Saturday, September 29, 2001

GORE TOUCHES BASE IN MEMPHIS

GORE TOUCHES BASE IN MEMPHIS

Posted By on Sat, Sep 29, 2001 at 4:00 AM

An interrupted political comeback -- just resumed --found its way into Memphis Thursday, when a still hirsute Al Gore was the guest of honor at an evening gathering at the Morningside Place home of Jim and Lucia Gilliland, both longtime Gore friends who served in the Clinton-Gore administration and who remain dedicated to the idea of a Gore presidency. Some 25 Memphis Democrats were on hand for the affair, which was co-hosted by Gore’s former aide Greg Duckett and Duckett’s wife Brenda. It came on the eve of what has for some time been regarded as a crucial event for the former vice president, who is scheduled to be in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend as the keynote speaker at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner held annually by that key caucus state’s Democrats. Gore’s appearance in Iowa was set up weeks ago, when Gore began what amounted to a carefully staged re-emergence in the public eye. Like so much else in American life, that return to political life went on the shelf as the nation reacted to the cataclysmic events of September 11th and their aftermath. And Gore’s re-emergence of his suspended itinerary, which began in earnest with a surprise look-in on state Democratic events in Nashville last weekend, comes at a time when the man he ran against in 2000 and presumably hopes to compete against again, George W. Bush, has been transformed by the crisis into a national icon. Gore had little to say about the president Thursday night, as he greeted the small group of friends, and supporters, and longtime Democrats. He talked about his family and of how he was in Europe when he heard of the catastrophic events in New York and Washington. He related to the group the immediate concerns he had about the welfare of his daughter Karenna, who lives with her husband and their two children in Manhattan, and his wife Tipper, who was at home in Arlington, Virginia, only a mile or so from the Pentagon. Because of the suspension of normal air travel occasioned by the disaster, it took Gore three days to get back to the United States by way of Canada, and, as he was making his way back home by car, he said, he was contacted on his cell phone by former President Bill Clinton, who invited him to stay the night at the Clintons’ new home in Chappaqua, New York, on the eve of the Sunday memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral. As has been described in more than one print account, the two former political comrades ended their recent estrangement in an animated all-night conversation, then went together to the ceremony. Gore had little to say about his future political plans, either to the group at large or to individuals singly. He quipped at one point about last year’s race and the extended Florida vote-count which followed it, “Some you win, some you lose, and then there’s that third category.” Among the guests at the reception for Gore: Tandy Gilliland; Harold Byrd; Bob Byrd; A.C. and Ruby Wharton; Ben and Frances Hooks; Margaret Box; Evelyn Stell; Janice Lucas; David Cocke; Henry and Lynne Turley; Gayle Rose; Pat Kerr Tigrett; Gale Jones Carson; Steve Earhardt; Mary Nell Sasser; Karl Schledwitz; Jim Strickland; Dawn LaFon; and Guthrie Castle. The Thursday evening occasion did not go altogether without controversy. One Democrat who didn’t get invited and didn’t’ learn until later of the event, said, “That’s typical Gore. I don’t know whether it’s him or his people, but, at a time when he needs to reach out and energize his base, he comes to a closed little affair, shakes a few hands, doesn’t say much, and then leaves. They have two Democrats running for county mayor over [Byrd and Wharton] and neglect to invite two others, both elected officials [State Rep. Carol Chumney and State Sen. Jim Kyle]. Go figure.” The event at the Gillilands’, like many of Gore’s appearances in 2001, including his teaching stints in Tennessee and at Columbia University and a semi-public political seminar in Nashville with former Governor Lamar Alexander, was closed to the media .

Friday, September 28, 2001

GORE TOUCHES BASE IN MEMPHIS

GORE TOUCHES BASE IN MEMPHIS

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2001 at 4:00 AM

An interrupted political comeback-- just resumed-- found its way into Memphis Thursday, when a still hirsute Al Gore was the guest of honor at an evening gathering at the Morningside Place home of Jim and Lucia Gilliland, both longtime Gore friends who served in the Clinton-Gore administration and who remain dedicated to the idea of a Gore presidency. Some 25 Memphis Democrats were on hand for the affair, which was co-hosted by Gore’s former aide Greg Duckett and Duckett’s wife Brenda. It came on the eve of what has for some time been regarded as a crucial event for the former vice president, who is scheduled to be in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend as the keynote speaker at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner held annually by that key caucus state’s Democrats. Gore’s appearance in Iowa was set up weeks ago, when Gore began what amounted to a carefully staged re-emergence in the public eye. Like so much else in American life, that return to political life went on the shelf as the nation reacted to the cataclysmic events of September 11th and their aftermath. And Gore’s re-emergence of his suspended itinerary, which began in earnest with a surprise look-in on state Democratic events in Nashville last weekend, comes at a time when the man he ran against in 2000 and presumably hopes to compete against again, George W. Bush, has been transformed by the crisis into a national icon. Gore had little to say about the president Thursday night, as he greeted the small group of friends, and supporters, and longtime Democrats. He talked about his family and of how he was in Europe when he heard of the catastrophic events in New York and Washington. He related to the group the immediate concerns he had about the welfare of his daughter Karenna, who lives with her husband and their two children in Manhattan, and his wife Tipper, who was at home in Arlington, Virginia, only a mile or so from the Pentagon. Because of the suspension of normal air travel occasioned by the disaster, it took Gore three days to get back to the United States by way of Canada, and, as he was making his way back home by car, he said, he was contacted on his cell phone by former President Bill Clinton, who invited him to stay the night at the Clintons’ new home in Chappaqua, New York, on the eve of the Sunday memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral. As has been described in more than one print account, the two former political comrades ended their recent estrangement in an animated all-night conversation, then went together to the ceremony. Gore had little to say about his future political plans, either to the group at large or to individuals singly. He quipped at one point about last year’s race and the extended Florida vote-count which followed it, “Some you win, some you lose, and then there’s that third category.” Among the guests at the reception for Gore: Tandy Gilliland; Harold Byrd; Bob Byrd; A.C. and Ruby Wharton; Ben and Frances Hooks; Margaret Box; Evelyn Stell; Janice Lucas; David Cocke; Henry and Lynne Turley; Gayle Rose; Pat Kerr Tigrett; Gale Jones Carson; Steve Earhardt; Mary Nell Sasser; Karl Schledwitz; Jim Strickland; Dawn LaFon; and Guthrie Castle. The Thursday evening occasion did not go altogether without controversy. One Democrat who didn’t get invited and didn’t’ learn until later of the event, said, “That’s typical Gore. I don’t know whether it’s him or his people, but, at a time when he needs to reach out and energize his base, he comes to a closed little affair, shakes a few hands, doesn’t say much, and then leaves. They have two Democrats running for county mayor over [Byrd and Wharton] and neglect to invite two others, both elected officials [State Rep. Carol Chumney and State Sen. Jim Kyle]. Go figure.” The event at the Gillilands’, like many of Gore’s appearances in 2001, including his teaching stints in Tennessee and at Columbia University and a semi-public political seminar in Nashville with former Governor Lamar Alexander, was closed to the media.

