Commissioners delay vote to fill Senate District 29 seat

In a heavily debated and potentially controversial move, Commissioners voted to wait a month to fill that vacancy. At that point, the replacement may not even have to go to Nashville at all.

If anything, the responsibility of filling the vacancy left behind by ousted state senator Ophelia Ford is causing nearly as much debate on the Shelby County Commission as it did in Nashville.

"There's no reason to break with tradition in this regard. There's no reason to set a precedent that we're not going to continue way we've always done that is to select the person with the ethnic identification and the political affiliation of the person that created the vacancy," said County Commissioner Walter Bailey.

Bailey wants Commissioners to appoint a black Democrat, who he says will best serve District 29.

But if and when to vote proved a primary hurdle no one anticipated.

On Friday, Memphis attorney Allan Wade told Action News 5 the Commission doesn't have the authority to fill vacancies because of a state Supreme Court ruling in the big term limits challenge brought by Bailey and two other Commissioners. A legal opinion - at this meeting - pulled the wind out of that position.

"I quite frankly didn't see any credence to any argument that the Bailey case or anything in the Bailey case had anything to do with the selection of a successor in that type of eventuality," said County Attorney Brian Kuhn.

Then, a majority of commissioners voted to delay the appointment all together.

"Why are we on the fast track to put somebody in office that by the time they're seated they won't even have a week to research to know what they're going to be voting on," said Commissioner Cleo Kirk.

Commissioners voted to wait until May 22nd to appoint an interim state senator.

And this makes things even more complicated. The session ends at the end of May, typically. It's possible that any appointment to that post will spend only days in the state capitol if that, before legislators adjourn for the year.