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POLITICS 2019: Unfinished business awaits voters in two City Council districts

Two segments of Memphis voters will head back to the polls in November to cast ballots in Memphis City Council races that were not settled during Municipal Election voting on Oct. 3.

While seven council members were re-elected October 3, two others landed in mandatory runoffs.

Community activist Rhonda Logan is pitted against District 1 incumbent Sherman Greer, who she outpolled but fell just short of the 50-percent threshold for victory. In District 7, incumbent Berlin Boyd is looking to turn back the challenge of Michalyn Easter-Thomas, a Shelby County educator.

The run-off election will take place Nov. 14.

This isn’t the first time Boyd has had to fight for his seat after a general election. In 2015, he had to participate in a runoff, ultimately beating his opponent, Anthony Anderson.

Easter-Thomas said this time she’s expecting the outcome to be different.

“Seventy percent of the voters said they’re ready for new leadership and we are planning to win this election,” she said about unseating Boyd.

During last week’s election, Boyd received 30 percent of the votes, while Easter-Thomas garnered 21 percent.

Boyd is banking on his history as a councilman to get him re-elected to the district that covers north Memphis and parts of Frayser, Uptown and Mud Island.

“I have a track record of what I can and what I will continue to do. My opponent does not,” Boyd said.

He touted his role in the redevelopment of the Ed Rice Community Center, the new Frayser Library and the Harbor Town Dog Park and is most proud of the Driver’s License Reinstatement Amnesty Program.

Boyd created the program during the city’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Through the initiative, Memphis drivers in the Drive-while-you-pay program, as well as those with suspended and canceled licenses, will receive amnesty.

Easter-Thomas, a Frayser native, said there needs to be a bigger focus on other community issues.

“Our people are suffering, and it’s gotten worse since he’s been in office,” she said about her opponent. “He was elected to serve, but he puts his interests over others. This is the community speaking. This is what they are saying and I’m listening to all of that.”

Easter-Thomas has also questioned Boyd’s transparency, noting that he did not disclose that he was an employee of FedEx Logistics during negotiations for its Downtown relocation.

Boyd maintains that there was no conflict of interest because the council isn’t involved in incentives that might be associated with the move.

As part of her strategy, Easter-Thomas is joining forces with other candidates who ran in the District 7 race, including Jerred Price, Jimmy Hassann and Catrina Smith. Each polled between 9 to 10 percent of the vote.

“Solidarity is the name of the game and that’s how you build community,” she said. “I would be doing my community a disservice if I didn’t reach out to the other candidates who ran to unseat Boyd.”

In the District 1 runoff, Greer is hoping that he can build on his brief council tenure. The Southwest Tennessee Community College executive was appointed in January to the seat vacated by Bill Morrison. His opponent, Logan, had also jockeyed for the position before he was appointed.

Typically for Shelby County, runoff elections see a much lower turnout than general elections. In 2015, the last municipal election, less than 5 percent of voters cast ballots in the runoff.

Easter-Thomas said it’s because a large number of voters are not informed about runoffs.

“Runoff elections are typically not touted as much as Election Day. So, first people have to know,” she said. “We are doing our due diligence to get the word out, but it’s not one person or entity’s job, it’s everybody’s job to inform voters.”

Oct. 3 winners

Mayor – Jim Strickland

Memphis City Council – District 2, Frank Colvett Jr.; District 3, Patrice Jordan Robinson; District 4, Jamita Swearengen; District 5, Worth Morgan; District 6, Edmund Ford Sr.

Super District 8, Position 1, J.B. Smiley Jr.; Super District 8, Position 2, Cheyenne Johnson; Super District 8, Position 3, Martavius Jones; Super District 9, Position 1, Chase Carlisle; Super District 9, Position 2, Ford Canale; Super District 9, Position 3, Jeff Warren.

City Court Clerk – Myron Lowery

Municipal Judge – Division 1, Teresa Jones; Division 2, Tarik Sugarmon; Division 3, Jayne Chandler.

Referendum on local option sales tax – approved.

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