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The 9th Congressional District race

Heading down the home stretch — Who are they?...
Heading down the home stretch — Who are they?

As we indicated last week, it is the intent of the Tri-State Defender to assist its readers in determining the best African American to represent Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District in congress. As we also pointed out, that candidate should possess a “healthy” mix of  (1)  an in-depth awareness of the district’s needs and be sensitive toward addressing those needs; (2) he or she should be committed to working and bringing resolve to issues and problems facing a predominantly African-American district; and, (3) the candidate should be electable.

This third characteristic is particularly important because the existence of 12 African Americans in the race jeopardizes the possibility of any of them amassing a plurality of the votes cast.  This would mean, of course, that for the first time in 32 years, the district would be void of African American representation in congress.

Our editorial board interviewed 10 of the 12 African Americans who officially remain on the ballot and arrived at our consensus of four whom we believe best meet the criteria we established. Those four candidates are: FedEx senior attorney Edward Stanton III, former Shelby County commissioner Julian Taylor Bolton, entertainment lawyer Joseph Ford Jr., and businessman Marvell Mitchell.  This week we  provide an in depth analysis of who these candidates are and their qualifications for the position.


• Julian Taylor Bolton — Bolton, an attorney and former member of the Shelby  County Commission, has lived in the 9th District for 47 of his 56 years. He is married and the father of three children ages 29, 25, and 17. 

Atty. Bolton points to his years of service on the Shelby County Commission as evidence of his abilities and knowledge relative to legislative protocol and procedure. He states that he offers the best combination of experience, skill, integrity and education.

In terms of important issues facing residents of the district, Atty. Bolton points to  violence, the pattern of economic growth, and a “synergy of leadership.”

In addressing  these issues, Bolton says, “I will use my familiarity with all issues  combined with my communication skills to bring leadership back together, combined with unselfish focus on our need.”

The attorney also says that the legislative office should also provide “programmatic” leadership for solutions. Finally, Atty. Bolton promises to bring federal funds to the district “by order of
importance to our future.”

According to information he provided, Bolton says  that 95 percent of his campaign funds are from local sources with 80 percent of that total coming from Black constituents. He also sites that 100 percent of the contribution have come from individual donors.


• Joseph Sampson Ford Jr. — Ford, an attorney of three years standing, has been a  resident of the 9th district for just over 17 of his 32 years, is single and has no children. He points to the issues of Living Wages/Employment, the military/Iraq, and Crime as being amount the more important issues facing the district’s residents.

Ford says that the minimum wage must be increased to keep up with the  standard of living. He further states that he would push for legislation that would  require that corporations be socially responsible to the communities that help them generate profits.

The native Memphian says we should bring our troops home from Iraq immediately and adds that “The billions of dollars expended fighting in Iraq could have been better spent on better addressing the needs of the 9th district and our nation...”

Regarding the issue of crime, Atty. Ford points to increased funding for law enforcement agencies and a redirection of focus to violent as opposed to non-violent offenders. He wants to ban private prisons and spend more resources on rehabilitation of offenders.

This, he says, should include removing stigmas that retard reentry to society of those who have completed their sentencing requirements.

While campaign fund information on Atty. Ford was incomplete at the time of our interview, he told us that 70 percent of the amounts raised have come from local sources and that 97 percent of the amount of funds raised have come from individuals. Seventy percent, he says, have come from African-American donors.


• Marvell R. Mitchell — Mitchell is a native Memphian and is in private business. His primary focus as a congressman he says would be in the area of economic development.

A deacon in his church, Mitchell says that based on what we now know about the Iraq situation, we shouldn’t be there. He quickly adds, however, that he doesn’t believe we can remove our troops.

Mitchell believes that the focus on immigration problems are a diversion regarding “real economic problems facing our workforce. He injects, however, that the fact that we receive no income tax dollars from a large percentage of the immigrant workers does present a problem.

Mitchell says job training, the status of our social security system, and a lack of personal responsibility being taken by U.S. citizens are among the more important issues facing the district’s residents.

Mitchell states that his focus, should he be elected, would be to push legislation that facilitates a national job training effort and a “fix” to our social security system.

The report from the Federal Election Commission indicates that 88 percent of Mitchell’s  campaign funds have come from a $100,000 loan made by the candidate. The balance, according to that report filed as of March 31, 2006, came from individual contributions.


• Edward Stanton III — Stanton, 34, is a native Memphian, is married and the father of a 1-year old daughter. He holds the Jurist Doctorate degree and works as senior attorney with FedEx Corp., a position he has held for nine years.

Atty. Stanton received all his formal education here in Memphis. It began with public preschool and continued on through his attaining his law degree from the University of Memphis. Stanton has been actively involved in various community initiatives.

One such involvement has been the conducting of legal clinics via the Ben Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association. He serves as president of that organization.

In terms of public involvement, Atty. Stanton served as head of the Center City Commission’s subcommittee on redevelopment for the area near the FedEx Forum. Campaign-wise, Atty. Stanton claims to have raised more local campaign donor funds than any of the other candidates.

The young attorney cites that he is a fourth generation member of the Church of God In Christ with support of that Church’s leadership. He points out also that he enjoys the support of a broad range of religious leaders as evidence of his diverse community support of his candidacy.

Atty. Stanton lists economic development, education, crime and health care as being major issues facing residents of the district. In addressing the issues, he says he will work to bring about tax breaks and incentives for small businesses, greater funding for the NCLB Act (Neighborhood Policing), and universal health care.

Interestingly, none of the candidates presented here expressed an interest in serving more than ten years if elected. We thought this odd given the time in office it usually takes for a congressman to rise to a level of influence on significant committees.

Next week, we will make our final endorsement in this all important race as well as the other races on the ballot in the August election.

It is our intent through this process to provide our readers with pertinent information about the candidates in order to assist them in making their selection of the candidate of choice.

Kyles interviewed late

Due to a scheduling snafu, 9th Congressional District candidate Keith Kyles was not interviewed during our initial interview sessions.

We were contacted by the candidate following the appearance of our “The Final Four…” article that appeared in last week’s edition of the Tri-State Defender.

In all fairness to Kyles, we accommodated his request that he be given the opportunity to appear before our interview panel to state his case for his being elected to the seat.

During the interview, we determined Mr. Kyles to be enlightened on issues facing the district’s residents and very passionate regarding the need for these issues to be addressed. While no updated campaign report could be obtained from the Federal Election Commission, the candidate admitted his resources have been comparatively limited. He indicated, however, that most of his donations have been raised primarily locally

In the final analysis our decision on the “Final Four” as published last week remained unchanged.

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