Thursday, September 27, 2001

AC Gets Ready

A key figure seems to be on the verge of deciding to run for county mayor.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Shelby County Public Defender AC Wharton will meet with supporters this week to discuss an imminent announcement of his candidacy for county mayor as a Democrat.

Wharton confirmed the fact of the meeting but did not disclose his intentions about the date and place of a formal announcement. A source close to the developing Wharton campaign said categorically, however, "He's ready to go."

Wharton, who is regarded by most observers as a serious contender, has been mulling over his decision for several weeks. He has been urged to run by a coalition including Reginald French, a sometime aide to Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton; Jackie Welch, a developer with ties to incumbent Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout; and Bobby Lanier, chief administrative aide to Rout.

The presence of Rout allies in Wharton's support group is a clear indication that the Republican county executive is backing Wharton's move, allege various other Democrats -- notably Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who has already announced for the Democratic nomination for county mayor and begun campaigning. The mayor himself has so far declined comment on any aspect of the race to succeed him.

Clearly, Wharton, an African American, has good potential among the county's black voters, and he is well regarded among whites as well.

Byrd, however, has raised a good deal of money and, though white, has built a coalition that includes several influential African Americans -- including former county commissioner Vasco Smith and his wife Maxine Smith, former head of the local NAACP chapter and an ex-member of the Memphis school board.

The Smiths -- who, ironically, are next-door neighbors of Wharton -- are scheduled to host a fund-raiser for Byrd on Friday, October 5th. The co-hosts for that affair include other prominent blacks, like Rev. Bill Adkins and Rev. Billy Samuel Kyles.

Byrd was also endorsed last weekby Charlie and Alma Morris, longtime proprietors ofthe Kennedy Democratic Clubin North Memphis.

Other Democratic candidates are state Senator Jim Kyle, an experienced campaigner, and state Rep. Carol Chumney, who hopes to generate a significant women's vote on her behalf.

All of the above, however, will be forced to regard Wharton as their most serious competitor.

A number of Republicans are considering running, and the most viable possibilities are regarded as District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, city councilman Jack Sammons, and attorney and former councilman John Bobango. All of these are moderate, middle-of-the-road Republicans, and it is believed that only one of them -- more or less by prior arrangement with the others -- will end up with his hat in the ring.

The presence of French in Wharton's support group represents something of a split in the Herenton camp. Former Teamster leader Sidney Chism, the mayor's chief political arm, was an early Byrd supporter, and he has cautioned that Wharton, if nominated, stands a good chance of losing to one of the moderate Republicans mentioned.

  • "Now is not the time for me to leave," said U.S. Senator Fred Thompson in Nashville Monday morning, ending months of speculation with a terse pro forma announcement that he intended to run again. Simultaneously he broke the hearts -- or at least scuttled the expectations -- of a host of candidates waiting in the wings to succeed either him or 7th District U.S. Representative Ed Bryant.

    Prospective Democratic candidates for the Thompson seat had included U.S. Reps. Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis, Bart Gordon, Bob Clement, John Tanner, and former National Transportation and Safety Board chief Jim Hall of Chattanooga.

    The congressmen all said Monday they planned to run for re-election rather than pursue a contest against Thompson. Hall declined to comment, saying, in the statesmanlike idiom adopted by almost all politicians since September 11th, that "now is not the time to discuss politics."

    Among those ready to go for the Bryant seat were, among Republicans, Memphis attorney David Kustoff, who ran the Bush campaign in Tennessee last year; Memphis city councilman Brent Taylor; former Shelby County Republican chairman Phil Langsdon, a facial plastic surgeon; and state Rep. Larry Scroggs.

    Kustoff and Taylor, especially, had been gearing up for a congressional race in recent weeks, relatively certain that Thompson, who had raised very little money for a re-election bid and who had seemed indifferent to the prospect, would be vacating his seat, clearing the way for Bryant -- who made no secret of his ambitions, either -- to move up.

    What happened to scuttle all that, of course, was the catastrophe inflicted on New York and Washington two weeks ago by the kamikaze-like raids of terrorists in hijacked airliners. Like many other national politicians, Thompson responded with fury to the raids, and his interest in government and its processes, particularly the national-security aspects that had always concerned him, seemed to have been newly aroused. He promptly began a stepped-up round of appearances, both statewide and in Washington.

    Just before the events of September 11th, for that matter, Thompson had confided to David McCullough, the author of a current biography of John Adams, that the book had revived his interest in public service.

