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Here's what a Memphis mayoral candidate has to say about residency requirements

In the new lawsuit, Van Turner’s main point emphasizes the tie between mayor and council residency requirements and needing another popular vote to repeal it.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two candidates for Memphis mayor have now filed lawsuits against the Shelby County Election Commission over residency requirements. 

Mayoral candidate Van Turner filed a complaint in chancery court on Thursday. He, like candidate and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner are seeking more clarity around restriction on how long and where mayoral candidates can live leading up to an election.

Earlier in the week, Turner told ABC24 his legal team would file a new lawsuit alongside Bonner’s if they felt Bonner’s suit was missing anything they deem critical. In the new lawsuit, Turner’s main point emphasizes the tie between mayor and council residency requirements and needing another popular vote to repeal it.

In a statement sent to ABC 24 Turner said:

“A small group of insiders afraid of change and reform want to handpick the mayor. The people should choose the mayor by the same standard they elect the city council. This is a clear-cut example of trying to take choices away from voters."

Turner said there was no need for so many opinions requested by the Shelby County Election Commission but acknowledges the final decision will come down to a judges’ ruling, which should not impact voters.

“We’ve had two or three opinions regarding this issue,” Turner said. “At each point in time I’ve tried to follow the law. I think the council is going to propose a new law to saw that its one year. It’s a one-year requirement in the county, so it makes sense to have a one-year requirement in the city, and we just have to move forward. I don’t think this is confusing. There’s no need to have this issue dissuade anyone from voting.”

Candidates filing lawsuits believe there’s plenty of time for the residency issue to be resolved before any key dates.

“I think that this issue will be clarified in enough time for there not to be any further confusion by time the petitions are pulled for the election,” Turner said.

ABC24 reached out to the election commission for a comment on the second lawsuit being introduced. While Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips was not available on Friday when the initial suit was filed by Bonner, Phillips said the residency issue was not politically motivated and the election commission is “obliged to follow the opinion of the city attorney.”

Despite the back and forth over what the residency requirement actually means, Turner says he’s "a lifelong Memphian" and isn’t backing down.

“I was born and raised in Whitehaven,” Turner said. I represented Hickory Hill and parts of East Memphis for 8 years as a commissioner. I’m very involved with NAACP that’s located in South Memphis. I’m a lifelong member of Metropolitan Baptist Church, which is also in South Memphis — 'Souls-ville USA.' My law firm is located in Parkway Village.”

The other candidate potentially dealing with the same residency issue is former mayor Willie Herenton. He has chosen not to speak this week and has not put in a lawsuit that ABC24 has been made aware of.

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