Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Seasonal Fallout

As Senator Kyle exits the county mayor's race, Senator Norris ponders an entry.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2001 at 4:00 AM

The first Democratic candidate to announce for Shelby County Mayor, state Senator Jim Kyle, has become the race's first significant dropout.

Just before noon on Tuesday, Kyle had copies of a brief statement of withdrawal hand-delivered to his three primary opponents -- Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, Shelby County public defender A C Wharton, and state Representative Carol Chumney.

The statement read in part: "Both the political landscape and the fiscal problems facing our state have changed dramatically since I began considering a race almost a year ago ..." It went on to refer to the "historically long legislative session" and "political changes" and concluded, "This difficult decision has been made easier by the presence of excellent candidates in the Democratic primary. I wish them well."

In conversation, Kyle amplified his reasons: "First of all," he said, "we were in session too long, and that put me behind. Then we went to war, and that stopped everything again. Third, there was A C, who has as much name identification as I have. But what sealed it was when I determined we [the General Assembly] were not going into special session. That meant there was a very good chance I would be up there [in Nashville] for a long time next spring, and I needed that time."

As Kyle noted, a special session, which at one point seemed certain for the current week, could have resolved the state's financial issues. Without a special session, Kyle -- a key member of the Senate's Finance Committee -- and other legislators are likely to become entangled in a lengthy regular session next year, possibly lasting into the summer as the last two sessions have. Kyle could not have campaigned effectively during that time and by state law could not have raised money during the session.

The departure of the outspoken and respected senator, who had planned to campaign aggressively for city-county consolidation, will probably provide a marginal demographic boost to both Byrd and Chumney -- both whites -- in a county where racial identity always counts for a substantial portion of the vote.

· Until such time as former city councilman John Bobango actually takes the bit in his teeth and gets out on the cinder track and formally starts his expected race for Shelby County mayor, the opportunity is still there for other name-brand Republicans.

To date, a number of GOP hopefuls have pawed the track warily, checked out either the odds or the Democratic field -- which includes several highly touted runners -- and, for whatever reason, backed away. Early on, most of these -- like probate court clerk Chris Thomas -- were conservatives.

As recently as last week, word went out that another such, County Trustee Bob Patterson, was thinking of running, but -- although Patterson has not yet officially ruled the idea out -- it now seems doubtful that he'll risk his current position for a mayor's race.

That's the rub for so many prospects -- the sacrifice of a safe seat in the pursuit of an unknown quantity.

As it turns out, there's another mainline GOP prospect -- one whose interest, ironically enough, may actually have been kindled by facts relating to an incumbency which he'd dearly love to keep.

This is state Senator Mark Norris, a former county commissioner. Elected to the legislature just last year without opposition, Norris rapidly became a player in Nashville. He was elected parliamentarian by the Republican Senate caucus and to a number of other party posts whose import was somewhat more than ceremonial.

In July, during the nitty-gritty last days of the 2001 regular session of the General Assembly, Norris became one of his party's chief negotiators in the Senate's ultimately futile effort to reach a bipartisan consensus on a budget measure,.

While his politics -- especially on fiscal matters -- were dependably conservative, Norris proved adept at maintaining sunny relations with his ideological opposites in the Senate and was a swing vote on occasion -- as when he lent his vote to Democrat Steve Cohen's lottery bill, providing decisive momentum to put over a perennial proposal that had failed of passage for the previous two decades.

But Norris is the least senior Republican in a county which is slated to lose one of its Senate seats during the forthcoming reapportionment based on the 2000 census. Although both he and fellow Republican senator Curtis Person are members of the GOP's reapportionment committee, their party's say in the matter will be subordinated to that of the Senate Democrats, who are likely to place both the hugely popular Person, who has not even had an opponent since 1978, in the same district with Norris.

If worse comes to worst, and that happens, and, especially if Norris gets an inkling of it before the February 21st filing deadline for county races, he may think seriously of a return to the politics of the county, whose fiscal affairs absorbed him during his time on the commission.

· The chairman of the Election Commission, O.C. Pleasant, has all but decided on a race as a Democrat for Shelby County clerk, to oppose GOP incumbent Jayne Creson. Pleasant, who would have to face the choice of whether to resign his long-term position on the commission, also gave consideration for a while to the idea of running for county trustee.

· Pending the resolution of the district lines for county commission District 5, currently occupied by the retiring Buck Wellford, a Republican, most potential candidates for the seat are holding back on formal announcements.

Not Republican Jerry Cobb and Democrat Joe Cooper. Cooper, in fact, is busy constructing the elements of a platform. He, too, is a proponent of consolidation and called this week for the establishment of a Consolidation Charter Commission.

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

KYLE OUT OF MAYOR'S RACE; NORRIS MAY GET IN

KYLE OUT OF MAYOR'S RACE; NORRIS MAY GET IN

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2001 at 4:00 AM

The Shelby County Mayor's race lost one contender Tuesday but stood, down the line a bit, to gain another, State Senator Jim Kyle opted out of the race, arranging for announcements of his withdrawal to be hand-delivered just before noon Tuesday to his three Democratic Party rivals, State Representative Carol Chumney, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton. In the statement, as in separate remarks to the Flyer, Kyle cited the state's desperate fiscal situaton as a reason for his decision to leave the race. Kyle, a key member of the Senate Finance Committee, had hoped for a special session this week to resolve Tennessee's budget dilemma. It didn't happen, and that meant, Kyle realized, that he and the rest of the General Assembly would likely be tied up to Nashville from late winter through early summer next year-- a period during which he could neither effectively campaign nor, by the terms of state law, raise any money. Another reason for his departure, Kyle acknowledged, was the recent entry of Wharton, "who has name recognition as good as my own." Meanwhile, another senator, Collierville's Mark Norris, was considering a race for mayor at some point Ð especially if lawyer John Bobango ends up not running in the Republican primary. Norris, a former member of the county commission, is likely to see his senate district joined with that of long-term GOP colleague Curtis Person during legislative reapportionment, which will be controlled by Democrats in Nashville. In another development, Shelby County Election Commission chairman O.C. Pleasant, a Democrat, acknowledged he was likely to run for the office of Shelby County clerk, opposing incumbent Republican Jayne Creson.

