Government of Memphis, Tennessee facts for kids

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Memphis, Tennessee is governed by a mayor and thirteen city council members. Since 1995, as a result of a legal challenge, all council members are elected from nine geographic districts. Seven are single-member districts and two have three representatives each.

Consolidation efforts

In recent years, there has been discussion of the potential of a merger of Shelby County and Memphis into a metropolitan government, similar to that in Nashville.

Racial polarization

Memphis politics have been very racially—and politically -polarized for many years. Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, most conservative whites moved from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Since the national Democratic Party supported the civil rights movement, including gaining congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ending segregation, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, providing for federal enforcement of voting rights, most African Americans joined the Democratic Party and supported Democratic candidates when they could again easily register and vote.

The African-American Ford family has been influential in politics in the city for generations. The senior members established a funeral home, and built a broad network in the black community. Their political prominence dates to the era of E.H. Crump in the early 20th century in Memphis and the state. The best-known member of this family is Harold Ford, Sr., who represented most of Memphis from the Ninth Congressional District in the U.S. House from 1975 to 1997. He was succeeded by his son Harold Ford, Jr. who served from 1997 to 2007.

His brother, John, was also a politician, serving as a state senator for 30 years. In 2007 John Ford was convicted on federal bribery charges in the Tennessee Waltz scandal.

Congressional representation

The city of Memphis is split between two congressional districts. Most of the city is within the Ninth Congressional District, which has been represented by Democrat Steve Cohen since 2007. Cohen is the first white Democrat to represent a significant portion of Memphis in more than 40 years. Previously, the district had been held for 32 years by the Ford family—in the persons of Harold, Sr. and his son, Harold, Jr.. Harold, Jr. gave up the seat to make an unsuccessful run for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Bill Frist.

Much of east Memphis is in the 8th District, represented by Republican Stephen Fincher. From 1973 to 2013, this area had been part of the 7th District, represented by Republican Marsha Blackburn.

The district lines reflect intertwined ethnic and political polarization in the Memphis area. The 9th is a heavily Democratic, majority-black district and is considered one of the most Democratic districts in the South; it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+25. In contrast, the 8th is a heavily Republican district with a strong tinge of social conservatism. Eastern Shelby County is reckoned as the most Republican area of the state outside of the state's traditional Republican heartland of East Tennessee. When eastern Shelby County was moved from the 7th to the 8th as a result of redistricting in 2013, it turned the 8th into one of the most Republican districts in the nation; it has a PVI of R+19.


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