Legal opinion could disqualify three Memphis mayoral candidates

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:01 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A legal analysis that was published by the former Chair of the Shelby County Election Commission could disqualify three high-profile candidates from the race.

Attorney Robert Meyers, at the request of the Chief Legal Officer for the City of Memphis Jennifer Sink, published his analysis of a residency requirement.

The question is plainly asked by Sink “When must a candidate for Memphis Mayor establish residency in the City of Memphis to be eligible to run for (or hold) office?”

Meyers answer was “Five (5) years.”

This would disqualify Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, former Mayor Willie Herenton, and former Shelby County Commission Chair and NAACP Memphis President Van Turner.

We asked Turner about this legal analysis, and he doesn’t feel it’s a strong legal opinion.

“I think at the end of all this, I’m confident that I’ll still be able to run,” Turner told us.

Turner most recently lived in rural Shelby County.

Herenton lived in Collierville, and Sheriff Bonner just purchased his Memphis home after living in Bartlett for years.

None of these candidates meet the five year requirement.

In a statement, Bonner’s campaign team told us “Our legal team finds no logic to this opinion, and this won’t slow down Floyd Bonner’s campaign.”

Herenton did not respond to our request for comment.

This opinion from Meyers differs from that of current Memphis City Council Attorney Allan Wade, who says the residency requirement only applies to city council candidates.

“I think (Wade’s) opinion is the superior opinion,” Turner said. “Obviously, we need to have this clarified with the judicial procedure. As an attorney, I’ve looked at this several times, and I’m confident that the Wade decision will be upheld.”

Meyers referred us to the city for any additional comment on the analysis.

The city responded to our request for comment with “We have no further comment at this time, the legal opinion stands on its own.”

The first day for candidates to pick up petitions to run is May 22nd.

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