Friday, October 26, 2001

A C WHARTON: A SECOND LOOK

A C WHARTON: A SECOND LOOK

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2001 at 4:00 AM

(Three months ago the Flyer‘s Rebekah Gleaves profiled Shelby County’s public defender, A C Wharton; at almost the same time, county mayor Jim Rout was making the decision not to run for reelection that would thrust Wharton front and center in the local political universe. Drawing on material accumulated during her research for that earlier, non-political article, Gleaves takes a look back at her subject with his political future in mind.) Though he's keeping quiet about A C Wharton entering the county mayor's race now, city mayorW.W. Herenton -- a longtime friend of Wharton's -- and several other Wharton friends and colleagues were not so hushed about his abilities a few months ago. In July of this year the Flyer interviewed the mayor and a number of others as research for a feature on Wharton. (See The Memphis Flyer, issue #649, July 26th - August 1st, 2001.) When asked if he thought Wharton would make an effective mayor for the city of Memphis, current city mayor W.W. Herenton was generous with his praise: "If AC were to seek the office of mayor and get elected, I think the citizens would have an excellent mayor in him." However, since Wharton's bid for county mayor, Herenton has remained noticeably silent, saying that during his own campaigns the sitting county mayors always refrained from speaking on the candidates. Another longtime friend of Wharton's, television judge Joe Brown, was equally supportive: "AC's the type of person who can cut across lines in Memphis with a dignified manner. If he ran for mayor, I might even be persuaded to support him." Brown has previously voiced his own intentions to run for the city mayor position someday. Brown did not respond to calls this week from the Flyer. For years, Wharton has been whispered about as a possible candidate for several offices and has long been believed to be able to garner support from both Memphis' black and white communities. It seems his reason for staying away from politics for nearly 20 years was personal. "I haven't really wanted him to run for anything else, to be candid," said Wharton's wife and law partner, Ruby Wharton. "Our last child was born the day before the election in 1982. I asked AC to wait until the youngest child was out of high school, or at least 16, before running again because politics is just so demanding. He respected my wishes and he has not run for anything else. Sometimes I blame myself for him not getting involved in another race. But who knows what he wants to do or what he may do someday?" Wharton's strength and weakness in this mayor's race seem to be one in the same, namely being black. As the only black candidate vying for a win in the Democratic primary, he has the potential to lock the so-called black vote in an election that traditionally divides along racial lines. Likewise, as a very well respected and accomplished attorney who is widely regarded as hard-working and fair, Wharton's candidacy transcends any racial positions his competitors might wish to box him into. However, this same mass appeal could serve to weaken Wharton in both camps. Black and white Democrats may view him as being too cozy with white Republicans. These are suggestions Wharton is familiar with and has been prepared for. In July, Wharton noted that such things have been said about him and that these assumptions were false: "There's a difference between taking a position because that's what I think white people would like for me to do. I don't do that. Or taking a position because that's what I think black people would like, I don't do that either. If I happen to take a position because I think it's a good, sound position and black folks and white folks like it, I'm not going to run from it. I'm not going to guide my life or my thoughts and parse my words so that I can appeal to white folks. By the same token, I'm not going to guide my life or parse my words for black people." It seems this attitude has worked well in the past for Wharton. Ask his colleagues about him and you get universally positive comments about him both personally and professionally. "He has a 'grace under fire' temperament," explained Ken Roach, an assistant district attorney who has worked in that office since 1974. "I've never seen him lose it. A lot of times in the heat of battle, it can be hard to keep your cool." This is a thought also echoed by Herenton. "AC is a wonderful guy, a distinguished citizen of this city, a good friend, and an intelligent person who advises me on many issues as the mayor," said Mayor Herenton. "Some people view me as a low-key guy that, when my buttons are pushed, shows a different side. Sometimes I get testy. But AC never does. He always keeps his cool." The way Wharton tells it, none of this is accidental. He consciously opts to maintain his composure and guard his mood and tongue. One of the ways he says he does so is by carefully selecting how and with whom he spends his free time. "If I'm around people who are positive, I'm positive," said Wharton. "And I discreetly select the people I'm around to get the most out of every minute." He continues, saying, "When you find your deficiencies, and we all have deficiencies, you have to overcome them. I overcome mine with drive. That extra push can make all the difference." But his wife paints a slightly different picture. "AC is serious about everything he does, but he never takes himself too seriously," says Ruby Wharton. "I suppose that is the factor that helps him deal with the things he has to deal with everyday. He's always able to see the light side of things." Much of this attitude manifests itself in Wharton's workplace, or workplaces. As the public defender, a very successful criminal defense attorney, board member for both Methodist-LeBonheur Hospital and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and, until recently, a law professor at Ole Miss, much of Wharton's time is spent working. He has himself said that he would rather be known for what he does than who he is. "I work too much," said Wharton. "I think I have a balanced life, though. I just believe in going and going and going. It's nothing for me to go to work at 8 Saturday morning and then at 4 Saturday evening go to the golf course with my son. I do work hard, but when I play, I play hard. Life is good." This is a fact about Wharton that those who know him readily volunteer. But they don't stop at noting his long hours. Rather, they tend to focus on the quality of his work. "You never defend complicated cases by hiding the ball," said Jim Raines, an attorney with Glankler Brown who has known Wharton for about 20 years. "In the dealings I've had with AC, he's been very up-front. He is not going to manufacture facts or manufacture any defense that is not credible. He is perceived by prosecuting attorneys as a truth-sayer, which is really important in our business. I have the utmost confidence in AC -- in his knowledge and ability to understand the circumstances and arrive at an appropriate course of action. He always was a good trial lawyer, a fair and tough adversary. He's good with and jury and has a good temperament. Judges listen to him and he's persuasive." Not surprisingly, Wharton's wife agrees that her husband works a lot: "He's probably one of the hardest working men I know. It's not easy being married to someone like that." Despite the glowing praise he has received as both the public defender and in his own criminal defense practice, local political speculators have questioned whether AC will be able to perform the duties of county mayor as effectively. Particularly in a time of great activity in Shelby County, some have questioned Wharton's soft-spoken, often non-offensive manner and whether or not he will be able to aggressively pursue promoting the county and getting county residents involved. "I don't know one end of a basketball court from the other. I guess they're both the same," said Wharton. "I don't know anything about baseball and I can't tell you much about the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, but I enjoy it. I enjoy being able to go to all of these things if I want to. I think giving more attention to the amenities will do more to bring all levels of people up. I think we need to do more to cross-fertilize to make sure everyone gets a taste of that. We think that people buy into our values, but they do not if they've never really tasted our values."

Thursday, October 25, 2001

The Lamar Scenario

It's over now, but here's the story behind the former governor's re-emergence.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Unaccountably there arose something of a controversy a while back concerning the intentions of former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander toward the seat now occupied by once and future U.S. Senator Fred Thompson.

All that seems so long ago now, but it was all the rage in statewide political and media circles just before the horrific September 11th scenario prompted a previously reluctant Thompson to rise to a sense of mission and to announce for reelection, after all reenlisting, in effect, in the federal ranks.

