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Amy Weirich defeats Chumney for Shelby County DA’s office

Posted on September 8th, 2012 in TV

Commercial Appeal, Michael Lollar, 8/2/12 – Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich took an early and comfortable lead over her Democratic challenger Carol Chumney on Thursday in an outcome that many considered predictable.

Weirich won almost two-thirds of the votes in early voting and followed through on election day with the same margin. She had 65.24 percent of the vote to Chumney’s 34.68 percent.

Chumney has run 19 primary and general election campaigns in her career, but Weirich, a Republican, easily outpaced her with strong support from some of the most high-profile Democrats in the city.

Chumney was gracious in defeat. “We ran a positive campaign based upon a platform of bringing equal justice and highest ethics to the job. I am so thankful for all of those who stood with us in that effort. While there were overwhelming odds against us in being outspent 10 to 1, we made a strong showing.

“I am returning to the private practice of law and serving my clients and wish Amy Weirich the very best in her position as district attorney.”

Weirich, who could not be reached for comment Thursday night, had been a heavy favorite, taking over as DA after her former boss, Bill Gibbons, recommended her as his replacement in January 2011.

With a reputation as a strong trial attorney, she was endorsed by a string of Democratic elected officials and by such Democratic heavyweights as former party chairman Mike Cody.

Both candidates brought long records of public service to the race. Chumney served 13 years as a state representative and one term as a Memphis City Council member. Weirich has spent almost 21 years prosecuting criminals. One of her last roles before she was appointed district attorney general was as lead prosecutor of drug and gang-related crimes.

Leading up to the election, the candidates avoided any reference to each other.

Weirich’s television ads talked about her role as the first woman to hold the DA’s office. She is a mother, and she’s nobody’s “pushover,” the ads said.

Chumney, who did very little fundraising, was unable to buy TV ads, instead relying on social media.

There was little difference in the candidates’ anti-crime, anti-gang, law-and-order messages, but Chumney repeatedly emphasized she would put more effort into prosecuting white-collar criminals “so that our hard-working citizens can trust that their private and public funds are safe.”

Rhodes College political science professor Marcus Pohlmann said that kind of approach has worked for Chumney in the past. “She has a kind of earthy, every-person approach and portrays herself as a supporter of the little person.” That style also came across in a YouTube endorsement of Chumney by former legislative colleague Rufus Jones, who said “she takes a licking but keeps on ticking.”

Chumney has taken three lickings in mayoral races, losing one to Willie Herenton and two to A C Wharton. “My only losses have been to well-funded incumbent mayors,” she said this week.

Weirich was running her first political campaign and said she soon realized, “I love politics.” She ran in seemingly non-stop fashion, attending dozens of fundraisers and functions and playing a prominent role in press conferences about high-profile arrests leading up to the election. She had a huge fundraising advantage, raising more than $260,000 while Chumney took out an $8,000 loan to keep her campaign alive.