    The new sense of crisis seems to have completed the turnabout for Thompson, who would say on the PBS program The News Hour with Jim Lehrer Monday, "I just didn't feel that even though I thought seriously about going back into the private sector -- and I had always planned to do that before very long -- that now was clearly not the time to do it. I think that there are an awful lot of Americans out there right now looking for ways to help out, and I had a pretty obvious one right here staring me in the face. So I think this was what I needed to do."

    The brief statement Thompson read in Nashville Monday included an almost wistful reference to "a private life and another career." But the senator's reference to "what is happening in our nation" needed no elaboration, nor did his stated intention to get speculation about his intentions "into the background."

    Thompson's home-state colleague, Sen. Bill Frist, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which recruits GOP candidates and raises money, said he was "happy to remain Tennessee's junior senator," while state Democratic Party chairman Bill Farmer of Lebanon acknowledged that finding a credible Democratic opponent for Thompson would be difficult and observed wanly, "Sen. Thompson is a well-known figure and, of course, he has his Hollywood image that still sticks with him."

  • Another Tennessean has seen his political plans affected by the tragic recent events and the mood of national crisis that followed them. Vice President Al Gore may have seen an end to the political resurfacing which had been proceeding apace right up until September 11th.

    Since then, Gore had relapsed into the virtual silence which had governed his actions after the turbulent Florida vote recount and his concession to Republican George W. Bush in early December.

    Gore returned to public consciousness in Nashville Saturday, making appearances at several meetings during a weekend of state Democratic Party events. Still bearded, he told his fellow Tennessee Democrats that he backed the president unreservedly and urged that they do the same.

    Bush had put a call in to Gore in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, but, in the swirl of events, the two never made their connection. Gore dismissed that fact as unimportant, treating the president's call as a political courtesy.

    Gore, who was a month or two into his reemergence as a political figure, had been scheduled to address the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, next weekend, and, although some Democrats in that key caucus state called for a postponement of the affair under the circumstances, it will presumably go ahead, with Gore as keynoter.

    But the crisis -- and the rise in Bush's popularity that accompanied it -- has transformed the event, as they have transformed the future prospects for Gore and every other Democratic presidential hopeful. No longer will the dinner be billed as a showcase for the "rightfully elected president" (as some advance publicity had heralded it); it will now be restructured as a call for national unity.

  • Two weeks ago, 26-year-old Drew Pritt, a political science major at the University of Memphis and president of the university's College Democrats, was standing in a Q-and-A line at a campus "town meeting" on the subject of campaign-finance reform, which just that little bit of time ago was a prime point of contention among political junkies and poli-sci students.

    The panelists at the meeting, all of whom had come to Memphis on behalf of the McCain-Feingold bill, were illustrious members of Congress -- Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin himself, Rep. Marty Mehan of Massachusetts, Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of hometown Memphis, et al., et al. Pritt had lined up in order to balance and, if possible, refute the highly organized claque of College Republicans who had gotten in the Q-and-A line to ask leading, unfriendly questions of the panelists.

    That was then, this is now. Pritt will shortly be lining up with other Republicans and Democrats and independents -- not to ask questions at all but to follow orders. As soon as he heard of the atrocities perpetrated in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11th, Pritt, a member of the inactive Army reserve, began to petition his local Memphis reserve unit to go on active service. He now has his wish, having been shifted to the active reserves and subsequently called up. He'll be leaving within two weeks to be attached to a unit destined for parts unknown.

    "I come from a family with a military tradition," said Pritt, both of whose brothers are also in military units that will likely see duty in whatever kind of military conflict ultimately develops. (Brother David is a master sergeant with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, already deployed; brother Paul is a captain in the Army reserves and is also seeking activation.) Drew Pritt's father, an Episcopal clergyman, is also a military veteran. "Plus," says the bespectacled, buzz-cut Pritt earnestly, "I intend to have a political career, and I can't see voting for anybody to do military service if I'm not willing to do it myself."

    Pritt, a specialist holding the pay grade of E-4, counts himself a liberal Democrat and is aware that, by various stereotypes and standards, he's a statistical freak. By way of accounting for his place in the scheme of things, he likes to quote a mantra which he picked up -- believe it or not -- from his first drill sergeant but which he thinks derives from Socrates: "Democracy is a hungry beast that must constantly be fed."

    Interestingly enough, Pritt is just one of the reservists who had been serving on the campaign staff of mayoral candidate Chumney. (The other is Chumney's press secretary, Bert Kelly, an officer in the Naval reserve who spent a recent weekend on official duty in New York.)

    You can e-mail Jackson Baker at baker@memphisflyer.com.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2001

    Politics

    Politics

    Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Though virtually every elected local and state official expressed appropriate sentiments during the week which followed the September 11th tragedy, at least two -- U.S. Senator Fred Thompson and U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. -- took actions which indicated personal shifts of some consequence. Thompson did so in a way suggesting that the current national crisis may bring him closer to running for reelection next year and Ford stepped forward as an exponent of bipartisan support for emergency legislation.

    Expressing a need "to be in Tennessee among Tennesseans," Thompson appeared at a Nashville church service on Sunday and later Sunday night at Bellevue Baptist Church, where he received tumultuous applause from an overflowing congregation.

    The senator spoke to one consequence of Tuesday's terrorist attacks: "This is a wakeup call for us that perhaps in some respects we've been needing." He cautioned against expectations of immediate results in the newly declared war against terrorism. "We're not going to be able to bomb our way to victory at 20,000 feet in two or three days," Thompson was quoted as saying on WREG-TV. "But it's something we've got to do and something we will do. We're going to get back to the running of America and we're going to make the folks who did this wish they hadn't done it."

    Ford, meanwhile,indicated on Monday that gridlock is no longer a factor in the congressional handling of economic issues. In an interview with MSNBC, the 9th District congressman, who represents an urban Memphis constituency,expressed his willingness "as a moderate Democrat" to consider the reduction in capital-gains taxes, an end sought by the Bush administration, and proposed a solution of his own, the possible suspension of payroll taxes.