No one much cares or pays attention now to Lamar Alexander, who has reverted to the condition of distinguished obscurity which characterized him before his late-summer bloom as a Senate hopeful. For those with an interest, however, the facts are these, as certified anew by Senator Bill Frist and other sources close to the National Republican Senatorial Committee which Frist now heads:

The drama in which Alexander was to do his late cameo appearance occupied the better part of a year since 9th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant made what for him was a fateful decision to back off a gubernatorial bid, yielding his place in that line to his colleague from Tennessee's 4th district, Van Hilleary.

Up until then, both Hilleary and Bryant had been eying the Senate seat in case Thompson chose to run for governor (that was the presumed issue back then) or the governorship in case he didn't.

Bryant appears to have gambled that Ole Fred, a sometime actor, would take the part which his GOP lodge brothers had picked out for him, that of providing another, rejuvenated Republican governorship in the post- Sundquist era. Nor for the first nor the last time, though, Thompson declined to be typecast and renounced a gubernatorial bid which meant that Hilleary had his race to run and the luckless Bryant didn't.

Then came Thompson's prolonged bout of indecision regarding a reelection race for the Senate. Bryant's hopes flared again and he launched a shadow campaign of sorts, which was well advanced when the Alexander gambit materialized, seemingly out of nowhere, in August. It began with an unattributed one-sentence item in the Wall Street Journal suggested that Alexander was floating an interest in the Senate race. In reality, it was being floated for him by Frist and/or delegated operatives in the NRSC.

The senator more or less confirmed all this in Washington last week. "We're in a tight battle for control of the Senate. Right now, as everybody knows, it's a single-seat majority for the Democrats and every seat counts," he said. Did he contact Alexander about a race? Frist nodded. "Yes, it was my responsibility to make sure that we had a candidate with enough means and name-recognition to make a serious, competitive race." Was it doubly important to him that the Republicans hold on to the Tennessee seat? "Oh, yeah," he said expansively. "No doubt about it."

And another source, speaking on assurances of anonymity, put it simply: "If Fred had not run again, Lamar was in." No two ways about it.

The reason: Neither Bryant's poll figures nor his fund-raising had generated enough confidence at the NRSC to go for broke with him. (Parenthesis: This was very probably a premature judgment on Bryant, who has a demonstrated ability to wear well with voters who've gotten to know him.)

Alexander, by contrast, was a known quantity as well as a proven statewide name. Given the stakes, in a Senate destined to be shaded one way or the other by the narrowest of margins, he looked good to the NRSC and to its chief.

It's that simple. And, again, whatever the surface noises of the occasion, the reality was that Alexander was presumed by those mostly closely related to the national Republican senate effort to be locked in. Before September 11th stoked Senator Thompson's sense of duty and changed everything.

· District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, after giving the matter "careful consideration" over the weekend, announced at a press conference Monday that he would not be a candidate for Shelby County Mayor. "Simply put," Gibbons said, "I prefer being district attorney to being county mayor." Gibbons' decision puts the ball in the court of lawyer John Bobango, a former city councilman, as far as the Republican Party is concerned. For some time Bobango's interest in the position has seemed more intense than Gibbons'. The two had long made it clear that whichever one of them decided to run would have the support of the other, and Gibbons gave Bobango his explicit endorsement Monday.

In private conversations during the several weeks that preceded his moment of decision, Gibbons had made it clear that he had doubts about the job of county mayor as one he felt strongly enough about to seek or even as one that might serve as a stepping stone to higher office. And his commitment to the unfinished business of his current office seemed genuine.

In his statement Monday, Gibbons touted achievements in problem areas ranging from gang violence to drug-traffic control to child abuse, but he said, "Crime remains far too high ... . This is not the time for me to walk away from this job."

Gibbons said "from day one I have been somewhat reluctant" about running for county mayor. He said the job of city mayor actually appeals to him more. The question he faced: "What obligation do I have to seek an office I'm not excited about holding?"

None, he concluded, becoming the second person, along with Jim Rout, to conclude that there are better things to do than be county mayor. It is questionable, of course, whether Gibbons could have won the nomination or the general election next year. He promptly endorsed his friend and fellow Republican Bobango.

"John Bobango would make a great mayor," he said. Gibbons added he foresees a "divisive, expensive Democratic primary" and a united Republican Party behind Bobango.

"For parts of the Democratic Party the stakes are high and I think it is going to get rough," he said.

· A statewide poll released last week by the Knoxville News-Sentinel showed that Democrat Phil Bredesen and U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary are the clear leaders for their respective parties in the gubernatorial race, with margins of 34 percent for Bredesen to single digits for various Democratic contenders and 50 percent for Hilleary to 10 percent for his only GOP opponent so far, state Rep. Jim Henry of Kingston.

Henry, who maintains that the poll results were misreported and that Hilleary, too, had only a 34 percent showing, still professes confidence, though. Both he and Knoxville District Attorney General Randy Nichols, a Democratic contender, have logged serious time of late in Memphis. (Nichols spent an entire week doing meet-and-greets in the area.)

Both Henry and Nichols are reckoned as moderates on most questions. Henry has so far not determined his position on tax reform, other than to favor it generally but reserving judgment on a particular form. Nichols, however, took the bold gamble this week of all but endorsing the proposal for an income tax that may form the basis for a legislative special session beginning next week. And he hurled a charge of pandering at ex- Nashville mayor Bredesen, who has distanced himself from a state income tax and promised instead to "manage" the state out of its current financial difficulty.

"He's obviously afraid of taking a stand," said Nichols of Bredesen. Of the proposed special session, Nichols said, "I approve of it; it's obvious we have a serious revenue problem and the legislators who want to deal with it deserve support." Nichols said he also liked the dimensions of the plan, a 3.5 percent flat tax with corresponding reductions in the sales tax and elimination of the Hall income tax.

Of the weekend poll, Nichols said in the News-Sentinel : "With the limited name recognition I have outside of Knox County, that is very encouraging. I knew that name recognition is what we have to overcome, with Mayor Bredesen having run statewide in 1994. I've always thought that if we could be right behind him at the start of the year, we could be in a position to win the nomination."

Other Democrats were equally optimistic. Democrat Charles Smith professed to believe that the poll showed he had momentum. "I feel because we have been out campaigning hard in the past two weeks (after the poll was conducted), the race has tightened significantly. I think at this point the polls are not too meaningful but I think we've got momentum."

Former state Senator Andy Womack of Murfreesboro saw "a wide-open race" and declared, "There are a lot of uncommitted, undecided voters and that also applies to the Democratic primary, which is what I'm running in right now."

