Early voting for the municipal and state elections began on Wednesday.
There are several contested races on the ballot, including mayoral races in several cities and the governor’s race everyone’s watching.
Both Covington and Atoka’s mayors have decided not to toss their hats into the ring in 2022. Justin Hanson announced in May he would not seek re-election while Atoka mayor Darryl Walker has not made a public announcement. Only Barry Akin, who has served the town as alderman since 2010, qualified to run for Walker’s seat. Walker has been Atoka’s mayor since 2010.
In Covington, and in Mason, there are four mayoral candidates each.
Alderman John Edwards is making his second run for mayor and current vice mayor, Johnetta Yarbrough, has decided to run as well. Both represent District 1, which means several potential outcomes are possible. Yarbrough’s term is up, so if she loses the bid for mayor she will no longer be an elected official. If Edwards is elected mayor, this would leave two open seats in District 1. Challengers Jerry Hall and Martha “Jean” Johnson are running for aldermen in that district. Should Edwards lose, he will retain his seat and either Hall or Johnson would be elected to fill the vacancy.
Roderick Hickman, who owns Generational Wealth Builders and recently ran for county commission, and Jan Hensley are also running for mayor.
On an historic note, this is the first mayoral race in Covington in which 75% of the candidates are people of color.
In Mason, mayor Emmitt Gooden has qualified to run for a second term as mayor. Vice mayor Virginia Rivers and current alderman Eddie Noeman are challenging him. Thomas Burrell qualified to run, however he was removed from the ballot by the election commission because he did not met residency requirements. Burrell is suing the election commission.
Garland’s mayor Kelley Gray is also up for re-election and is running unopposed.
Aldermen races bring dozens of candidates
As has happened the last several elections, Atoka’s candidate pool has at least double the number of expired terms. Aldermen Danny Feldmayer, Barry Akin, and John Harber are up for re-election and both Feldmayer and Harber are hoping to retain their positions. Also running are former public works director Daniel Lovett, newly-retired fire chief Henry Posey and newcomers Matt Peters and Chris Schaeffer Jr.
In addition to Hall and Johnson running in Covington’s District 1, alderman Jeff Morris is running unopposed for a second term in District 2 and alderman Danny Wallace has opposition from longtime police officer Jay Black in District 3. Black worked for the Covington Police Department for more than two decades before leaving for Atoka. If elected, he would be a second generation alderman like Edwards.
Mason aldermen Carolyn Catron, Sylvester Harvey, and Eddie Noeman are up for re-election. While Noeman is running for mayor, Catron and Harvey are running for re-election. They will be challenged by Alethea Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mason and Carolyn Weaver.
Munford also has nearly double the number of candidates as open positions. Vice mayor Sue Arthur and alderman Glenn Turner, who is a county commissioner, will not be seeking re-election. Jack Bomar, whose term is also expiring, has qualified to run for another term. He will be joined on the ballot by Steve Childress, Richard Cramer, Tony Gutkowski, and Carl Robertson.
One of the biggest races is that of governor. Incumbent governor Bill Lee (R), who was elected in 2018, is being challenged by Democrat Dr. Jason Martin and Independent candidates Constance M. Every, John Gentry, Basil Marceaux, Charles Van Morgan, Alfred O’Neil, Deborah Rouse, Michael E. Scantland, and Rick Tyler.
U.S. Congressman David Kustoff (R-Germantown), whose District 8 seat encompasses the eastern half of Tipton County after new districts were changed during the last legislative session, is running for re-election. He is being challenged by Lynnette P. Williams (D-Collierville) and Independent candidates James Hart of Buchanan and Ronnie Hensley of Newbern.
Incumbent U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis), who represents the western part of Tipton County in District 9, is being challenged by Republican Charlotte Bergmann of Memphis and Independent candidates Dennis Clark of Arlington, Paul Cook of Cordova, and George Flinn of Memphis.
In Tennessee House District 81, Representative Debra Moody (R-Covington), who was first elected a decade ago, is facing opposition from Independent candidate Nick Sawall of Drummonds.
Amendments on the ballot
Also on the ballot this election are four amendments to the state constitution.
If passed, Amendment 1 would add Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the state constitution. It is supported by Governor Bill Lee and former governor Bill Haslam becasue they say doing so establishes that Tennessee workers cannot be fired or penalized for joining or refusing to join a union.
The amendment is opposed by the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council because they believe the measure would undermine unions and collective bargaining.
Amendment 2 provides for an emergency succession plan for the office of governor.
Amendment 3 will eliminate language in the state constitution which permits slavery and involuntary servitude. Proposed by state representative Raumush Akbari of Memphis, the amendment was opposed by several senators, including Joey Hensley and Brian Kelsey.
“I just think it’s ultimately fake history to be telling our voters next year that the 1870 Constitution allowed slavery.” Kelsey said. “It clearly did not, and it was passed five years after Tennessee and the United States ratified the 13th Amendment, forever prohibiting slavery. So that to me, Mr. Speaker, is fake history, and for that reason, I’ll actually be voting no.”
The current language in the state constitution states: That slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited in this state.
If the amendment passes, the language will change to“Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.”
Because slavery has not been a practice since it was abolished by 13th Amendment in 1865 the vote will largely be symbolic, however Akbari said the language should be omitted from Tennessee’s constitution just in case it becomes a state’s rights issue in the future.
“If the Supreme Court decides that states should manage certain issues, we want to make sure our Constitution reflects how we feel on that, so we can never go backward,” Akbari said. “You just never know what life will bring.”
Amendment 4 will remove language which prohibits clergy members from holding office in the general assembly. Enacted in 1978, it is not enforced. In fact, Rep. John Shaw of Bolivar and Rep. Harold Love Jr. of Nashville are also pastors.
When to vote
Early voting will take place through Nov. 3.
The Tipton County Election Commission and First Baptist Church in Atoka will have polls open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Election day is Nov. 8.