, this does not compensate for the remainder of their political agenda. Consequentially, we oppose all candidates appearing on the ballot in these districts.
District 4 – Republican Primaries
Clair Vander Schaaf (I): Oppose. While we find no serious fault with Mr. Vander Schaaf’s voting record, his recent arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence, coupled with his support for irrational development patterns in East Shelby County, his lackluster support for suburban residents’ voting rights, and apparent leaks of confidential information from the Shelby County government in support of his ex-wife’s political campaign for Probate Court Clerk, lead us to oppose his re-election.
Write-In Candidate: Support with qualifications. Should a write-in candidate emerge in this election, we would support that person provided he or she had a clear record of providing responsible leadership and a concern for the views we support. We call on those individuals who led the incorporation movements in East Shelby to take up this opportunity to serve their community.
Mark Norris (I): Support. Mr. Norris has consistently supported suburban self-determination. While we are disappointed that he supports partisan primaries in Shelby County, this is more than compensated for by Mr. Norris’s work to promote rational development patterns in East Shelby County.
Thos. W. “Tommy” Hart (I): Support. Like Mr. Norris, Mr. Hart has been a supporter of both judicial primaries and suburban choice. We therefore give qualified support his re-election.
District 5 – Republican Primary
Buck Wellford (I): No recommendation. While we are concerned about Mr. Wellford’s lukewarm support for the interests of residents of unincorporated areas (including those within his commission district), this concern is not sufficient for us to oppose his re-election.
County Trustee – Republican Primary
Bob Patterson (I): Support. Mr. Patterson appears to be doing a good job in his position and we see no reason to oppose his re-election. Our support recommendation is mainly in response to State Sen. Jim Kyle’s legislative efforts to bankrupt Mr. Patterson’s office, for which we can see no rational justification.
Melvin Burgess: Support. Mr. Burgess served as an effective police director until he was fired by Memphis Mayor Willie (then W. W.) Herenton in 1994. He has clearly demonstrated an ability to fight crime, and has earned our support.
Clyde Venson: No recommendation. We have no position on Mr. Venson’s candidacy.
We found all three candidates appearing on the Republican primary ballot equally uninspiring. We make no positive endorsement in this race; however, we do not believe that Mr. Gilless has been a particularly effective sheriff and therefore are opposed to his re-election.
Gene Barksdale: No recommendation.
A. C. Gilless (I): Oppose. Mr. Gilless has not been particularly effective as sheriff; furthermore, members of his office have apparently been carrying out illegal activities under his nose. We therefore cannot support his re-election.
Bea Smith: No recommendation.
Circuit Court Clerk – Republican Primary
Jimmy Moore (I): Support. We see no particular reason to oppose Mr. Moore. He therefore earns our support by default.
Criminal Court Clerk
Ralph White: No recommendation.
Bill Key (I): Support. Mr. Key has done a good job as the Criminal Court Clerk and we see no reason to oppose his reelection.
Juvenile Court Clerk – Republican Primary
C. R. “Bob” Martin (I): No recommendation.
Probate Court Clerk
Either candidate could be gain our support in the general election, depending on the outcome of the Republican primary.
Stan Howell: No recommendation.
Kendrick Sneed: No recommendation.
Chris Thomas (I): Support. Mr. Thomas has demonstrated his ability to operate the Probate Court Clerk’s office. We are somewhat concerned by his political support for the ultraconservative Pat Buchanan in the 1996 presidential primaries. Nevertheless, we still support this candidate in light of his opposition.
Pat Vander Schaaf: Oppose. Ms. Vander Schaaf’s political beliefs seem more predicated on what she perceives as the current popular mood in whatever constituency she is attempting to appease than on any rational system of thought. Her outspoken support of unbridled annexation by the City of Memphis, when combined with her bizarre vacillations during the MLG&W study, leave one wondering if she is competent to hold a countywide public office. We recommend that, instead of running for this office, Ms. Vander Schaaf start raising the $150,000 that she so enthusiastically promised to pay Rotan Lee so city taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill. (Our opposition to Ms. Vander Schaaf’s election is independent of her ex-husband’s recent arrest on DUI charges.)
County Clerk – Republican Primary
Jayne S. Creson (I): Support. Ms. Creson’s office continues to operate efficiently, and we see no reason not to support her re-election.
Larry Finch: No recommendation. We cannot see any reason why Mr. Finch should not be elected to this office; nor do we see any reason why he should. Nevertheless, perhaps Mr. Finch will follow the tradition of Bill Bradley and turn out to be an excellent politician.
Guy B. Bates (I): No recommendation.
Layne Provine: Support. Mr. Provine has demonstrated the ability to work well in county offices during his tenure as a member of the Trustee’s office. We therefore see Mr. Provine as the best-qualified of the three candidates to hold this office.
Tom Watson: No recommendation.