Republican challenger Henry, meanwhile, saw his double-digit showing as proof that he was best off among those challenging the front- runners.

John Branston contributed to this column.

THE LAMAR SCENARIO

THE LAMAR SCENARIO

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Unaccountably there arose something of a controversy a while back concerning the intentions of former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander towards the seat now occupied by once and future U.S.. Senator Fred Thompson. All that seems so long ago now, but it was all the rage in statewide political and media circles just before September 11th., when Usama bin Laden or some individual or group with the same degree of evil intensity enacted the horrific scenario that prompted a previously reluctant Thompson to rise to a sense of mission and to announce for reelection, after all -- re-enlisting, in effect, in the federal ranks. No one much cares or pays attention now to Lamar Alexander, who has reverted to the condition of distinguished obscurity which characterized him before his late-summer bloom as a Senate hopeful. For those with an interest, however, the facts are these, as certified anew by Senator Bill Frist and other sources close to the National Republican Senatorial Committee which Frist now heads: The drama in which Alexander was to do his late cameo appearace occupied the better part of a year Ð since 9th District U.s. Rep. Ed Bryant made what for him was a fateful decision to back off a gubernatorial bid, yielding his place in that line to his colleague from Tennessee’s 4th district, Van Hilleary. Up until then, both Hilleary and Bryant had bee eying the Senate seat, in case Thompson chose to run for governor (that was the presumed issue back then) or the governorship in case he didn’t. Bryant appears to have gambled that Ole Fred, a sometime actor, would take the part which his GOP lodge brothers had picked out for him, that of providing another, rejuvenated Republican governorship in the post-Sundquist era. Nor for the first nor the last time, though, Thompson declined to be typecast and renounced a gubernatorial bid Ð which meant that Hilleary had his race to run and the luckless Bryant didn’t. Then came Thompson’s prolonged bout of indecision regarding a reelection race for the Senate. Bryant’s hopes flared up again, and he launched a shadow campaign of sortw, which was well advanced when the Alexander gambit materialized, seemingly out of nowhere, in August. It began with an unattributed one-sentence item in the Wall Street Journal suggested that Alexander was floating an interest in the Senate race. In reality, it was being floated for him Ð by Frist and/or delegated operatives in the NRSC. The Senator more or less confirmed all this in Washington last week. “We’re in a tight battle for control of the Senate Ð right now, as everybody knows, it’s a single-seat majority for the Democrats Ð and every seat counts,” he said. Did he contact Alexander about a race? Frist nodded. “Yes, it was my responsibility to make sure that we had a candidate with enough means and name-recognition to make a serious, competitive race.” Was it doubly important to him that the Republicans hold on to the Tennesse seat? “Oh, yeah,” he said expansively. “No doubt about it.” And another source, speaking on assurances of anonymity, put it simply: “If Fred had not run again, Lamar was in.” No doubt about it. The reason: neither Bryant’s poll figures nor his fund-raising had been such as to generate enough confidence at the NRSC to go for broke with him. (Parenthesis: this was very probably a premature judgment on Bryant, who has a demonstrated ability to wear well with voters who’ve gotten to know him.) Alexander, by contrast, was a known quantity as well as a prove statewide name. Given the stakes, in a Senate destined to be shaded one way or the other by the narrowest of margins, he looked good to the NRSC and to its chief. It’s that simple. And, again, whatever the surface noises of the occasion, the reality was that Alexander was presumed by those mostly closely related to the national Republican senate effort to be locked in. Before September 11th stoked Senator Thompson’s sense of duty and changed everything.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

THE LAMAR SCENARIO

THE LAMAR SCENARIO

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Unaccountably there arose something of a controversy a while back concerning the intentions of former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander towards the seat now occupied by once and future U.S.. Senator Fred Thompson. All that seems so long ago now, but it was all the rage in statewide political and media circles just before September 11th., when Usama bin Laden or some individual or group with the same degree of evil intensity enacted the horrific scenario that prompted a previously reluctant Thompson to rise to a sense of mission and to announce for reelection, after all -- re-enlisting, in effect, in the federal ranks. No one much cares or pays attention now to Lamar Alexander, who has reverted to the condition of distinguished obscurity, which characterized him before his late-summer bloom as a Senate hopeful. For those with an interest, however, the facts are these, as certified anew by Senator Bill Frist and other sources close to the National Republican Senatorial Committee which Frist now heads: The drama in which Alexander was to do his late cameo appearace occupied the better part of a year -- since 9th District U.s. Rep. Ed Bryant made what for him was a fateful decision to back off a gubernatorial bid, yielding his place in that line to his colleague from Tennessee’s 4th district, Van Hilleary. Up until then, both Hilleary and Bryant had bee eying the Senate seat, in case Thompson chose to run for governor (that was the presumed issue back then) or the governorship in case he didn’t. Bryant appears to have gambled that Ole Fred, a sometime actor, would take the part which his GOP lodge brothers had picked out for him, that of providing another, rejuvenated Republican governorship in the post-Sundquist era. Nor for the first nor the last time, though, Thompson declined to be typecast and renounced a gubernatorial bid -- which meant that Hilleary had his race to run and the luckless Bryant didn’t. Then came Thompson’s prolonged bout of indecision regarding a reelection race for the Senate. Bryant’s hopes flared up again, and he launched a shadow campaign of sortw, which was well advanced when the Alexander gambit materialized, seemingly out of nowhere, in August. It began with an unattributed one-sentence item in the Wall Street Journal suggested that Alexander was floating an interest in the Senate race. In reality, it was being floated for him -- by Frist and/or delegated operatives in the NRSC. The Senator more or less confirmed all this in Washington last week. “We’re in a tight battle for control of the Senate -- right now, as everybody knows, it’s a single-seat majority for the Democrats -- and every seat counts,” he said. Did he contact Alexander about a race? Frist nodded. “Yes, it was my responsibility to make sure that we had a candidate with enough means and name-recognition to make a serious, competitive race.” Was it doubly important to him that the Republicans hold on to the Tennesse seat? “Oh, yeah,” he said expansively. “No doubt about it.” And another source, speaking on assurances of anonymity, put it simply: “If Fred had not run again, Lamar was in.” No doubt about it. The reason: neither Bryant’s poll figures nor his fund-raising had been such as to generate enough confidence at the NRSC to go for broke with him. (Parenthesis: this was very probably a premature judgment on Bryant, who has a demonstrated ability to wear well with voters who’ve gotten to know him.) Alexander, by contrast, was a known quantity as well as a prove statewide name. Given the stakes, in a Senate destined to be shaded one way or the other by the narrowest of margins, he looked good to the NRSC and to its chief. It’s that simple. And, again, whatever the surface noises of the occasion, the reality was that Alexander was presumed by those mostly closely related to the national Republican senate effort to be locked in. Before September 11th stoked Senator Thompson’s sense of duty and changed everything.

