Thursday, October 4, 2001

BOBANGO: "DON'T COUNT ME OUT"

BOBANGO: "DON'T COUNT ME OUT"

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 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.

Wednesday, October 3, 2001

FORD AT THE POINT

FORD AT THE POINT

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Ford at the Point U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. , who was a member of the congressional delegation that toured "Ground Zero," the area of the devastated World Trade Center, on Tuesday , has been named to a couple of House of Representatives ad hoc groups charged with considering responses to the crisis. Both groups Ð the Task Force on the Economy and the Homeland Security Task Force Ð were created by the Democratic caucus, and , in each area, Ford has emerged as something of a spokesperson for centrist Democratic positions. Typical was his appearance Sunday on CNN's "Saturday Edition," in the course of which he made the following suggestions: that much of the blame for security lapses leading to the September 11th disaster lay with flaws in congressional oversight; that now was not the time to consider reversing the tax cuts approved by Congress earlier this year at the behest of President Bush; that something between $150 billion and $200 billion should be spent in the short run as a stimulus for the economy, and that Congress should avoid second-guessing either President Bush or his two predecessors, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, on their foreign policy and anti-terrorist actions.

Enter Bill Gibbons

The D.A.'s entry into the mayor's race intensifies the battle for the center.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2001 at 4:00 AM

District Attorney General Bill Gibbons stirred the pot and thickened the plot of the forthcoming Shelby County Mayor's race Monday by announcing the formation of an exploratory committee, headed by Attorney David Kustoff, to look into the race.

Up to this point, Gibbons has been one of three mainline moderate Republicans considering making a race for the GOP nomination -- the others being former Memphis city councilman John Bobango and current councilman Jack Sammons. (Arguably, outgoing Shelby County Commissioner Buck Wellford was a fourth.)

Since each member of this group had, in effect, pledged not to compete against any of the others, even this semi-official step by Gibbons will presumably be sufficient to keep the others at bay.

The D.A.'s timing may have been dictated by the well-publicized emergence last week of Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton as a probable candidate for the Democratic nomination. Both Wharton and another Democratic candidate already in the field, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, have a certain claim on middle-of-the-road donors and supporters who may consider party affiliation a relatively unimportant matter.

Gibbons is in that category as well; so Wharton's statement last week to an informal meeting of supporters that he would be going "all the way" may have served to prod the D.A. into acting now before too many commitments had been made to one of the other candidates.

Other Republicans, most of a more conservative stripe, have talked about running for county mayor, but one by one -- most recently, Probate Court clerk Chris Thomas and Circuit Court Clerk Jimmy Moore -- they have thought better of it.

It is always possible that someone else may come in at a later date, but the Democratic field, which, besides Wharton and Byrd, includes State Representative Carol Chumney and State Senator Jim Kyle, seems set. And again, now that Gibbons has virtually declared, there is no one in sight to deny him the GOP nomination.

What that means is that the next county mayor will be a centrist, since all of the foregoing are of that persuasion.

Kyle has indicated, however, that he is focusing his campaign on Democratic voters, looking to the short haul first -- on the plausible theory that whoever wins in the general election will have to be nominated first. He has reportedly been raising money as far away as Nashville -- a reminder that being a sitting public official has its advantages. This applies to Chumney, too -- who, insofar as she she looks to a constituency beyond her Democratic base, hopes to attract women at large to her standard.

Both the state legislators have a free shot a the race. Kyle won't be up for reelection to the state Senate until 2004 and Chumney, even if she loses the Democratic primary for mayor, will have ample opportunity to meet the filing deadline for reelection to her House seat. For all of these reasons, neither Kyle nor Chumney can safely be overlooked by the others.

Much of the early attention, however, has been on Byrd, who got off to an energetic, well-financed start months ago and has begun a series of forays -- both fund raisers and other events -- that he intends to extend into every corner of Shelby County before the mayor's race is over.

Early on, he sewed up the allegiance of a number of influential black leaders, who are among the listed co-sponsors for a Byrd fund raiser scheduled this coming weekend at the home of former county commissioner Vasco Smith and former NAACP head and city school board member Maxine Smith. As a barometer for the future, the event now takes on added significance.

Some observers anticipate that Byrd may lose some of his black support to Wharton, an African American. Byrd himself expresses a mixture of confidence and fatalism. "Everybody I've talked to has been newly energized for the campaign," he insists. "If somebody ends up going elsewhere, so be it. But I don't expect that to happen much, if at all."

Outwardly anyhow, Byrd expresses optimism about the coming contest with Wharton and the others, though he surely can do the math as well as anybody else. Three white candidates plus one black candidate in the Democratic primary is an ominous ratio for Byrd -- especially considering that Wharton is considered to have broad crossover appeal and -- as a onetime college roommate of former congressman Harold Ford Sr. and a two-time campaign chairman for Mayor Willie Herenton -- straddles the political dividing lines in Memphis' black community.

