By Tony Jones
Newly re-elected District 87 State Rep. Karen Camper said she became more excited each hour as the August 4th election results came in.
Unopposed, her race was a foregone conclusion. Recorded in a brief lunchtime interview at the black owned Smooth Living restaurant in the Whitehaven part of her seat, the interview keyed upon her role as the House Minority Leader. She is the first African American woman and Democrat in the position. It began with her reaction noting Judge Tarik Sugramon’s 12,000 vote win to become Juvenile Court Judge (See our website).
“I think there was another true-Blue Wave here,” Camper said. “We had this conversation in 2018 after we elected clerks, African Americans and women. A couple of years later people started trying to deny it. There were a lot of conversations saying people crossed over. Fast forward to 2022, I believe that when Democrats go to the community, ask people for their vote, they turn out and vote for them. There was a lot of canvassing, a lot of door to door asking people ‘Will you vote for me?’ We went back to the old landmark. Precinct by precinct”
In real world political terms, she feels, “It gives us an opportunity to set an agenda for the black community in the city, the county and the state so we can say what is important for our city.”
She notes, “Dr. Earle Fisher (Abyssinian MBC, also in Whitehaven) brought back the People’s Convention. It’s a little different from the original People’s Convention (1991), but the goal is to come together with an agenda that supports what black people desire and need, so it’s kind of that mindset and I think that it’s time we do it.”
She adds an important clarification. “It’s a unifying element. For example, the Shelby County Delegation includes both sides of the aisle, all elected officials, so on the state level, we can ask the Shelby County Delegation to come together to support a black agenda that would be proposed on the state level.”
Back to Sugarmon’s race, she was asked did it seem to her that the media and the Democrat party messaging had been overshadowed by the District Attorney’s race.
“It did come together, with County Mayor Lee Harris at the top, Mulroy and Sugarmon in a unified push. The D.A. race was such a huge race there was a lot of outside money, so the media may or may not have decided that the coordinated campaign was not that important.”
Drilling down, there will be a lot to learn after the election is certified. Linda Phillips, Administrator of Elections for the Shelby County Election Commission reports that 137,833 votes were cast, pending the final count.
“The remaining provisional ballots still need to be counted, and the final vote will be certified by the Shelby County Election Commission during the next meeting on August 22,” she reports. Voters will have to choose the final races Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Qualifying date cutoff is Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022 at noon.
Camper explains the next steps the surviving Democratic nominees and their supporters must take to maximize this new wave.
“It’s one thing to look at the data and say we have x number of African American voters come out. Then you have to go deeper. Where did the young African American voters turn out? What is important to them? That is the type of analysis that will be going on.”
And what will it mean when the 2023 General Assembly convenes? How does she face trying to push through the overwhelming Super Majority the Republicans will continue to have?
“The Black Caucus is a non-partisan organization, so if there were any Republicans or independents that are black, they would be part of the caucus. We do not get involved in campaigns as a unit. We can independently campaign for a candidate but not as a body. As Democratic leader, independent of the Black Caucus, my responsibility is to support the incumbent.”
By chance, a Memphis police officer came in to pick up his lunch. Off the record, he was having a conversation with other workers in line, explaining he was saddened by the morning he had been through, having just had to participate in the arrest of another juvenile less than 12 years old caught during a home invasion of an elderly person’s home on their street. He said that MPD is confronted with increasingly having to pursue younger children every day. Themed by many as a law-and-order ballot, that is the main issue the 2022 winners will have to face.
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