    Ford suggested that an increase in the current minimum wage might be a part of this "broader stimulus package" and said he believed Congress would enact emergency financial aid for the nation's airlines which would provide $12.5 billion in loan guarantees and grants totaling $2.5 billion.

    In a subsequent news release the congressman cited both Northwest Airlines, which maintains a hub in Memphis, and the FedEx Corporation, which is headquartered here, as being in need of economic bolstering.

    Northwest Airlines CEO Richard Anderson was quoted this week by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as saying he intended to act "quickly and appropriately to be certain that Northwest continues operating as a viable airline." (Suggesting that this would mean significant layoffs and other downsizing, the paper estimated the airline's losses to be equivalent to those of Continental Airlines, which has suffered daily losses of $30 million since last week's terrorist attacks.)

    * Though politicians continued to look forward to next year's elections, last week was for the most part a week of postponed reckonings and postponed or cancelled campaign fund-raisers and other events. It was as hard for them as for the rest of us to get back to business as usual.

    WHARTON SAID 'READY TO GO'

    WHARTON SAID 'READY TO GO'

    Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton will meet with supporters this week to discuss an imminent announcement of his candidacy for county mayor as a Democrat. Wharton confirmed the fact of the meeting but did not disclose his intentions about the date and place of a formal announcement. A source close to the developing Wharton campaign said categorically, however, "He's ready to go." Given the buzz stirred up around town this week about an announcement, it would almost seem that Wharton's supporters are floating rumors designed to force their man's hand. Wharton, who is regarded by most observers as a serious contender, has been mulling over his decision for several weeks. He has been urged to run by a coalition including Reginald French, a sometime aide to Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton; Jackie Welch, a developer with ties to incumbent Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout; and Bobby Lanier, chief administrative aide to Rout. The presence of Rout allies in Wharton's support group is a clear indication that the Republican county executive is backing Wharton's prospective move, or so allege various other Democrats -- notably Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who has already announced for the Democratic nomination for county mayor and begun campaigning. The mayor himself has so far declined comment on any aspect of the race to succeed him. Clearly, Wharton, an African American, has good potential among the county's black voters, and he is well regarded among whites as well. Byrd, however, has raised a good deal of money and, though white, has built a coalition that includes several influential African Americans -- including former county commissioner Vasco Smith and his wife Maxine Smith, former head of the local NAACP chapter and an ex-member of the Memphis schoolboard. The Smiths -- who, ironically, are next-door neighbors of Wharton -- are scheduled to host a fundraiser for Byrd on Friday, October 5th. The co-hosts for that affair include other prominent blacks, like Rev. Bill Adkins and Rev. Billy Samuel Kyles. Other Democratic candidates are State Senator Jim Kyle, an experienced campaigner, and State Rep. Carol Chumney, who hopes to generate a large women's vote on her behalf. All of the above,however, will be forced to regard Wharton as their most serious competitor. A number of Republicans are considering running, and the most viable possibilities are regarded as District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, city councilman Jack Sammons, and attorney and former councilman John Bobango. All of these are moderate, middle-of-the-road Republicans,and it is believed that only one of them -- more or less by prior arrangwement with the others -- will end up with his hat in the ring. The presence of French in Wharton's support group represents something of a split in the Herenton camp. Former Teamster leader Sidney Chism, the mayor's cheif political arm, was an early Byrd supporter, and he has cautioned that Wharton, if nominated, stood a good chance of losing to one of the moderate Republicans mentioned above.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2001

    THOMPSON SAYS IT: HE'LL RUN AGAIN

    THOMPSON SAYS IT: HE'LL RUN AGAIN

    Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    "Now is not the time for me to leave,” said Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator in Nashville Monday morning, ending months of speculation with a terse pro forma announcement that he intended to run again. The statement included an almost wistful reference to “a private life and another career.”. But the senator’s reference to “what is happening in our nation” needed no elaboration, nor did his stated intention to get speculation about his intentions “into the background.” The senator's announcement had been heralded in recent days by a number of hints that a tentative decision to leave the Senate had been reversed. Toward the end of last week, those hints were becoming more and more prominent in the national media, and the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call was openly writing about a definite change of mind based on two phenomena: the national crisis and the senator's reading of David McCullough's current biography of John Adams. Left in the lurch for the second time (the first coming when Thompson decided early this year not to seek the governorships) were a number of prospective candidates for the senator's seat and for the 7th district congressional seat which the GOP's Ed Bryant had made it clear he would vacate to make a race for an open Senate seat. Among those ready to go for the Bryant seat were, among Republicans, Memphis attorney David Kustoff, who ran the Bush campaign in Tennessee last year; Memphis city councilman Brent Taylor; former Shelby County Republican chairman Phil Langsdon, a facial plastic surgeon; and State Rep. Larry Scroggs. Various candidates had been discussed for the Senate, too, including, among Democrats, 9th district U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and former National Transportation and Safety Board chief Jim Hall, a native Chattanoogan. The Thompson statement follows: “I am going to run for re-election. With what is happening in our nation, this is not the best time to be making a statement that has to do with politics, but, frankly, I'm not sure when the next good time will be. Also, questions concerning my intentions have become a significant diversion and it is time to get them into the background. "I have given a lot of thought as to whether or not I wanted to run for re-election. I believe it's good for a person to have a career before politics, serve his country for a while and then go back into private life and another career. At least, that is what I have always had in mind for myself. But now is not the time for me to leave."

