By Sabrina Bates
The qualifying deadline for candidates in the upcoming election cycle is drawing near for school board and constable seats as well as the county assessor of property. Petitions for those wanting to throw their name in the hat for any of those seats are due by noon on Thursday, Dec. 14, at the Weakley County Election Commission office in Dresden.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed a law in 2021 allowing partisan school-board seats. Candidates have the option to run as Republican, Democrat or Independent for the school board. Weakley County Administrator of Elections Alex Britt explained during a gubernatorial election year, even-numbered school-board seats in the county are up for re-election. During a presidential election year, school-board seats in odd-numbered districts will appear on the ballot.
Two years ago, the governor’s seat in Tennessee was up for election and in Weakley County, school board seats in Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 were chosen for a four-year cycle. In 2024, the nation will vote for President, while Weakley Countians in Districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 will select their school-board members.
District 1 includes Latham, Dukedom and Palmersville.
District 3 includes Greenfield residents.
District 5 includes residents in the city limits of Martin.
District 7 includes a C-shape around Martin and its southside residents.
District 9 includes all of Dresden.
Current school-board members have picked up petitions to qualify to seek re-election. They include District 3 incumbent Jeff Floyd of Greenfield and District 5 incumbent Wendall Cates of Martin. Floyd filed his petition as an Independent candidate, while Cates has filed as a Republican. Cates ran for the seat after he was appointed to fulfill the unexpired term of former member Kim Longacre after she moved out of the district. Longacre is the only female to serve on the Weakley County School Board in at least three years.
Currently, there are no people of color or women on the county school board.
Other current officeholders have picked up a filing petition for their seats. They include District 7 school board member Doug Sims of Martin and District 9 school board member Josh Moore of Dresden. Both have picked up petitions as Republican candidates.
Basic qualifications for those seeking a school-board seat in Weakley County include the following:
- Be a qualified voter of the county and a resident of the county for one year prior to the date of the qualifying deadline for running as a candidate for the board of education;
- Shall reside within and be a qualified voter of the district represented;
- Shall file with the county election commission proof of graduation from high school or receipt of a GED, evidenced by a diploma or other documentation satisfactory to the commission.
No member of the county legislative body nor any other county official shall be eligible for election as a member of the county board of education.
Candidates who seek a school-board seat as a Democrat or Republican will be listed on the primary ballots in the county in March 2024. Independent candidates will automatically be placed on the August 2024 ballot, but still need to return their qualifying petition to the election commission office by noon on Thursday, Dec. 14.
In addition to the basic qualifications for seeking office, potential candidates must pick up a petition from the county election commission office. Each petition must have the candidate’s name and office sought completed at the time the office issues the petition. An individual may pick up a petition on a candidate’s behalf as well as return the petition on behalf of a candidate. Only candidates may complete the candidate’s section and signature on each page of a petition. No photocopies of any petition will be accepted as a replacement for the original.
Candidates must obtain at least 25 nominating signatures from those eligible to vote for the candidate. The election commission office recommends obtaining at least 45 signatures due to the fact that some people may not be registered voters, may have become ineligible to vote, or have not changed their address with the election office. Voters signing a potential candidate’s petition should sign their name as it is listed on their voter registration card (record). Each voter must sign their own name; husbands cannot sign for their wives and vice versa. Anyone who cannot sign their own name due to disability must have two witnesses and witnesses should include their residential address.
Voters should list their residential address, including the city. Post office box numbers will not be accepted as residential addresses.
Petitions are considered public record, and the Weakley County Elections Office regularly issues information to media outlets. Post-marked petitions that come into the elections office after the qualifying deadline will not be considered.
In addition to school-board seats, there are open constable seats up for election to fill unexpired terms in Districts 1, 6 and 9. Philip “PJ” Russell picked up a petition for District 1 constable as a Republican candidate. Austin Powell has picked up a petition for District 9 constable as a Republican candidate. Keith Sumner picked up a petition as an Independent candidate for District 9 constable.
Qualifications for constable candidates include those above-mentioned, as well as not having been separated or discharged from the Armed Forces with other than an honorable discharge.
Constable candidates must also have a letter from a state-licensed psychologist who has conducted a cognitive and psychological test stating the candidate is mentally and cognitively fit to perform the duties of a constable, with the candidates covering the costs of the testing.
Lisa Odle has returned a qualifying petition to retain her seat as Weakley County Assessor of Property as a Republican candidate.
Candidates seeking any of the mentioned positions must file their petitions by noon on Thursday, Dec. 14. The withdrawal deadline for eligible candidates is noon on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.
The county primary election will be held March 5, 2024. Early voting starts Feb. 14 through Feb. 27, 2024. The last day to register to vote for the March 5 primary is Feb. 5, 2024.
The Weakley County Office of Elections is located at 135 S. Poplar St., Suite A, Dresden. For more information, call 731-364-5564 or visit www.GoVoteWeakley.com.