Thursday, October 18, 2001

A C Is In!

After some soul-searching, the public defender leaps into the county mayor's race.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Weeks of intense speculation ended this week when Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton decided to make a formal announcement of his long-rumored candidacy for county mayor Wednesday morning at The Peabody.

Wharton said this week he would emphasize his more than 20 years experience as a private attorney, Shelby County public defender, and board member for the Memphis Housing Authority, Methodist Healthcare, and various education commissions.

"It would be much more to my private benefit to go off and be a high-paid consultant," said Wharton, "but I sort of feel an obligation to put something back in."

News of Wharton's taking the plunge comes only days after he gave serious second thoughts to holding back from running, according to sources familiar with the campaign. The hard core of Wharton's support, however, included the likes of Bobby Lanier, the longtime administrative aide to both former county mayor Bill Morris and incumbent mayor Jim Rout, an early enthusiast for a Wharton candidacy after Rout declared some weeks back he would vacate the seat.

Lanier served ultimately as a decisive source of support and encouragement for the well-liked and highly regarded -- but traditionally cautious -- man known almost universally in political, legal, and governmental circles as A C. "I've talked to him, and he's running," pronounced Lanier firmly last week in the midst of reports about possible waffling on the public defender's part.

Wharton's entry would seem to virtually complete a Democratic field that already includes Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, state Senator Jim Kyle, and state Representative Carol Chumney. None of these have so far given any indication that they're thinking of withdrawing.

"I've been in county government for more than 20 years and I've learned a lot," Wharton said this week. "I'm in a position to see how we could do somethings better, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, education, and health care." He said he is making the announcement "sooner than I would desire" but was prompted by the fact that other candidates have already started raising money for the race.

Wharton said he had gone back and forth on the timing and nature of his announcement in recent weeks as the news was dominated by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the current anthrax scare, and the economy. Pressure from within his own camp for him to go ahead and declare and put an end to speculation like that of last week undoubtedly played a role, too.

"Not a day has passed that I did not go through a careful weighing process," Wharton said.

The remaining mystery is the identity of the Republican contender. At least two public figures are still strongly considering making the race: District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, who has formed an exploratory committee, and lawyer and former Memphis city councilman John Bobango.

Both are thought of as strong potential contenders, but only one of them -- by what amounts to a common-sense prior agreement between the two moderate Republicans, who share a common base -- will end up running. Meanwhile, the two are enacting a complicated ritual whereby each says beatific things about the other while (perhaps) trying to out-maneuver him for party support.

Some of Wharton's Democratic opponents -- notably Byrd, who months ago began a well-heeled, highly organized and orchestrated campaign -- have made the most of Wharton's GOP connections, mainly people close to outgoing mayor Rout (a Republican who has distanced himself from his erstwhile supporters' pro-Wharton effort). Besides Lanier, other members of Rout's circle now prominent in Wharton's support are longtime county lobbyist Bobby Bowers, former Shelby County Commissioner Charles Perkins, and suburban developer Jackie Welch.

City council member Ta Juan Stout-Mitchell was among several African Americans at a Byrd fund-raiser the weekend before last who expressed unease at the degree of support for Wharton in the traditional Shelby County business/government establishment.

Even so, Wharton has had good support among key Democrats as well -- two examples being former party chairman David Cocke and state Senator Steve Cohen -- and has been reckoned by most observers as being the man to beat. Undeterred, Byrd has indicated he will continue to campaign vigorously and is apparently geared up for a lengthy one-on-one struggle.

Among other Democrats, Kyle has polls which show him in a strong, competitive situation in the party primary, while Chumney is beginning to intensify her efforts among party cadres and has several events planned for this week and next.

• Mark Luttrell, the director of Shelby County's Division of Corrections, has, friends say, made a firm decision to seek the office of sheriff in next year's Republican primary.

After years of turmoil and scandal involving Sheriff's Department personnel and policies, Luttrell came to the fore as the result, more or less, of key Republicans' search for someone who was both a new face -- at least to the county's voters -- and yet had ample experience in law enforcement.

Other Republicans seeking the office are Chief Deputy Don Wright and two other Sheriff's Department administrators, Bobby Simmons and Mike Jewell.

Assistant Chief Randy Wade is so far the only major declared Democratic candidate and has mounted a strong campaign with support from elements of Memphis mayor Willie Herenton's organization.

Henry Hooper, an insurance agent and former member of the Secret Service, has said he will run as an independent, and there are even rumors that former Criminal Court judge Joe Brown -- he of the nationally syndicated TV show -- is considering a race.

John Branston contributed an interview with A C Wharton and other material to this column.

FRIST IN RECEIPT OF 'SUSPICIOUS' PACKAGE

FRIST IN RECEIPT OF 'SUSPICIOUS' PACKAGE

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2001 at 4:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Bill Frist, who as the Senate's only physician has taken the lead in communicating information about the anthrax menace through the media, may have become a victim of the hazardous bacterium himself on Wednesday -- at least in the sense than his Memphis office was evidently targeted by a letter said to contain the anthrax spore.

Also reporting the receipt of suspicious packages Wednesday were Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout and U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in his Washington office. Both officials said they would have their mail specially bagged for inspection by the FBI or other law enforcement authorities.

Nick Smith, a spokesperson for Frist, said that the senator's office in Memphis received in Wednesday afternoon's mail what appeared, when opened by a staff member, to be a dosed envelope.

Further details were not immediately available and will be reported as soon as they are.

The senator, who was in Washington, where offices began closing Wednesday in response to the anthrax scare, has by now appeared on virtually every political news or talk show, regular or cable, discussing the disease and the various means for responding to it.

Frist later issued a statement on the receipt in Memphis of what he called "a suspicious package." He called the circumstances "a deplorable act, which I'm hopeful turns out to only be a hoax." After noting that the FBI was now in charge of investigating the package, Frist said that he would remain "in touch with authorities to ensure that the appropriate actions are taken to ensure the safety of those individuals affected."