    WHARTON SAID 'READY TO GO'

    WHARTON SAID 'READY TO GO'

    Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton will meet with supporters this week to discuss an imminent announcement of his candidacy for county mayor as a Democrat. Wharton confirmed the fact of the meeting but did not disclose his intentions about the date and place of a formal announcement. A source close to the developing Wharton campaign said categorically, however, "He's ready to go." Wharton, who is regarded by most observers as a serious contender, has been mulling over his decision for several weeks. He has been urged to run by a coalition including Reginald French, a sometime aide to Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton; Jackie Welch, a developer with ties to incumbent Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout; and Bobby Lanier, chief administrative aide to Rout. The presence of Rout allies in Wharton's support group is a clear indication that the Republican county executive is backing Wharton's move, allege various other Democrats -- notably Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who has already announced for the Democratic nomination for county mayor and begun campaigning. The mayor himself has so far declined comment on any aspect of the race to succeed him. Clearly, Wharton, an African American, has good potential among the county's black voters, and he is well regarded among whites as well. Byrd, however, has raised a good deal of money and, though white, has built a coalition that includes several influential African Americans -- including former county commissioner Vasco Smith and his wife Maxine Smith, former head of the local NAACP chapter and an ex-member of the Memphis schoolboard. The Smiths -- who, ironically, are next-door neighbors of Wharton -- are scheduled to host a fundraiser for Byrd on Friday, October 5th. The co-hosts for that affair include other prominent blacks, like Rev. Bill Adkins and Rev. Billy Samuel Kyles. Other Democratic candidates are State Senator Jim Kyle, an experienced campaigner, and State Rep. Carol Chumney, who hopes to generate a large women's vote on her behalf. All of the above,however, will be forced to regard Wharton as their most serious competitor. A number of Republicans are considering running, and the most viable possibilities are regarded as District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, city councilman Jack Sammons, and attorney and former councilman John Bobango. All of these are moderate, middle-of-the-road Republicans,and it is believed that only one of them -- more or less by prior arrangwement with the others -- will end up with his hat in the ring. The presence of French in Wharton's support group represents something of a split in the Herenton camp. Former Teamster leader Sidney Chism, the mayor's cheif political arm, was an early Byrd supporter, and he has cautioned that Wharton, if nominated, stood a good chance of losing to one of the moderate Republicans mentioned above.

    Monday, September 24, 2001

    A COMEBACK RESUMES

    A COMEBACK RESUMES

    Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    NASHVILLE -- The national tragedy which began happening on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th put a temporary end to the political resurfacing of former Vice President Al Gore, which had been proceeding apace right up until that time. Since then, Gore had relapsed into the virtual silence which had governed his actions after the turbulent Florida vote recount and his concession to Republican George W. Bush in early December. Gore returned to public consciousness in Nashville Saturday, making apperances at several meetings during a weekend of state Democratic Party events. Still bearded, he told his fellow Tennessee Democrats that he backed the president unresevervedly and urged that they do the same. Bush had put a call in to Gore in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, but, in the swirl of events, the two never made their connection. Gore dismissed that fact as unimportant, treating the president's call as a political courtesy.

    THOMPSON SAYS IT; HE'LL RUN AGAIN

    THOMPSON SAYS IT; HE'LL RUN AGAIN

    Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    "Now is not the time for me to leave,” said Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator in Nashville Monday morning, ending months of speculation with a terse pro forma announcement that he intended to run again. The statement included an almost wistful reference to “a private life and another career.”. But the senator’s reference to “what is happening in our nation” needed no elaboration, nor did his stated intention to get speculation about his intentions “:into the background.” The senator's announcement had been heralded in recent days by a number of hints that a tentative decision to leave the Senate had been reversed. Toward the end of last week, those hints were becoming more and more prominent in the national media, and the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call was openly writing about a definite change of mind based on two phenomena: the national crisis and the senator's reading of David McCullough's current biography of John Adams. Left in the lurch for the second time (the first coming when Thompson decided early this year not to seek the governorships) were a number of prospective candidates for the senator's seat and for the 7th district congressional seat which the GOP's Ed Bryant had made it clear he would vacate to make a race for an open Senate seat. Among those ready to go for the Bryant seat were, among Republicans, Memphis attorney David Kustoff, who ran the Bush campaign in Tennessee last year; Memphis city councilman Brent Taylor; former Shelby County Republican chairman Phil Langsdon, a facial plastic surgeon; and State Rep. Larry Scroggs. Various candidates had been discussed for the Senate, too, including, among Democrats, 9th district U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and former National Transportation and Safety Board chief Jim Hall, a native Chattanoogan. The Thompson statement follows: “I am going to run for re-election. With what is happening in our nation, this is not the best time to be making a statement that has to do with politics, but, frankly, I'm not sure when the next good time will be. Also, questions concerning my intentions have become a significant diversion and it is time to get them into the background. "I have given a lot of thought as to whether or not I wanted to run for re-election. I believe it's good for a person to have a career before politics, serve his country for a while and then go back into private life and another career. At least, that is what I have always had in mind for myself. But now is not the time for me to leave."

    Saturday, September 22, 2001

    HELL YES, HE IS GOING!

    A Democratic activist goes looking for the front.

