The primary elections for the vacant House District 86 seat are set for Jan. 24, with the general election on March 14. As always, those eligible are encouraged to take advantage of the early-voting windows.

Voters in Tennessee House District 86 will get a chance to decide who will represent them in a special election that has been set for March 14, 2023.

The need for the election follows the death of long-serving Rep. Barbara Cooper on Oct. 25. Cooper, 93, was on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election, with 73 percent of voters casting ballots for her.

By law, Cooper’s name had to remain on the ballot. Her supporters had been urged to cast votes in her favor with the reasoning that the process to follow essentially would empower them to choose her successor.

State Rep. Barbara Cooper (left) at the National Civil Rights Museum for the 2020 Living Legends Awards that she launched three years earlier. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee issued a “Writ of Election” officially setting the course for the Tennessee House of Representatives, District 86, Primary Special Election. In addition to the March 14 general election date, the writ also set the Democratic Primary and Republican Primary for Jan. 24.

Those interested in running for the vacant seat can obtain petitions from the Shelby County Election Commission.

“The qualifying deadline to file the petitions (for the primaries) is noon on Dec. 15,” said Linda Phillips, administrator of elections for the Shelby County Election Commission.

“A special meeting of the Election Commission has been tentatively scheduled for the afternoon of Dec. 15, so the commissioners can certify the candidates and approve the early voting schedule.”

Tennessee law mandates that early voting must start 20 days before and end five days before Election Day. That timeline means that early voting for the primary elections would be Jan. 4-19, pending the approval of the five-member Election Commission.

Cooper was honored by the Tennessee House in April as the oldest-serving state legislator.

In the Democratic primary, Will Richardson, a business owner, ran unsuccessfully against Cooper in the heavily Democratic district. Michael Porter was on the ballot as an independent in the Nov. 8 election.