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

A C GETS IN

A C GETS IN

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Weeks of intense speculation would end this week as Shelby County Pubic Defender A C Wharton arranged a formal announcement of his long-rumored candidacy for county mayor at 10:30 Wednesday morning at The Peabody. Wharton said beforehand he intended to emphasize his more than 20 years' experience as a private attorney, Shelby County public defender, and board member for Memphis Housing Authority, Methodist Healthcare, and various education commissions. “It would be much more to my private benefit to go off and be a high-paid consultant,” said Wharton, “but I sort of feel an obligation to put something back in.” News of Wharton’s taking the plunge comes only days after he gave serious second thoughts to holding back from running, according to sources familiar with the campaign. The hard core of Wharton’s support, however, included the likes of Bobby Lanier, the longtime administrative aide to both former county mayor Bill Morris and incumbent mayor Jim Rout and an early enthusiast for a Wharton candidacy after Rout declared some weeks back he would vacate the seat. Lanier served ultimately as a decisive source of support and encouragement for the well-liked and highly regarded -- but traditionally cautious -- man known almost universally in political, legal, and governmental circles as A C. “I’ve talked to him, and he’s running,” pronounced Lanier firmly last week in the midst of reports about possible waffling on the Public Defender’s part. Wharton’s entry would seem to virtually complete a Democratic field that already includes Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, State Senator Jim Kyle, and State Representative Carol Chumney. None of these have so far given any indication that they’re thinking of withdrawing. “I’ve been in county government for more than 20 years and I’ve learned a lot,” Wharton said this week. “I’m in a position to see how we could do some things better, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, education, and health care.” He said he is making the announcement “sooner than I would desire” but was prompted by the fact that other candidates have already started raising money for the race. Wharton said he had gone back and forth on the timing and nature of his announcement in recent weeks as the news was dominated by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the current anthrax scare, and the economy. Pressure from within his own camp for him to go ahead and declare and put an end to speculation like that of last week undoubtedly played a role, too. “Not a day has passed that I did not go through a careful weighing process,” Wharton said. The remaining mystery is the identity of the mainstream Republican contender. At least two public figures are still strongly considering making the race -- District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, who has formed an exploratory committee, and lawyer and former Memphis city councilman John Bobango. Both are thought of as strong potential contenders, but only one of them -- by what amounts to a common-sense prior agreement between the two moderate Republicans, who share a common base -- will end up running. Meanwhile, the two are enacting a complicated ritual whereby each says beatific things about the other while (perhaps) trying to out-maneuver him for party support. Some of Wharton’s Democratic opponents -- notably Byrd, who months ago began a well-heeled, highly organized and orchestrated campaign -- have made the most of Wharton’s GOP connections, mainly people close to outgoing mayor Rout (a Republican who has distanced himself from his erstwhile supporters’ pro-Wharton effort. Besides Lanier, other members of Rout’s circle now prominent in Wharton’s support are longtime county lobbyist Bobby Bowers, former Shelby County Commissioner Charles Perkins, and suburban developer Jackie Welch. City council member Ta Juan Stout-Mitchell was among several blacks at a Byrd fund-raiser weekend before last who expressed unease at the degree of support for Wharton in the traditional Shelby County business/government establishment. Even so, Wharton has had good support among key Democrats as well -- two examples being former party chairman David Cocke and State Senator Steve Cohen -- and has been reckoned by most observers as being the man to beat. Undeterred, Byrd has indicated he will continue to campaign vigorously and is apparently geared up for a lengthy one-on-one struggle. Among other Democrats, Kyle has polls which show him in a strong, competitive situation in the party primary, while Chumney is beginning to intensify her efforts among party cadres and has several events planned for this week and next.

Friday, October 12, 2001

WHARTON STILL IN (FOR NOW); LUTTRELL TO MAKE BID

WHARTON STILL IN (FOR NOW); LUTTRELL TO MAKE BID

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Shelby County’s political constellation has shifted measurably in the last two days, with credible word going out among insiders that one major potential candidate, A C Wharton, had decided against running for county mayor while another, Mark Luttrell, had made a firm decision to run for sheriff. A leading supporter of Wharton’s dismissed talk of his man’s departure from the race, however, and insisted late Thursday that the Shelby County Public Defender was still in the race and would shortly announce for the office, as had previously been indicated. “I talked to him today, and he’s running,” said this source. Wharton himself was not available for comment. WHARTON: If Wharton should indeed make a declaration of non-candidacy, his action would abort a considerable momentum that has been working in his favor in political circles, not only in the Democratic Party (whose primary he has been expected to run in) but among many of the county’s Republicans and independents as well. Conversely, some of Wharton’s potential Democratic opponents -- notably Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who has already announced for county mayor and begun a well-heeled campaign -- have made the most of Wharton’s GOP connections, mainly people close to outgoing Mayor Jim Rout (a Republican who has distanced himself from his erstwhile supporters’ pro-Wharton effort). City council member Ta Juan Stout-Mitchell was among several blacks at a Byrd fund-raiser last week who expressed unease at the degree of support for Wharton in the traditional Shelby County business/government establishment. Even so, Wharton has had good support among key Democrats as well -- two examples being former party chairman David Cocke and State Senator Steve Cohen -- and has been reckoned by most observers as being the man to beat if he pursued a race. Byrd has continued to campaign vigorously and is apparently geared up for a lengthy one-on-one struggle, if Wharton decides to stay in. Among other Democrats, State Senator Jim Kyle has polls which show him in a strong, competitive situation in the party primary, while State Representative Carol Chumney is beginning to intensify her efforts among party cadres and has several forthcoming events planned. Among Republicans, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons has formed an exploratory committee, while lawyer and former Memphis city councilman John Bobango continues to express interest in running. Both are considered strong potential contenders, but only one of them (by prior agreement between the two) will end up running. Meanwhile, the two are enacting a complicated ritual whereby each says beatific things about the other while (perhaps) trying to out-maneuver him for party support. LUTTRELL: The director of Shelby County's Division of Corrections has, friends say, made a firm decision to seek the office of sheriff in next year's Republican primary. The 54-year-old Luttrell worked almost a quarter century as an administrator in the federal corrections system, and served as warden of three penal institutions. After years of turmoil and scandal involving Sheriff's Department personnel and policies, Luttrell came to the fore as the result, more or less, of key Republicans' search for someone who was both a new face -- at least to the county's voters -- and yet had ample experience in law enforcement. Other Republicans seeking the office are Chief Deputy Don Wright and two other Sheriff’s Department administrators, Bobby Simmons and Mike Jewell. Assistant Chief Randy Wade is so far the only major declared Democratic candidate and has mounted a strong campaign with support from elements of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton’s organization.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