    Posted By on Sat, Sep 22, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Two weeks ago, 26-year-old Drew Pritt, a political science major at the University of Memphis and president of the university’ College Democrats, was standing in a Q-and-A line at a campus "town meeting" on the subject of campaign-finance reform, which just that little bit of time ago was a prime point of contention among political junkies and poli-sci students. The panelists at the meeting, all of whom had come to Memphis on behalf of the McCain-Feingold bill, were illustrious members of Congress -- Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin himself, Rep. Marty Mehan of Massachusetts, Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of hometown Memphis, et al., et al. Pritt had lined up in order to balance and, if possible, refute the highly organized claque of College Republicans who had gotten in the Q-and-A line to ask leading, unfriendly questions of the panelists. That was then, this is now. Pritt will shortly be lining up with other Republicans and Democrats and independents -- not to ask questions at all but to follow orders. As soon as he heard of the atrocities perpetrated in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11th, Pritt, a member of the inactive Army reserve, began to petition his local Memphis reserve unit to go on active service. He now has his wish, having been shifted to the active reserves and subsequently called up. He'll be leaving within two weeks to be attached to a unit destined for parts unknown. At some point in the period immediately following the terrorist attacks, Pritt had taken part in a candlelight vigil on campus in honor of the victims of September 11th and on behalf of national unity. There were speakers at the vigil -- from the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths and from the ranks of secularists as well. One of the latter was a woman who espoused a Noam Chomsky-like line of military non-intervention and heatedly condemned in advance any potential warlike response to events on the part of the United States. Pritt was offended and told the woman that he was trying as hard as he could to take part in just such a response "so that people like you may continue to have the right to say what you just said." Days later a fellow Democrat routed along on his e-mail network a Salon.com article ("Hell No, They Won't Go -- Yet" by Janelle Brown and King Kauffman) which clearly shared in the skepticism which the article had documented at San Francisco State Unviersity concerning the prevalent patriotic response in America at large. Pritt was offended all over again and responded along the same network with his own e-mail message (appended). "I come from a family with a military tradition," said Pritt, both of whose brothers are also in military units that will likely see duty in whatever kind of military conflict ultimately develops. (Brother David is a Master Sergeant with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, already deployed; brother Paul is a captain in the Army reserves and is also seeking activation.) Drew Pritt's father, an Episcopal clergyman, is also a military veteran. "Plus," says the bespectacled, buzz-cut Pritt earnestly, "I intend to have a political career, and I can't see voting for anybody to do military service if I'm not willing to do it myself." So gung-ho was the young Pritt who volunteered for the Army reserve in 1997 that he would end up in a training unit at Fort Knox known as the "Mad Dogs" for its collective zeal and efficiency in inter-unit competitions. Pritt, a Specialist holding the pay grade of E-4, counts himself a liberal Democrat and is aware that, by various stereotypes and standards, he’ a statistical freak. By way of accounting for his place in the scheme of things, he likes to quote a mantra which he picked up -- believe it or not -- from his first drill sergeant but which he thinks derives from Socrates: "Democracy is a hungry beast that must constantly be fed.” Interestingly enough, Pritt is just one of two called-up reservists who had been serving on the campaign staff of state rep. Carol Chumney, who seeks the 2002 Democratic nomination for Shelby County Mayor. (The other is Chumney's press secretary, Bert Kelly, an officer in the Naval Reserve who is even now on duty in New York.) Pritt's written response to the Salon.com article (http://www.salon.com/letters/daily/2001/09/19/won_t_go/index.html) follows: "While I enjoy the spirit of Freedom of Speech and the ideas of one individual, in fact, I literally fight for them, the reality of this article is the complete opposite is actually true. I can attest that recruiters statewide are reporting a marked increase of 30%-60%, depending where they are, in Tennessee. Nationwide, it's an average jump of 35% from what usually happens. That's an average of 4-5 individuals every two weeks joining. "Furthermore, I have been activated by the U.S. Army, as I am a reservist. I join my brother Paul, Captain Tennessee Army Reserves, and my brother David, TSgt. 82nd Airborne, who are going off to defend freedom. "I am also one of four University of Memphis students whose status has changed from inactive to active since Tuesday's atrocities. "So, no, this article is one individual, who apparently does make an interesting point. That point is that it's unsure if they are fight-worthy. Well, take it from someone who passed Basic Training (Fort Jackson, SC) and ROTC Officer Basic Training (Fort Knox, KY), if these young people, as I suspect, have a desire to join, to give it their all, and to fight for the basic freedoms we all enjoy, then, trust me, we will see the marked increase [in enlistments]. "One other point, Afghanistan is not a contemporary war. The bad news is that Ghengis Khan, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union all had to call the colors and retreat. Secondly, conventional, high-tech weapons that were a mainstay of Desert Storm are not effective here in this rocky, mountainous, dangerous land. There are massive tunnel systems. "This is not a partisan issue. This is as Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said in her speech to the Senate floor, 'This is the time for the world community to say either you are with us or against us. There is no in-between.'"

    Friday, September 21, 2001

    HELL YES, HE IS GOING!

    A Democratic activist goes looking for the front.

