The decision by Vice President Al Gore to tap Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman as his running mate has, by all accounts, paid instant and enduring dividends in the presidential preference polls. It is likely, too, that the senator will net for the ticket some financial dividends at assorted fund-raisers-- like one which is now tentatively scheduled for Memphis in mid-October. The genesis of a fund-raiser here involving Senator Lieberman probably had its origins in a conversation last week between State Senator Steve Cohen and Memphis mega-developer and yellow-dog Democrat Henry Turley. They found themselves wondering out loud whether Senator Lieberman might (a) make himself available for a Memphis fund-raiser and (b) whether his presence would help energize potential Democratic cadres--especially those in Memphis' Jewish community-- who might otherwise have tuned out politics this year.
One thing led to another, and some of the Gore 2000 campaign's ranking officers-- notably chief finance officer Johnny Hayes, longtime Gore friend Jim Gilliland, and state Gore-Lieberman director Roy Herron-- came to Memphis Monday for a planning session at Bosco's which drew some 50 Memphis Gore supporters. "There was a lot of enthusiasm, and everybody was there," said Pace Cooper, one of the main ultimate planners of the luncheon, along with U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. The "everybody" included Mayor Willie Herenton as well as the congressman and his father, Harold Ford Sr., Shelby County party chairman David Cocke, and virtually every other stripe of local Democrat. The upshot is that, of the $2 1/2 million, which Tennessee is charged with raising for the Gore-Lieberman campaign, the Memphis supporters have obliged themselves to raise 20 percent or $500,000. And Lieberman's forthcoming fundraiser-- to be held "in a private home," says Cooper-- is being counted on to provide a substantial hunk of that half-million.
Cooper's family is related by marriage to the Lieberman family, and Pace Cooper's father-- the late hotelier, philanthropist, and Democratic eminence Irby Cooper-- sponsored a fundraiser for Lieberman at the East Memphis Hilton (the Coopers' local flagship hotel) back in 1994. Pace Cooper allowed himself the wistful thought that his father would have been thrilled to see his friend Joe Lieberman rise to his present role in American political history, and when local Democrats gather with the senator next month, the spirit of Irby Cooper is sure to be invoked, one way or another.
Turnabout is fair play-- or something. Shelby County's Democrats will be opening up a headquarters in Eastgate Shopping Center this week-- roughly at the same time that Shelby County's Republicans, who have been at Eastgate, will be departing from that location to inaugurate their new headquarters at Park Place Mall. Jackson Baker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.