WHARTON STILL IN (FOR NOW); LUTTRELL TO MAKE BID

WHARTON STILL IN (FOR NOW); LUTTRELL TO MAKE BID

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Shelby County’s political constellation has shifted measurably in the last two days, with credible word going out among insiders that one major potential candidate, A C Wharton, had decided against running for county mayor while another, Mark Luttrell, had made a firm decision to run for sheriff. A leading supporter of Wharton’s dismissed talk of his man’s departure from the race, however, and insisted late Thursday that the Shelby County Public Defender was still in the race and would shortly announce for the office, as had previously been indicated. “I talked to him today, and he’s running,” said this source. Wharton himself was not available for comment. WHARTON: If Wharton should indeed make a declaration of non-candidacy, his action would abort a considerable momentum that has been working in his favor in political circles, not only in the Democratic Party (whose primary he has been expected to run in) but among many of the county’s Republicans and independents as well. Conversely, some of Wharton’s potential Democratic opponents -- notably Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who has already announced for county mayor and begun a well-heeled campaign -- have made the most of Wharton’s GOP connections, mainly people close to outgoing Mayor Jim Rout (a Republican who has distanced himself from his erstwhile supporters’ pro-Wharton effort). City council member Ta Juan Stout-Mitchell was among several blacks at a Byrd fund-raiser last week who expressed unease at the degree of support for Wharton in the traditional Shelby County business/government establishment. Even so, Wharton has had good support among key Democrats as well -- two examples being former party chairman David Cocke and State Senator Steve Cohen -- and has been reckoned by most observers as being the man to beat if he pursued a race. Byrd has continued to campaign vigorously and is apparently geared up for a lengthy one-on-one struggle, if Wharton decides to stay in. Among other Democrats, State Senator Jim Kyle has polls which show him in a strong, competitive situation in the party primary, while State Representative Carol Chumney is beginning to intensify her efforts among party cadres and has several forthcoming events planned. Among Republicans, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons has formed an exploratory committee, while lawyer and former Memphis city councilman John Bobango continues to express interest in running. Both are considered strong potential contenders, but only one of them (by prior agreement between the two) will end up running. Meanwhile, the two are enacting a complicated ritual whereby each says beatific things about the other while (perhaps) trying to out-maneuver him for party support. LUTTRELL: The director of Shelby County's Division of Corrections has, friends say, made a firm decision to seek the office of sheriff in next year's Republican primary. The 54-year-old Luttrell worked almost a quarter century as an administrator in the federal corrections system, and served as warden of three penal institutions. After years of turmoil and scandal involving Sheriff's Department personnel and policies, Luttrell came to the fore as the result, more or less, of key Republicans' search for someone who was both a new face -- at least to the county's voters -- and yet had ample experience in law enforcement. Other Republicans seeking the office are Chief Deputy Don Wright and two other Sheriff’s Department administrators, Bobby Simmons and Mike Jewell. Assistant Chief Randy Wade is so far the only major declared Democratic candidate and has mounted a strong campaign with support from elements of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton’s organization.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

HOW IT LOOKS

HOW IT LOOKS

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Bobango Still In?

The former councilman keeps his hat ready to toss, while Byrd summons a throng.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 9, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Hardly had the ink dried on District Attorney General Bill Gibbons' announcement last week that he had formed an exploratory committee to look into a race next year for Shelby County mayor than the other half of the Shelby County Republicans' Alphonse-Gaston Act was heard from. Lawyer John Bobango wants it known that he is still thinking seriously of running for Shelby County mayor -- notwithstanding his friend Gibbons' action.

Meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Jim Rout wants it known that he is not aiding and abetting the candidacy of Democrat A C Wharton -- notwithstanding the activities in that regard of some of his closest associates.

And the fact that Rout was urging Bobango to make the race as recently as a day or two before Gibbons announced his committee last week is something that should be known in its own right.

"I don't see any point in forming an exploratory committee just yet because I think it's still early to start raising money. But I'm studying it very carefully and I'll make a decision within three weeks or so," said Bobango, the former Memphis city councilman who has more or less agreed with Gibbons that only one of them should end up attempting to become the Republican standard-bearer.

"That's still the case, but it's still possible that either one of us could make the race," said Bobango, who insisted that Gibbons' announcement should not be regarded as pre-emptive. "In fact, I urged him to [form a committee], but it won't keep me from deciding to run. I honestly think that whichever one of us picks up the phone in the next three weeks and tells the other he's running will be the candidate. It's a matter of which one of us is the first to become convinced he ought to do it."

Bobango said he had had several conversations about the mayor's race with Rout, who counseled him to run, adding, "I assume he's had similar conversations with Bill, though I don't know for sure."

For his part, Rout -- clearly stung by recent allegations from various disgruntled Democrats that he is secretly supporting Wharton -- is making a point of asserting his GOP credentials, the exhortations to Bobango being a case in point. "I think he's determined to see that there's a quality Republican candidate and, frankly, I think that's the real message of Bill's decision to announce his committee," said Bobango.

The uncertainty concerning Rout's preferences has been based on the fact that several well-known political figures close to the county mayor - - notably his aide Bobby Lanier, developer Jackie Welch, Shelby County government lobbyist Bobby Bowers, and former County Commissioner Charlie Perkins -- are solidly in the camp of the all-but-declared Wharton, the current Shelby County public defender. (Other Democratic candidates are Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, State Senator Jim Kyle, and State Representative Carol Chumney.)

But it could well be that all of these members of Rout's circle merely consider themselves free agents in the wake of the county mayor's decision not to run for reelection and are merely trying to establish a new allegiance -- seeing in Wharton an electable centrist they could work with.

· The presence of so many Rout people and other white independents and Republicans in the start-up campaign of Wharton, an African American, is an irony of sorts, counter-pointed by a significant number of blacks in the rival Democratic campaign of Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who is white.

Former county commissioner Vasco Smith and his wife, former NAACP head and school board member Maxine Smith, held a monster reception for Byrd Friday night. Usually campaigns overstate the numbers of those who attend such functions, but the Byrd campaign's estimate of 300 attendees is surely well beneath the actual level. The Smiths' sprawling East Parkway residence was -- literally -- filled to the rafters.

Among those present were city council member TaJuan Stout- Mitchell (who said Byrd was entitled to black votes on the strength of his "demonstrated record of commitment" and expressed concern about the Rout contingent backing Wharton), County Commissioner Cleo Kirk, Dr. Shirley Raines and Dick Ranta of the University of Memphis; developer Henry Turley; Rev. Billy Kyles; lawyer Richard Fields; Rodney Herenton; Happy Jones; current NAACP head Johnnie Turner; moving company owner Tom Watson; and school board member Hubon "Dutch" Sandridge.

Wharton, incidentally, has tentative plans to make a formal announcement for mayor next week.

· Wonder of wonders! Former Vice President Al Gore, who warmed up for a recent high-profile visit to Iowa by shmoozing with local supporters at the Memphis home of Jim and Lucia Gilliland, is getting good reviews. One pundit even documented a "new, more relaxed" Gore.

