For voters of Tennessee House District 86, there’s only one person for the job as Democratic candidate Justin Pearson ran unopposed in the special election on Tuesday (March 14) to fill the seat vacated upon the death of longtime Rep. Barbara Cooper.
Cooper, the oldest-serving state legislator, died Oct. 25. She was 93. She was posthumously re-elected to the seat in the Nov. 8 general election. She had represented the district for 26 years.
Prior to Tuesday’s win, Pearson, who received 443 votes versus 10 write-in votes, had been representing the district on an interim basis after being appointed to the seat by the Shelby County Commission in January. He will finish out the remainder of Cooper’s two-year term.
District 86 extends from the Mississippi state line to Millington and unincorporated northern Shelby County.
The win caps a relatively easy glide into state politics for the 28-year-old Pearson. In January, he handily beat a field of 10 candidates to capture the Democratic Party’s primary for the special election.
The nearest vote getter was attorney Julian T. Bolton, a former Shelby County commissioner, who netted 289 votes compared to Pearson’s 1,235 in the special election primary seat. No Republican ran to fill the seat.
An activist, Pearson built name recognition and goodwill within the district as a co-founder of Memphis Community against the Pipeline, which opposed the Byhalia pipeline.
The ill-fated project would have cut through neighborhoods in Southwest Memphis. Pipeline opponents said the proposed pipeline would risk contaminating the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the city and region’s main source of fresh drinking water.