For the second time in two years, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners will have to select someone to fill a death-caused vacancy in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Rep. Larry Turner, D-Memphis, passed away Nov. 27. Turner’s seat on the House floor, which he occupied for a quarter of a century, will remain empty until the 12-member governing board of the state’s most southwesterly county chooses his replacement.
“It could be very quick. It just depends on how long it takes the commission to pick it up,” said Addison Pate, spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus.
The Tennessee Constitution stipulates that vacancies becoming open more than a year before the next general election are filled by a special election. Turner died just under a year before the 2010 election, which means county politicians, not voters, will choose who represents House District 85 this coming legislative session.
Shelby County officials were put in a similar position when District 87’s Rep. Gary Rowe, another Memphis Democrat, died while serving in office in early 2008. Karen Camper was picked to replace him soon afterward. She won in the general election later that fall.
To appoint someone to the post, individual commissioners must first nominate a candidate. Only then will the rest of the commission vote for or against the individual who will serve out Turner’s term.
The Commercial-Appeal reported Monday that possible nominees to replace Turner include that of his widow, Johnnie, a longtime NAACP Memphis-branch president; Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Van D. Turner, Jr.; and local attorney Errol Harmon.
The Tennessee Constitution doesn’t specify how long county commissions have to fill vacancies in the Legislature, but the 2010 regular session starts Jan. 12.