The vice president, who (according to advance speculation, anyhow) had originally planned a broadside of sorts against the policies of President Bush, was forced to adjust quickly when the terrorist attacks of September 11th intervened. What Gore did in his keynote address at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner of Iowa Democrats in Des Moines was avoid any hint of partisan rhetoric, instead offering his unqualified support for the president.

The Boston Herald's Wayne Woodlief awarded appropriate kudos: Gore, he wrote, "one of the smartest men in American politics, has the sense to bide his time and support Bush as the president moves the nation through a crisis, yet still emerge as his party's prime challenger when challenge becomes appropriate again -- as it always does in a democracy."

And Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star awarded Gore some style points. The former veep used to arrive at places via Air Force 2 and pull up to his destinations in a cavalcade of official cars accompanied by police vehicles, sirens screeching. No more, wrote Kraske, who found that Gore "showed off a new, more relaxed speaking style" and "might have found himself a new, and somewhat dramatic, campaign style that had him sneaking into eastern Iowa in a rental car, accompanied only by a cell phone and a map ... ."

It gets better: "Along the way, Gore called up old friends and met them in coffee shops. He came off as a guy without a care in the world." Kraske echoed Woodlief in his estimate of the "aplomb" with which Gore paid an "obligatory nod to President Bush for his handling of the terrorism crisis." Said Kraske: "He was gracious, unwavering and direct, which is exactly what he had to be ... Gore effectively undermined the ongoing spat over who had won the November election ... [By] showing up in Iowa and then accepting another prominent speaking engagement in New Hampshire on October 27th, Gore keeps his 2004 political options open."

Ironically, two Memphians who have had ample prior exposure to Gore -- sports executive Steve Earhardt and Democratic activist Rex Ham -- had separately made observations last week to the effect that all Gore needed to do in order to shed his stiff image was to travel by his lonesome, without fuss or entourage. He appears to have done just that in Iowa -- which, none too coincidentally, is the first presidential caucus state of 2004.

And New Hampshire, where Gore will also serve as keynote speaker for a Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, happens to be the first primary state of that presidential-election year.

·When U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. shows up in the Shelby County Commission auditorium Monday for the area Anti-Terrorism Summit he has called, he may appear to be a victim of some mild terrorism himself, having picked up a shiner last week. The congressman's bruised eye, which required four stitches, came about when he collided with Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) during a pickup basketball game in the House gym last week. "He felt like Joe Frazier after the 'Thrilla in Manila," quipped Ford's administrative assistant, Mark Schuermann.

Incidentally, Schuermann, who has been doubling as Ford's press secretary since his return early this year from a stint as spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), can lay that burden down. Freshly hired by Ford is new press secretary Anthony Coley, who comes from the office of Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.).

Ford has invited all local mayors, emergency management officers, and representatives of law enforcement agencies to the anti-terrorism summit.

· So far two candidates have announced for the soon-to-be- vacated District 5 of the Shelby County Commission. Both mavericks, they are Democrat Joe Cooper (who has a variety of proposals for defraying county obligations by allowing paid private sponsorship of public venues and functions) and Republican Jerry Cobb, who has a well-established reputation as a whistle-blower and muckraker. Another Democrat, lawyer Guthrie Castle, is in the wings, ready to throw his hat in as soon as new district lines have been determined. ·

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

Monday, October 8, 2001

ON THE STUMP

ON THE STUMP

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Knoxville District Attorney General Randy Nichols, a dark-horse Democratic candidate for governor, rode hard in Memphis this last week, basing his campaign in the Bluff City from Monday through Sunday and meeting as many people as possible. Here he chatted up local supporters Chuck Lurie and Greg Lehman at a Sunday brunch at the Espresso Cafe on Poplar. State Rep. Carol Chumney sat down to a "soul supper" Saturday with supporters Coleman Thompson and Phronda Burks-Turner at Burks'home.

  • SHERIFF'S RACEAssistant Chief Randy Wade spoke to members of the Germantown Democratic club Saturday and stayed around afterward to shmmoze with supporters. From left: Francis (Bubba) Winkler, Sue Summons, Ralph White, and Frank Conti. (Winkler and Conti, incidentally, are well-known Republicans.)

    Friday, October 5, 2001

    BOBANGO: 'DON'T COUNT ME OUT'

    BOBANGO: 'DON'T COUNT ME OUT'

    Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Lawyer John Bobango wants it known that he is still thinking seriously of running for Shelby County mayor -- notwithstanding his friend Bill Gibbon‘s formation this week of an exploratory committee. Incumbent mayor Jim Rout wants it known that he is not aiding and abetting the candidacy of Democrat A C Wharton -- notwithstanding the activities in that regard of some of his closest associates. And the fact that Rout was urging Bobango to make the race as recently as Sunday is something that should be known in its own right. “I don’t see any point in forming an exploratory committee just yet because I think it’s still early to start raising money. But I’m studying it very carefully and I’ll make a decision within three weeks or so,” said Bobango, the former Memphis city councilman who has more or less agreed with fellow Republican Gibbons, the District Attorney General, that only one of them should end up attempting to become the Republican standard-bearer. “That’s still the case, but it’s still possible that either one of us could make the race,” said Bobango, who insisted that Gibbon’s announcement Monday of his exploratory committee should not be regarded as pre-emptive. “In fact, I urged him to do that, but it won’t keep me from deciding to run. I honestly think that whichever one of us picks up the phone in the next three weeks and tells the other he’s running will be the candidate. It’s a matter of which one of us is the first to become convinced he ought to do it.” Bobango said he had had several conversations about the mayor’s race with Rout, who counseled him to run as recently as Sunday. “I assume he’s had similar conversations with Bill, though I don’t know for sure,” Bobango said. For his part, Rout -- clearly stung by recent allegations from various disgruntled Democrats that he is secretly supporting Wharton -- is making a point of asserting his GOP credentials, the exhortations to Bobango being a case in point. “I think he’s determined to see that there’s a quality Republican candidate, and, frankly, I think that’s the real message of Bill’s decision to announce his committee,” said Bobango. The uncertainty concerning Rout’s preferences has been based on the fact that several well-known political figures close to the county mayor -- notably his aide Bobby Lanier, developer Jackie Welch, Shelby County government lobbyist Bobby Bowers, and former county commissioner Charlie Perkins -- are solidly in the camp of the all-but-declared Wharton, the current Shelby County Public Defender. (Other Democratic candidates are Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, State Senator Jim Kyle, and State Representative Carol Chumney.) But it could well be that all of these members of Rout’s circle merely consider themselves free agents in the wake of the county mayor’s decision not to run for reelection and are merely trying to establish a new allegiance -- seeing in Wharton an electable centrist they could work with.
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