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Possible Memphis vacancy complicates state House balance

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A state representative from Germantown, a suburb of Memphis, may resign from his 83rd District House seat in order to run for the state Senate, further complicating the balance of power within the House.

Observers are already watching the race for the vacant 62nd District House seat representing all of Bedford and parts of Lincoln and Rutherford counties.

Rep. Brian Kelsey says he will resign his state House seat before Nov. 2 if he receives the Republican nomination for the vacant 31st District Senate seat.

The Republican says doing so will ensure that a special election is held to fill the seat. Otherwise, the Shelby County Election Commission would pick his successor.

Former Sen. Paul Stanley of Germantown resigned after court documents revealed he admitted to investigators that he'd had an affair with his 22-year-old intern and acknowledged taking explicit photos of her in his Nashville apartment.

A primary election for the Senate seat is set for Oct. 15, and the general election will be held Dec. 1.

Kelsey faces political newcomer James A. Harrel of Cordova in the primary.

Republicans held a 50-49 margin in the State House before Curt Cobb's June 30 resignation from the 62nd District seat. But the speaker, Kent Williams, was elected with Democratic support over the Republican caucus' chosen candidate. Williams still identifies himself as a "Carter County Republican" but has been rejected by his party's leadership for siding with the Democrats.

The vacancy in the 62nd District, combined with the potential vacancy in the 83rd district, are therefore potentially significant in terms of party control and in any potential challenge to Williams' status.

Curt Cobb's brother Ty is the Democratic nominee for the 62nd District House seat, with Pat Marsh of Shelbyville the Republican nominee and Chris Brown of Shelbyville endorsed by the Constitution Party. (Brown will be listed on the ballot as an independent.) The general election for the 62nd District seat will be Oct. 13; early voting starts Sept. 23.

The Senate seat held by Stanley is much less pivotal, as the Republicans held a 19-14 advantage in the Senate prior to Stanley's resignation.

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