Special elections for three seats could hit $570,000

By: - April 27, 2023 10:35 am
(Photo by Karen Pulfer Focht)

Election Day 2022 in Memphis, Tenn. (Photo by Karen Pulfer Focht)

Special elections to fill three seats in the Tennessee Legislature could cost taxpayers up to $570,000 after one resignation and two expulsions.

Republican state Rep. Scotty Campbell of Mountain City resigned abruptly from his District 3 seat last week amid a report that he sexually harassed a 19-year-old intern in the General Assembly.

Days earlier, Democratic Reps. Justin Jones of District 52 in Nashville and Justin J. Pearson of District 86 in Memphis were reseated after being expelled from the Legislature for violating decorum with a House floor protest against lax gun laws as hundreds of people rallied following the mass shooting at The Covenant School in Green Hills.

The Metro Council and Shelby County Commission voted to reappoint Jones and Pearson respectively, just days after their expulsion. 

But a special election must be held to fill all three seats because the two-year terms have more than a year remaining.

The Shelby County special election is projected to cost $400,000, and the Davidson County special election could cost $75,000 to $120,000, depending on whether early voting is needed during the primary, according to election officials.

The Johnson City Press reported a special election is expected to cost $50,000 to fill the vacancy left by Campbell.

The qualifying deadline is May 11 for the District 3 seat, with a special primary election scheduled for June 22 and a special general election set for Aug. 3. 

Qualifying deadline for the District 52 and District 86 posts is May 4, with the special primary election set for June 15 and general election for Aug. 3.

Early voting will be held for primary and general elections in the 86th District, which has three voting locations, Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips said, explaining why the cost is so high. 

The state of Tennessee is expected to reimburse local governments for holding special elections for the legislative seats.

Davidson County is set to hold a municipal election Aug. 3, which could cover many of its fixed costs and lower overall expenses for the state race.

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial and Best Single Feature from the Tennessee Press Association.