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Opinion | Residency will make next year's Memphis city election a crucial one | Otis Sanford

Otis Sanford shares his point of view on whether residency will be an issue in next year's city election.
Credit: Thomas R Machnitzki

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Now that the midterm election is over, attention is turning to next year’s city election and the big question is whether residency will be an issue for at least two of the top candidates for mayor.

A new opinion from city council attorney Allan Wade appears to put the question to rest – at least legally. Wade says anyone who wins the mayor’s office is eligible to serve – as long as he or she is a city resident by election day.

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That opinion impacts County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and former county commissioner Van Turner. Bonner currently lives in Bartlett and is planning to move into the city, while Turner recently moved back to Memphis from an unincorporated area of the county. Wade’s opinion is based on a 1996 amendment to the city charter – that seems to indicate that a candidate’s qualifications to serve are determined only at the time the person is elected. So Bonner and Turner apparently are free to run.

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But despite the opinion, the voters will ultimately decide if residency will be an issue. Will they conclude that a candidate who only recently moved into Memphis is the one they want to lead Memphis? Or will they say Bonner and Turner are defacto Memphians – and where they have lived up to now is irrelevant? 

It’s just one of the issues that will make next year’s city election a crucial one.

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