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Judge rejects city's argument in Memphis mayoral residency case, will let Floyd Bonner, Van Turner run for mayor

The lawsuit challenged the two mayoral candidates' ability to run due to a five-year residency requirement neither of them would have met.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Shelby County judge ruled in favor of two Memphis mayoral candidates Thursday in a lawsuit challenging them on residency requirements for mayor, allowing them to run for office.

Sheriff Floyd Bonner and former Memphis City Councilman Van Turner, both running for Memphis mayor, were the subject of a lawsuit from the Memphis City Council claiming their running for election went against the city's residency requirements.

In a court filing Sunday, May 7, 2023, the Memphis City Council said a referendum voted in by Memphis voters in 1996 amended the 1966 ‘City of Memphis Home Rule Charter.” The filing said the amended rule holds the mayoral candidate to the same qualifications on residency as city council members, which is that they “shall be a resident, as defined by State election laws, of the city and district from which he or she is elected.” The council argues this means that the five-year residency requirement was thrown out, and mayoral candidates are not subject to that rule.

Read the full filing HERE.

Read Memphis City Council Vice-Chairman JB Smiley Jr.'s motion for intervention HERE.

The city council's lawsuit is against the Shelby County Election Commission and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. The move essentially pits the city's legislative branch against the executive branch. 

Here's why City Council filed suit

This election, three of the most recognizable names running for mayor have all lived outside the city in the past five years; sheriff Floyd Bonner, former county commissioner Van Turner, and former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton.

Bonner and Turner only recently moved back.

A Daily Memphian investigation recently found while Turner said he moved to Binghampton, he and his family have barely used any water at the home, according to his MLGW bills. Turner told the publication he's been fixing up the place.

"If this was an issue, why hasn't it come up on all the mayoral elections we've had since 1995 and especially in 2019 when it could have been an issue?" Turner said.

"I'm just glad the City finally came out of the shadows and revealed that it's the real party behind this," said Floyd Bonner's attorney, Robert Spence.

Another candidate, Paul Young, has raised more money than anyone else in the race so far. Young is also believed to be the favorite choice of current Memphis mayor Jim Strickland.

The decision Thursday is a major win for Bonner and Turner, coming four days before the day candidates will be pulling their petitions to run for Memphis mayor.

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