Memphis rep’s new PAC to give $100K to Turner in city’s mayoral race – Tennessee Lookout

First-term state Rep. Justin J. Pearson’s newly-formed political action committee is set to inject $100,000 into Van Turner’s Memphis mayoral campaign during the final three weeks of the race.

Pearson, who raised about $1 million this year amid international outrage after being expelled from the state House for leading an anti-gun rally on the chamber floor, has about $800,000 left in his state campaign account and is preparing to start using the money to back “progressive” candidates for local and state offices.

Van Turner, president of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP and candidate for Memphis mayor. (Photo:
Van Turner, president of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP and candidate for Memphis mayor. (Photo:

The Memphis Democrat endorsed former Shelby County Commissioner Turner last week and confirmed to the Tennessee Lookout Wednesday his PAC, Movement for Justice, plans to make the donation to bolster Turner’s chances in the Oct. 5 election. Pearson and Burt Holmes of Tulsa, Oklahoma, have given $5,000 each to the PAC so far, according to state reports.

Pearson says the Movement for Justice PAC is part of an effort to reverse the status quo and elect leaders who “believe in justice” and work for the state’s “most vulnerable people.” He plans to look for candidates with a record of prioritizing poverty, environmental justice, gun violence prevention and safety as well as participation in community “struggles” over the years.

The PAC will invest in Turner “because we believe his values align with lifting up the voice of those pushed into the periphery and bringing them into the center,” Pearson says.

Turner fought the Byhalia pipeline, which was to run through an impoverished and historically Black section of Memphis, and backed Pearson after he was expelled from the House last April. The first-term representative subsequently was reappointed to the seat by the Shelby County Commission and won re-election late this summer in House District 86. In addition, Turner played a role in removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest equestrian statue in downtown Memphis several years ago.

Even with the donation from Movement for Justice, Turner’s campaign would remain the third largest fundraiser in the crowded field with $365,900 so far. He reported a balance of $212,437 at the end of the second quarter in August after spending about $124,000 during the first half of the year.

Paul Young, president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission, had the race’s biggest war chest at the end of the second quarter, nearly $597,500 after spending nearly $128,430. He’s brought in a total of $760,678.

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner reported a balance of $534,500 in August after spending only $6,425 in the first half of the year.

J.W. Gibson, CEO of Gibson Companies, reported a balance of $150,225 after spending $208,730 in the first six months. Some $300,000 of that is a personal loan.

Michelle McKissack, a Memphis Shelby County School Board member, raised $127,689 and had $90,500 in her campaign account in August.

House Minority Leader Karen Camper reported a balance of $33,074 in August and expenses of $61,264 after bringing in $94,300.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton reported $16,225 in his account and spent only $875 in the first half of 2023.