    Posted By on Fri, Sep 21, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Two weeks ago, 26-year-old Drew Pritt, a political science major at the University of Memphis and president of the university?s College Democrats, was standing in a Q-and-A line at a campus "town meeting" on the subject of campaign-finance reform, which just that little bit of time ago was a prime point of contention among political junkies and poli-sci students. The panelists at the meeting, all of whom had come to Memphis on behalf of the McCain-Feingold bill, were illustrious members of Congress -- Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin himself, Rep. Marty Mehan of Massachusetts, Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of hometown Memphis, et al., et al. Pritt had lined up in order to balance and, if possible, refute the highly organized claque of College Republicans who had gotten in the Q-and-A line to ask leading, unfriendly questions of the panelists. That was then, this is now. Pritt will shortly be lining up with other Republicans and Democrats and independents -- not to ask questions at all but to follow orders. As soon as he heard of the atrocities perpetrated in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11th, Pritt, a member of the inactive Army reserve, began to petition his local Memphis reserve unit to go on active service. He now has his wish, having been shifted to the active reserves and subsequently called up. He'll be leaving within two weeks to be attached to a unit destined for parts unknown. At some point in the period immediately following the terrorist attacks, Pritt had taken part in a candlelight vigil on campus in honor of the victims of September 11th and on behalf of national unity. There were speakers at the vigil -- from the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths and from the ranks of secularists as well. One of the latter was a woman who espoused a Noam Chomsky-like line of military non-intervention and heatedly condemned in advance any potential warlike response to events on the part of the United States. Pritt was offended and told the woman that he was trying as hard as he could to take part in just such a response "so that people like you may continue to have the right to say what you just said." Days later a fellow Democrat routed along on his e-mail network a Salon.com article ("Hell No, They Won't Go -- Yet" by Janelle Brown and King Kauffman) which clearly shared in the skepticism which the article had documented at San Francisco State Unviersity concerning the prevalent patriotic response in America at large. Pritt was offended all over again and responded along the same network with his own e-mail message (appended). "I come from a family with a military tradition," said Pritt, both of whose brothers are also in military units that will likely see duty in whatever kind of military conflict ultimately develops. (Brother David is a Master Sergeant with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, already deployed; brother Paul is a captain in the Army reserves and is also seeking activation.) Drew Pritt's father, an Episcopal clergyman, is also a military veteran. "Plus," says the bespectacled, buzz-cut Pritt earnestly, "I intend to have a political career, and I can't see voting for anybody to do military service if I'm not willing to do it myself." So gung-ho was the young Pritt who volunteered for the Army reserve in 1997 that he would end up in a training unit at Fort Knox known as the "Mad Dogs" for its collective zeal and efficiency in inter-unit competitions. Pritt, a Specialist holding the pay grade of E-4, counts himself a liberal Democrat and is aware that, by various stereotypes and standards, he?s a statistical freak. By way of accounting for his place in the scheme of things, he likes to quote a mantra which he picked up -- believe it or not -- from his first drill sergeant but which he thinks derives from Socrates: "Democracy is a hungry beast that must constantly be fed. Interestingly enough, Pritt is just one of two called-up reservists who had been serving on the campaign staff of state rep. Carol Chumney, who seeks the 2002 Democratic nomination for Shelby County Mayor. (The other is Chumney's press secretary, Bert Kelly, an officer in the Naval Reserve who is even now on duty in New York.) Pritt's written response to the Salon.com article (http://www.salon.com/letters/daily/2001/09/19/won_t_go/index.html) follows: "While I enjoy the spirit of Freedom of Speech and the ideas of one individual, in fact, I literally fight for them, the reality of this article is the complete opposite is actually true. I can attest that recruiters statewide are reporting a marked increase of 30%-60%, depending where they are, in Tennessee. Nationwide, it's an average jump of 35% from what usually happens. That's an average of 4-5 individuals every two weeks joining. "Furthermore, I have been activated by the U.S. Army, as I am a reservist. I join my brother Paul, Captain Tennessee Army Reserves, and my brother David, TSgt. 82nd Airborne, who are going off to defend freedom. "I am also one of four University of Memphis students whose status has changed from inactive to active since Tuesday's atrocities. "So, no, this article is one individual, who apparently does make an interesting point. That point is that it's unsure if they are fight-worthy. Well, take it from someone who passed Basic Training (Fort Jackson, SC) and ROTC Officer Basic Training (Fort Knox, KY), if these young people, as I suspect, have a desire to join, to give it their all, and to fight for the basic freedoms we all enjoy, then, trust me, we will see the marked increase [in enlistments]. "One other point, Afghanistan is not a contemporary war. The bad news is that Ghengis Khan, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union all had to call the colors and retreat. Secondly, conventional, high-tech weapons that were a mainstay of Desert Storm are not effective here in this rocky, mountainous, dangerous land. There are massive tunnel systems. "This is not a partisan issue. This is as Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said in her speech to the Senate floor, 'This is the time for the world community to say either you are with us or against us. There is no in-between.'"

    Thursday, September 20, 2001

    THOMPSON TELLS HILL PUBLICATION HE WILL RUN AGAIN

    Biography of John Adams, terrorist crisis play roles.

    Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    If David McCullough, the respected historian and author of best-selling biographies of presidents Harry Truman and John Adams, is to be believed, then Senator Fred Thompson has already made his decision to run again in 2002.

    It has seemed fairly clear to many observers that Thompson's omnipresence in Tennessee and on television talk shows since last week's terrorist attacks augured a reelection run. But McCullough says the senator's decision came just a mite earlier than September 11th.

    As Allison Stevens of The Hill, a widely read Capitol Hill poop-sheet, renders it: "Thompson encountered McCullough on a downtown Washington street last week, just before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and introduced himself. He told the historian he had been uncertain about whether he would run again, but after reading the 736-page [Adams] tome during the August recess, he changed his mind."

    Stevens quotes Thompson this way on the exchange: "Well, yeah, I -- I did have that conversation with him. I don't know the words that I used, but I certainly could have left that impression."

    Thompson said the terrorist attacks and their aftermath were important in reaching a decision as well. "[The crisis] has its effect, just like David McCullough's book had its effect in another way, in a positive way. It's just life and lives that we lead. I suppose everything goes into [these decisions]."

    The senator said further: "[I'm] trying to address a very personal situation in the midst of turmoil and crisis and pressure. I kind of made the determination some time ago that I was going to absorb all these things and just see what kind of an impact they had on me, as I thought my way and felt my way through, as to what was right for me. I decided I wasn't going to come to any conclusions in the midst of all this."

    The senator characterized McCullough's Adams biography as "inspirational," according to Stevens. "You know, a man who devoted his life to public service and who died without much in the way of physical asset, but who provided a great service to his country, it's inspirational. And it had an impact on my thinking." Lest giddy Republicans get too carried away with the foregoing, the senator did issue a caveat. Said The Hill's report: "Thompson protested that the notion he had 'changed his mind' over the August recess 'was a little strong' and insisted that he has not made a final decision."

    Tuesday, September 18, 2001

    CRISIS BRINGS FORD, THOMPSON TO THE FORE

    The senator sounds a possible re-election note; the congressman advocates a bipartisan measure.

    Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., a Democrat, figured in important public statements over the last two days-- Thompson in a way that suggests the current national crisis may bring him closer to running for re-election next year and Ford stepping forward as an exponent of bipartisan support for emergency legislation.

    Expressing a need “to be in Tennessee among Tennesseans,” Thompson appeared at a Nashville church service on Sunday and later Sunday night at Bellevue Baptist Church, where he received tumultuous applause from an overflowing congregation.

