“The Tennessee 3,” shown left to right, Justin Pearson, Gloria Johnson and Justin Jones were invited to the White House this week.

By Tony Jones

The Shelby County Election Commission will be conducting another Primary Election on Thursday, June 15th for the District 86 seat currently held by Rep. Justin Pearson.

Linda Phillips, Administrator of Elections, Shelby County Elections Commission explains why. “TCA 2-14-201 requires a special election when 12 months or more remain in the term of a vacant seat. With the expulsion vote, the seat technically became vacant. It’s currently being held by Representative Pearson according to a Shelby County Commission appointment, not an election. Since this seat is up for re-election in November, 2024 (12 months or more away), the Governor, according to law, issued a writ of election that we are required to abide by.”

Recently saluted at the White House by President Joe Biden as part of the “Tennessee Three” with Democratic colleagues Rep. Justin Jones (Dist. 52-Nashville) and Gloria Johnson (Dist. 90) for their globally inspiring protest against Tennessee’s gun laws, Pearson will now be facing a challenge in the primary from educator and longtime community activist David Page.

Handily swept by Pearson in a field of eleven in the first primary Jan. 24th, and especially due to Pearson’s current worldwide adoration, critics may see Page’s bid as futile but in a statement issued to the Tribune, he rebuts that point of view. It is partially edited for brevity.  

“The answer is simple.  We need someone with the determination to stand out in the crowd when it comes to taking care of the needs of the constituents of District 86. In 2020, I accompanied State Representative Barbara Cooper to Nashville, TN.  While sitting in her office, I witnessed Rep. Cooper answer calls from constituents about issues with several state agencies.  She treated everyone with respect no matter how small their complaint was.  When she called the state agency, she treated them the same, but insisted on results according to their policies and procedures.  Her positive relationship with all legislators provided approval of new legislation. 

“If elected, I will spend my first term listening and learning how to pass legislation with the help of all legislators.  I will establish a welcoming atmosphere in my office where District 86 constituents can call and get the needed help with all state agencies.   I will respect every legislator.  I will attend events throughout District 86 and be a positive role model as instructed and trained by the late State Representative Barbara Cooper.”

Page’s filing adds another wrinkle to the dramatically escalating political energy building in Memphis. Last week the Memphis City Council unanimously voted in the Driver Equality Act. Noting the rise in reckless driving among today’s youth, conservatives howled at the move, aimed at curtailing minor traffic offence stops that have so often led to historically violent and murderous outcomes in the black community. 

On Monday, Chairman Martavius Jones (Super District 8-3), joined by members JB Smiley, Jr. (Super District 8-1), Patrice Robinson (Dist. 3) and Michalyn Easter-Thomas (District 7), announced a plan that could Supporters of the initiative hope to build affordable quality housing “that can be a wealth-generating asset” for Section 8 voucher recipients and would help them achieve the goal of home ownership. Slated for presentation to the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, should it move forward the proposal could loosen some of the stranglehold many say the state’s laws provide for negligent landlords.

The day before the council’s scheduled meeting, only 5 of the 11 declared candidates for mayor were able to make a forum sponsored by the Memphis Daily News. Some may have seen it as a bust without possible frontrunners Van Turner, Judge Joe Brown, Sheriff Floyd Bonner and former mayor Dr. W.W. Herenton, so the truncated platform offered a great opportunity for candidates Rep. Karen Camper, District 2 City Councilman Frank Colvett, Jr., businessman J.W. Gibson, MSCS Board Member Michelle McKissick and Downtown Commission President Paul Young to promote their ideas on public safety. Still several months away October 5th, the best doable ideas will hopefully have been distinguished to voters by election day.