Deidre Malone's marching orders to her constituents were succinct: "Let's take this thing."
That "thing" is the office of Shelby County Mayor. She earned the right to issue the summons to action by outdistancing the Rev. Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum Jr., who surprised many coming in second, and County Commissioner Steve Mulroy in Tuesday's Shelby County Primary Elections.
Of the votes cast, Malone polled 35.8 percent, with Whalum 32.8 percent and Mulroy drawing 31.2 percent. Those percentages reflected all but one precinct.
"We are coming, and we are coming in a big way," said Malone, president and CEO of The Carter Malone Group, a public relations, marketing and advertising firm. "Let's roll up our sleeves, let's be unified as a Democratic Party."
The former County Commissioner now faces incumbent Mark H. Luttrell Jr. in the August election. Luttrell zoomed past his lightweight challenger, Ernest Lunati, in the Republican Primary.
Earlier as she awaited the race to be called, Malone acknowledged the gender milestone that would be set if she upset Luttrell. She then gave voice to what she views as her strong points, including her experience as a business owner.
Next came a preview of one of her main messages going forward.
"We are going to share our message about funding education adequately because that is important to this community. And that is important to me as a mother and now as a grandmother of a grandson who will be entering Shelby County Schools in the fall," said Malone.
"We have to have an honest dialogue in this community about are we serious about funding education or not. I look forward to having that discussion with Mayor Luttrell this summer."
Shortly after the race was called, Whalum said, "To those of you who want to change Shelby County, you've got to get involved. Losing won't kill you. Nobody runs to lose. Losing sucks, make no mistake about it. But you have to stand on principle. You have to keep standing for what you believe."
Whalum congratulated Malone, pledging to work with the Democratic nominee. "But we have got to take hold of the future of our county and change things for our children. I am afraid that if we don't do it now it is going to be too late. "
Voters, he said, need to elect someone who is not going to let any more schools close and "somebody who is determined not to let Memphis continue to be treated like a toilet seat rather than the county seat. If we don't get somebody like that in the mayor's office, we are going to be Detroit."
Telling his supporters, including a notable string of organized labor groups, that he alone was responsible for the campaign's showing, Mulroy also pledged to support Malone.
Overall, turnout was low for the Primary Elections. Robert Myers, Election Commission chairman, observed that issues and money or some combination typically drive people to the polls. He said there appeared to be no issues on either side and very little money spent.
"It would appear to me that at this point the money is being held back for the General Election and we'll see how much energy either side or both sides generate for the August election."
Bryan Carson, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, said getting the party unified was job No. 1.
"We want everyone to come together. All the candidates tonight, we want them to come out Saturday to our unity brunch at 11 o'clock at 3385 Airways. We have Roy Herron, the state Democratic Party chairman, coming to be the keynote speaker."
Malone said she believes that Democrats will come out in full force for the August Election.
"In August I believe they will look at my candidacy and we have the same values, Democrats," said Malone. "They are going to look at that and they are going to vote for me. I believe it."
Malone supporters addressed the overall issue of voter turnout on Monday in front of the Shelby County Election Commission offices as they encouraged people to get out and vote in Tuesday's Shelby County Primary Elections.
"It's very ironic that here we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Voter's Right Act and we still have to beg people to get out and vote," said State Rep. G.A. Hardaway.
"Low turnout rates are not acceptable from a community that needs so much," said former City Councilwoman TaJuan Stout-Mitchell.