In a special election that offered voters a choice between younger candidates that promised new approaches and seasoned political veterans that offered experiences and past accomplishments, the voters of Tennessee House District 86 opted for the former by choosing Justin J. Pearson by a significant margin.
Pearson, 28, gained traction as a community leader when he co-founded grassroots organization Memphis Community Against the Pipeline in response to a planned crude oil pipeline that would cut through backyards in South Memphis, particularly in the Boxtown neighborhood.
The work of MCAP and Pearson was largely credited as the entity that stopped the intended pipeline plans from Plains All American.
With 19 of 19 precincts reporting, Pearson received 1,235 votes in complete but unofficial totals; attorney Julian T. Bolton received the next-highest amount of votes, 289.
The special election was triggered following the death of educator and state Sen. Barbara Cooper, who passed away in late October. She was the oldest member of the Tennessee General Assembly and among the oldest Democrats serving in office nationwide.
She was first elected in 1996 after a career as a teacher. Cooper’s daughter, Tanya Cooper, was among those running for the seat.
The seat stretches north and south along the Mississippi River, going from Southwest Memphis through Downtown to Millington.
Shelby County Commission Chairman Mickell Lowery said the commission plans appoint the person already chosen by the public in the Jan. 24 primary for the seat, allowing that person to start work in the legislature sooner.
The commission plans to make the appointment on Feb. 1.
Here’s a list of the Democratic candidates on the ballot in the order in which they appeared:
- Rod Blount
- Julian T. Bolton
- Tanya L. Cooper
- Juliette Eskridge
- Dominique Frost
- Clifford Lewis
- Justin J. Pearson
- Will Richardson
- Rebecca Robinson
- Andrew “Rome” Withers
There was no Republican candidate on the ballot, making the Democratic primary the de facto election.