Moreover, prominent Democrats like State Senator Steve Cohen and former party chairman David Cocke have gravitated into Wharton's fold.

The Byrd camp prefers to ignore this and to emphasize the fact that Wharton is supported by some of the some movers and shakers who have always congregated around outgoing Republican mayor Jim Rout. Among them: Rout aide Bobby Lanier, developer Jackie Welch, and former county commissioner Charles Perkins. Byrd's chief campaign guru, Sidney Chism, suggests a business-as-usual, Good Ole Boy cast to the Wharton campaign -- particularly in the case of Perkins, involved as a petitioner in the "toy town" battles of 1997.

It may be, however, that the presence of Rout backers in Wharton's orbit means only that they regard Rout's decision not to run as having released them from any obligations to the incumbent and that they are merely looking to Wharton as a likely winner.

In any case, Byrd resolves to soldier on, pointing out that he was willing to put himself on the line back when Rout was assumed ready to run again in 2002 and implicitly suggesting opportunism on the part of Wharton. "He advised me to run some months ago when I talked to him about the race," Byrd says with a certain measure of grimness.

If nothing else, Byrd intends to run hard, and Wharton can look forward to no coronation. Unless unforeseen events intervene on the Republican side, Gibbons can afford to look on this battle from the sideline, waiting his turn.

· An interrupted political comeback -- just resumed -- found its way into Memphis Thursday, when 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 went on to be the keynote speaker at last weekend's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, Iowa. Gore's appearance in the key caucus state of Iowa was set up weeks ago, when Gore began what amounted to a carefully staged reemergence in the public eye.

Like so much else in American life, however, 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 reemergence of his suspended itinerary, which began in earnest with a surprise look-in on state Democratic events in Nashville last weekend, happened to come at a time when the man he ran against in 2000 and presumably had hoped to compete against again, George W. Bush, has been transformed by the crisis into a national icon. (Accordingly, instead of the partisan rhetoric he had undoubtedly planned for his Iowa speech, the former vice president would end up giving what amounted to an appeal for national unity behind Bush.)

Gore had little to say about the president Thursday night, as he greeted the small group of friends, 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 the details of a reconciliation of sorts between himself and the president he served, Bill Clinton, at whose house he stayed overnight on the eve of the subsequent National Cathedral service in Washington after the disaster. 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; AC 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. ·

Tuesday, October 2, 2001

GIBBONS FORMS MAYORAL EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE

GIBBONS FORMS MAYORAL EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2001 at 4:00 AM

District Attorney General Bill Gibbons stirred the pot and thickened the plot of the forthcoming Shelby County Mayor’s race Monday by announcing the formation of an exploratory committee, headed by Attorney David Kustoff, to look into the race. Gibbons becomes the first name Republican candidate to take even this semi-official step, and his action will presumably be sufficient to keep at bay other GOP possibilities Ð like former city councilman John Bobango and current councilman Jack Sammons, both of whom have indicated they would run only if Gibbons didn’t. Gibbons’ statement reads as follows:.. “Today I am filing the necessary paperwork to form an exploratory committee for the upcoming campaign for mayor of Shelby County. “Attorney David Kustoff will serve as chairman and treasurer of the exploratory committee David has served as chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party and was Tennessee manager of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000. I value greatly his advice. I have also retained the services of the Ingram Group, a statewide public affairs firm to assist during the exploratory phase. “Our county faces many challenges m the coming years. It is essential that we have a county mayor who is focused on reducing crime, improving schools and strengthening our neighborhoods. If' we build a reputation as a safe community with good schools and strong neighborhoods, we will be a community where residents want to remain and others will want to live, we will be a community where existing businesses want to stay and expand, and new businesses will want to locate. “While we have made significant progress in the fight against crime, our crime rate remains far too high Those on the front line lack the necessary resources to ensure a dramatic reduction in our crime rate. “We must have a county mayor committed to a dramatic reduction in crime. The mayor is in a position to take the lead in ensuring enough prosecutors to quickly and effectively hold criminals accountable and in providing the necessary treatment dollars to move non-violent drug addicts away from crime and into productive lives “More than 60 of our public schools have been officially rated as failures, The status quo in our schools is not acceptable. We must be open to new, innovative approaches such as increased public school choice, which would promote healthy competition among our schools. We must have a strong county mayor who is willing to tie support for increased funding to a commitment to fundamental changes and to high expectations for the children of our community, especially disadvantaged children whose only hope is a good education. “We must have a mayor who is committed to revitalizing existing inner city neighborhoods while at the same time insuring the proper kind of growth through the development of new, well planned neighborhoods with long-term stability. In the coming weeks, I will be considering very carefully what I could do as the next county mayor to deliver less crime, better schools and stronger neighborhoods. I will also consider what I feel I can accomplish by remaining district attorney. I will make my decision based upon a careful look at how I can have the strongest positive impact on our community." -- JACKSON BAKER

