Pictured (l-r): State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, SCS Board Commissioner Stephanie Love, State Rep. Jesse Chism, Memphis City Councilman Michalyn Easter-Thomas, State Rep. London Lamar, Torrey Harris (District 90 state representative candidate), and City Councilman Martavius Jones. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Citing “unusual times,” a cadre of Democratic office holders Monday (July 27) endorsed candidates for upcoming elections.

“It is unusual for elected officials to call a press conference to endorse candidates in an election,” said Memphis City Councilmember Michalyn Easter-Thomas. “But these are unusual times. We need candidates that embody the continued strength and tenacity to push our needs and progressive wants forward.”

The office holders briefly spoke about the abject poverty and other concerns dogging the city and county.

A list of candidates being endorsed by the coalition was read by Easter-Thomas for Shelby County voters.

Garnering endorsements were:

  • Tennessee House of Representatives: Antonio Parkinson, London Lamar, Jesse Chism, Dwayne Thompson, Jerri Green, Torrey Harris and Larry Miller.
  • Tennessee state senator: Sara Kyle.
  • Shelby County School Board: Althea Green, Kevin Woods, Scott McCormick and Stephanie Love.
  • Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk: Joe Brown.
  • S. House of Representatives Ninth District: Steve Cohen.

“Most of these endorsees are incumbents because we want to make sure the right candidates are elected to the right seats,” said Parkinson. “We want our people to have the best quality of life, and we are building a coalition.”

Parkinson said there are “70-plus African-American elected officials in Memphis and Shelby County,” but people in Memphis and Shelby County are among the most impoverished cities and counties in the nation. The endorsing coalition wants to “change this narrative.”

State Rep. Lamar sounded an alarm for voters to exercise their right to vote because early voting numbers are concerning.

“Early voting has started and we need everyone to vote. …Voter turnout is showing some of the lowest numbers we’ve seen in a long time,” Lamar said.

“We have the opportunity to choose leaders who will keep our people as safe as possible and ensure all citizens are treated equally.”

Shelby County Schools Board member Stephanie Love said the endorsements were important because elected officials on all levels must work together in the common goals of providing a good education to children and helping families deal with low-household income, reliable transportation and other concerns.

Love also addressed a statement made by Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter officials in a recent COVID-19 Joint Task Force update.

“We must learn to co-exist with COVID-19 and, when children return to school, we must settle in our minds that some of them are going to get sick,” Haushalter said.

In response, Love said: “As a school board member and parent, we must keep our children and our educators safe. And right now, it is unsafe to return to school. That is why I am thankful our superintendent, Dr. Joris Ray, has said we will return to school virtually.”

City Councilman Martavius Jones, a former school board member, weighed in on the school-reopening issue.

“Mayor Jim Strickland has made it clear that the Health Department has been empowered to determine conditions of school reopening,” Jones said. “Now the City Council can pass a resolution on the matter, but I say to Health Department officials, ‘You choose which one of yours you want to sacrifice.’ I will not roll the dice with mine.”

Parkinson said sending children physically back to school was a part of what he called the Republican agenda.

“They will not fund health care so people can get proper treatment. But they want to send our children back in an environment where the virus thrives. That’s why these endorsements are so important.”

Parkinson said the coalition and the supported candidates want to eradicate poverty in Memphis and Shelby County “and all of its evil cousins – bad public education, crime, health disparities and adverse childhood experiences.”

Other officials supporting the endorsements, but not present during Monday’s gathering, were County Commissioners Mickell Lowery, Tami Sawyer, Reginald Milton, Willie Brooks and Van Turner Jr., and  City Councilmember Rhonda Logan.