Politician calls for an independent party in Shelby County, but could it work?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Everyone is after the public's vote but when it comes to how they go about getting it, some voters are left unimpressed.

Political in-fighting and parties throwing verbal punches is enough to make some voters say "I pass."

Local political leaders who try to promote their candidates say it comes with the territory.

"A lot of people don't like the negative campaigning and the constant attacks and those sorts of things. At the same time those things work. That's why you see a lot of that on statewide and national level," former Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Lang Wiseman said.

"Our voters need a government that represents them," says Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Corey Strong.

Longtime Memphis politician Sidney Chism has held several political positions, most recently losing the Democratic Primary election for Shelby County Mayor.
Chism says the face of local politics has shifted with parties and candidates offering no real solutions.

"They preach education. They preach diversity. They preach anything to get a sound bite, but never doing anything that's effective to get our people out of the poverty level," Chism said.

He thinks the solution is an Independent movement that would put its support behind a candidate who is committed to job opportunities and attracting young people to address the main thing holding Memphis back: poverty.

"It keeps both parties honest. A third party can effectively decide who is gonna be the next person in our leadership positions elected."

It's tough for independent parties to find success, said Michael Sances, a political science professor at the University of Memphis.

"An insurgent-type candidate could capture a nomination but if they are to win office, they are still going to have to deal with being the standard-bearer of their major party, have to work with all the other major party legislators," Sances said.

Democratic and Republican Party leaders say an independent Party in Shelby County isn't the way to go.

"I don't support the idea of a third party," Strong said. "I support the idea of the two parties that do exist sincerely looking at the issues that effect our citizens of all stripes, all colors, all neighborhoods."

Wiseman said, "I think here locally the best way for us to accomplish those same types of goals is simply to have non-partisan races where people can gravitate towards specific candidates they like no matter what party they may be."

But Sidney Chism says it's an idea whose time has come. He says it's not about being a spoiler and preventing anyone from winning.

In races where there is no independent candidate, independent support could still carry heavy weight to those on the ballot who are focused on the people.

"If a third party controls 25 percent of the vote and they are supporting a candidate, be it Democrat or Republican, that candidate can and will win," says Chism.

Voters looking for something different might gravitate.

"It's just obviously always comes down to Democrats and Republicans and I think that divides a lot of people. and where a third-party could actually come in and blend the two and say you don't have to agree with everything the Republicans say and everything the Democrats say," another voter told us.

Chism says he has garnered a lot of interest in forming an independent movement. They are already identifying candidates.