Commissioners worry their replacements may get a free ride

For two long-serving Shelby County Commissioners, their time in the public eye is over. But now they worry their replacements are getting a free ride because they've been disqualified.

When Shelby County Commissioner Cleo Kirk leaves the Commission, he will be replaced by Sidney Chism. You don't need to vote for OR against Chism. He's just in. It's that simple.

And if a push by the Democratic party to remove J.W. Gibson from the ballot succeeds, the only other candidate challenging Walter Bailey, Darrick Harris, gets his elected office automatically too.

This will happen because when Bailey and Kirk lost their lawsuit to overturn term limits, the Shelby County Election Commission decided not to reopen the playing field.

"I had hoped that would occur so that new aspirants, applicants would have had an opportunity to qualify who didn't qualify out of respect for me and my long years of longevity and service and now they're shut out," Bailey said.

According to Election officials, state law does not allow them to re-open the qualifying period when an incumbent is disqualified.

"It appears to be the way that state law is written," said Shelby County Election Commissioner Maura Sullivan. "It is a shame that it could not be foreseen, but it does leave people in these districts who may have wanted to run for office without the opportunity to do so."

Cleo Kirk's seat, occupied by the same man for 17 years, will automatically go to the man running against him. It's frustrating for longtime leaders who spent a lifetime fighting election battles.

"You would have had probably more than a dozen folks who would have applied and that's unfortunate," he said.