The death of a House member and the election to Congress of a state Senator have resulted in a special election being set for the 8th of March. However, in at least one of the two races, the decision will be made in just over two weeks, in the primary that will be held on Thursday, the 20th of January.
Four Democrats have filed to replace the late Rep. Ulysses Jones in the 98th District:
- Jannie C. Foster, a retired teacher and a former candidate for Memphis and Shelby County offices
- Stephanie Gatewood, a Memphis School Board member enmeshed in the fractious school consolidation debate
- Brenda Oats-Williams, an attorney who has the support of Jones’ son, Ulysses Jones III
- Antonio “2 Shay” Parkinson, a firefighter (as was the late Rep. Jones), a former U.S. Marine, and founder of ABetterMemphis.com
The Shelby County Commission could have named an interim representative to fill the seat until the special election. For whatever reason, they postponed that decision until the 24th. The primary winner will be known by then (one assumes), so that person will be named the interim representative until the general election—in which no Republicans nor independents qualified—makes it official. A few of those running in the election had also expressed interest in the appointment, so the timing change solves the potential problem of an unfair advantage being held by the appointee.
Sources in the area say Parkinson may have the organization and funds to win, but that the whole election is “being totally overshadowed by” the Memphis City Schools charter surrender vote, and that Gatewood’s proximity to the issue may raise her visibility. Others have heard that some legislators are “quietly helping Oats-Williams.” Whichever candidate is elected will serve nearly a full term until the 2012 elections.
Early voting begins tomorrow (Tuesday, 4 January 2011).