    The senator spoke to one consequence of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks: “This is a wakeup call for us that perhaps in some respects we’ve been needing.” He cautioned against expectations of immediate results in the newly declared war against terrorism.

    “We’re not going to be able to bomb our way to victory at 20,000 feet in two or three days,” Thompson said. “But it’s something we’ve got to do and something we will do ... . We’re going to get back to the running of America, and we’re going to make the folks who did this wish they hadn’t done it.”

    In an interview with MSNBC Monday, Ford expressed his willingness “as a moderate Democrat” to consider the reduction or elimination of capital-gains taxes and the possible suspension of payroll taxes, both ends sought by the Bush administration. Ford suggested that an increase in the current minimum wage might be a part of this “broader stimulus package.”

    Ford also said he thought Congress would enact emergency financial aid for the nation’s airlines and enact stricter airport security requirements when it reconvenes on Thursday.

    Monday, September 17, 2001

    CRISIS BRINGS FORD, THOMPSON TO THE FORE

    The senator sounds a possible re-election note; the congressman advocates a bipartisan measure.

    Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., a Democrat, figured in important public statements over the last two days-- Thompson in a way that suggests the current national crisis may bring him closer to running for re-election next year and Ford stepping forward as an exponent of bipartisan support for emergency legislation.

    Expressing a need “to be in Tennessee among Tennesseans,” Thompson appeared at a Nashville church service on Sunday and later Sunday night at Bellevue Baptist Church, where he received tumultuous applause from an overflowing congregation.

    The senator spoke to one consequence of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks: “This is a wakeup call for us that perhaps in some respects we’ve been needing.” He cautioned against expectations of immediate results in the newly declared war against terrorism.

    “We’re not going to be able to bomb our way to victory at 20,000 feet in two or three days,” Thompson said. “But it’s something we’ve got to do and something we will do ... . We’re going to get back to the running of America, and we’re going to make the folks who did this wish they hadn’t done it.”

    In an interview with MSNBC Monday, Ford expressed his willingness “as a moderate Democrat” to consider the reduction or elimination of capital-gains taxes and the possible suspension of payroll taxes, both ends sought by the Bush administration. Ford suggested that an increase in the current minimum wage might be a part of this “broader stimulus package.”

    Ford also said he thought Congress would enact emergency financial aid for the nation’s airlines and enact stricter airport security requirements when it reconvenes on Thursday.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2001

    GORE FRIEND SEES ANOTHER RUN COMING

    GORE FRIEND SEES ANOTHER RUN COMING

    Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Lucia Gilliland and her husband, Memphis attorney Jim Gilliland are among the closest friends that Al and Tipper Gore have. Both Gillilands went to Washington after the first election of the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992 and took jobs with the new administration -- Lucia as an official advisor to the Gores in the White House and as a national director of the Women's Leadership Forum of the Democratic National Committee, and Jim as chief legal counsel for the Department of Agriculture. Both were heavily involved in the Gore presidential campaign of 2000. Both continue to see the Gores on a friend-to-friend basis. And Lucia Gilliland, who has more than a casual interest in what comes next and more insight than most into what that could be, thinks the former Vice President is virtually certain to seek the Democratic nomination for 2004. And when he does, actually even before he does in any formal sense, Gilliland is determined to take an active leadership role on the Tennesse end of things. “It was here that he lost the election. Florida wouldn’t have mattered if he’d carried Tennessee,” said Gilliland during a weekend conversation. And she vowed, “We won’t fall short again.” One of the problems with Gore’s campaign in Tennessee, Gilliland said, was that he seemed to be scheduled for quick in-and-out fundraising trips (“Wham bam, thanks for the money”), but not much more. And she concurred with the criticisms of those who said Gore’s media advertising failed to be as Tennessee-specific as it could have been. Mroeover, said Gilliland, the best way for Al Gore to wage another presidential campaign is as himself -- warts and all. “But not the beard!” she said, seemingly aghast at Gore’s newest experiment with personal transformation. “It was a mistake” for Gore to submit to the various remodeling efforts that attracted so much negative attention during the last campaign period, Gilliland said. “He’d have come off better if he’d run as the real Al Gore.” On balance, she believes, Gore’s virtues -- which include intelligence, knowledgeability, dedication, and good intentions -- outshine his flaws, which include a tendency to go flat at inconvenient times and an awkwardness at some of the people skills required by politics. Gore will never be as smooth as the man whom he served as vice president for eight years, former President Bill Clinton, says Lucia Gilliland. And yes, she agrees with various post-mortems of Gore’s near-miss which suggest that he might have gone over the top if he’d involved Clinton more actively in the campaign -- specifically in Tennessee and Arkansas. The thinking of Gore’s advisers seemed to be that too much closeness to Clinton would offend “the swing voter,” Gilliland said, shaking her head and shrugging. In any case, as she noted, the former president won’t be an issue in the campaign period of 2003-4, for better or for worse. What will be an issue is what she sees as the “terrible” record being made in economic and other policy areas by the current president, Republican George W.Bush. And if voters get a chance to choose between the two of them again, especially between a Bush who is no longer an unknown quantity and a Gore who is content to be known as he really is, “it won’t even be close.”
    ##
    MOORE OUT OF SHERIFF'S RACE, LUTTRELL IN?
    Circuit Court Clerk Jimmy Moore reluctantly decided this past weekend not to seek either the office of Shelby County mayor or that of sheriff. Moore's friend, developer Jackie Welch, had overseen polling into both possibilities. "The race could be won," Moore said about the sheriff's race, always the stronger possibility of the two ventures now eliminated. Moore will now pursue a reelection race to the clerk's job, seeking the Republican nomination as before. Meanwhile, Mark Luttrell, director of the Shelby County Division of Corrections, is actively considering a race for sheriff, presumably as a Republican, the Flyer has learned.
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