Richard Locker finds there are only three contested primaries for state legislative seats in Shelby County, most notably the one now held by Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis.
Ford has three challengers: Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris, police officer Ricky Dixon and former Memphis Education Association staffer Herman L. Sawyer. Harris is deemed the most formidable.
Ford, 63, appears to be doing little or no campaigning for re-election, while Harris, 35, a University of Memphis law professor, is campaigning hard. “We’re trying to talk directly to the voters. We’ve had several events, including a couple Downtown and more planned soon, called ‘State Senate on Your Street’ gatherings,” he said.
“There is a very stark, serious difference between Senator Ford and my record of performance and my record of leadership,” said Harris, who this week emphasized his record of attendance at City Council meetings, where he’s been a member for 2½ years. Ford was absent for 20 of the 36 days that the Senate met in floor sessions this year and 25 of the 53 total days that senators assembled for floor sessions and committee-only days.
She did not return repeated phone calls for comment, but during the legislative session, filed letters with the Senate clerk citing physical illness and hospitalizations for her absences.
Dixon and Sawyer, the other two Democrats on the ballot, have run for several offices before. Dixon, the younger brother of former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon, ran for Circuit Court clerk in 2010 and for the state House in 1996. Sawyer ran as an independent in 2010 for the Senate seat in 2010, winning only 2,945 votes to 18,229 for Ford and 7,654 for the Republican nominee. He lost a race for the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2004 and for the Shelby County School Board in 2006.
…(I)n House District 84, (Joe) Towns, a state representative since 1994, is opposed by political newcomer Kenneth L. Wells in the Democratic primary. Wells could not be reached for comment. The winner in the primary is the winner; no Republican or independent filed.
And in House District 91, ( Raumesh) Akbari has a Democratic primary rematch with Doris DeBerry-Bradshaw, one of six candidates Akbari defeated in a special election last autumn for the seat vacated by the death of 41-year Rep. Lois DeBerry. Akbari is a Memphis lawyer. Bradshaw is a longtime environmental and community activist and a sister of Rep. John DeBerry. Two Republicans, Samuel Watkins and Orrden Williams Jr., are running in the GOP primary but the district is heavily Democratic.