MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Election Commission is enforcing a rule that says candidates for Memphis mayor must live in the city for five years ahead of the Oct. 5 election, based on a ruling last month.
But that ruling could lead to a showdown in court.
If it stands, the ruling could affect three well-known candidates running in that race: Sheriff Floyd Bonner, County Commissioner Van Turner and former mayor Willie Herenton.
Linda Phillips, the Shelby County Administrator of Elections says her office is only following the opinion offered by the city attorney.
“It requires the candidates to live in the city of Memphis for five years and we’re going to abide by that ruling,” Phillips said.
However, Bonner says in a compaint filed Tuesday in Chancery Court that the requirement was replaced years ago, and candidates in recent election have not been required to reside in the city for that long.
Bonner lived in Bartlett when he launched his campaign but has since moved into the Memphis city limits.
“The latest opinion is politically motivated and legally flawed and won’t slow down Floyd Bonner,” his campaign said in a news release Tuesday.
Turner, who’s also an attorney and president of the Memphis NAACP, says he lived outside Memphis in an area that was set to be annexed by the city until it was blocked by the state.
He says the residency requirements is just election commission playing politics.
“Oh yeah, I think it’ll have to go to court,” Turner said. “I think this lends itself to the political nature this has taken, and perhaps the intent to derail certain candidacies that are there for mayor.”
Herenton apparently sold a home in Collierville in 2020. When he ran for Memphis mayor in 2019, he listed his home as Banneker Estates off Horn Lake Road, and also has an address in South Memphis.
His campaign says it has no comment about the residency requirement because they say it doesn’t affect Dr. Herenton at all.
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Phillips denies that the elections office is playing politics. She says they asked for clarification on the residency requirement, and they got it.
“We got that clarity and until a court tells us otherwise and no, there was nothing political involved in it. It’s just us wanting to be sure we were following the rules,” Phillips said.
Candidates can start the process of pulling and filing qualifying petitions May 22 to get on the October ballot for this year.
The potential field for candidates includes:
- Business owner Daniel Abston
- Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner
- Retired judge Joe Brown
- State Rep. Karen Camper
- Frank Colvett
- Businessman and former county commissioner J.W. Gibson
- Willie Herenton
- Memphis-Shelby school board member Michelle McKissack
- Business owner Hastina Robinson
- NAACP president and former county commissioner Van Turner Jr.
- Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Young.
The election for Memphis Mayor will be held Oct. 5. Current Mayor Jim Strickland is limited to two terms.