Monday, October 1, 2001

'THE CHILD IS FATHER OF THE MAN'

'THE CHILD IS FATHER OF THE MAN'

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2001 at 4:00 AM

From ÒDoing One Thing Well: Who is State Senator Steve Cohen, and How Did He Get That Way?" (Memphis Magazine, October 2001) ...When he was five years old, the age at which, Freud says, the psyche is achieving its first complete sense of itself, young Steve Cohen had an experience which is bound to have had an incalculable effect on him. Perhaps it even explains why his father, Dr. Morris Cohen, changed medical courses in mid-career, from pediatrics to psychiatry. In 1954, when Dr. Jonas Salk was developed the first successful vaccine to end the once endemic scourge of polio (a.k.a. infantile paralysis), Dr.Cohen was given one of the first batches of the vaccine to administer to his patients on a trial basis. "I don't know if he volunteered, or how it came about, but in 1954 they gave him the Salk vaccine to give to second-grade students for testing. And he gave the shots to my brother [Michael], who was in the second grade. He didn't give me the shots. I was in kindergarten. He had the vaccine, and he apparently thought about it and didn't give it to me. I don't know whether it was honor, a sense of responsibility, or whether it wasn't his issue - his purpose. Or I've also heard there was some concern that some people might get the polio from the vaccine. Maybe he was concerned,you know, what if that happened? I didn't know. But anyway, I got polio that fall. I was one of the last people to get it. And my father could have given me the vaccine. He didn't." One doesn't need an amateur psychologist's license to read in this the possible origin of some ambiguity towards authority and authority figures. "It didn't cause any stress between us," Cohen insists. "But it did cause my father a lot of angst. He goes on. "One good thing about polio: I've read this, that polio survivors tend to max themselves out, they tend to be over-achievers. " When he wears shorts, which is frequently around his house in the warm weather months, it is apparent that Cohen's left leg is thinned and attenuated from the ravages of his childhood disease. That didn't stop him, however, from playing football in high school -- at the position of center, no less, one which results in about as much hard banging as you can expect on a football field. As Dr. Cohen shifted jobs and specialties, he also shifted locales, from Memphis to Florida to California, back to Florida, and then back to Memphis. (ÉStranger in a strange land, man without a countryÉ.," indeed.) One of the ways in which the young Steve Cohen connected with the shifting world about him was through the appurtenances of popular culture: sports, Top 40 musicÉand politics. To go through Cohen's house on Kenilworth, adjoining Overton Park, is to walk through a theme park of the aforesaid personal artifacts. The button collection, for example, enchased here and there on his walls: There are campaign buttons for virtually every presidential campaign and every state political campaign of consequence, sports buttons, movie buttons. There are photographs of sports and music celebirities of every stripe, and photographs of Cohen with many of those selfsame celebrities. Notable among these is Orestes "Minnie" Minoso, the Chicago White Sox great from the '50s. When Steve Cohen was five years old, recuperating from the first ravages of polio and attending an exhibition game at Memphis' old Russwood Park, leaning on crutches, a White Sox player came over and handed him a ball, then pointed to Minoso, who was standing some distance away. "He wanted you to have this," the player said, and then explained that Minoso, a Latino black, was nervous about approaching a white child himself. "That was how it was in the '50s," Cohen remembers. "It gave me my first insight into the insanity of segregation." (It also, after the passage of some time, gave Cohen his email moniker, a variation on the name Minnie Minoso.)É

GIBBONS FORMS MAYORAL EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE

GIBBONS FORMS MAYORAL EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2001 at 4:00 AM

District Attorney General Bill Gibbons stirred the pot and thickened the plot of the forthcoming Shelby County Mayor’s race Monday by announcing the formation of an exploratory committee, headed by Attorney David Kustoff, to look into the race. Gibbons becomes the first name Republican candidate to take even this semi-official step, and his action will presumably be sufficient to keep at bay other GOP possibilities -- like former city councilman John Bobango and current councilman Jack Sammons, both of whom have indicated they would run only if Gibbons didn’t. Gibbons’ statement reads as follows:.. “Today I am filing the necessary paperwork to form an exploratory committee for the upcoming campaign for mayor of Shelby County. “Attorney David Kustoff will serve as chairman and treasurer of the exploratory committee David has served as chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party and was Tennessee manager of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000. I value greatly his advice. I have also retained the services of the Ingram Group, a statewide public affairs firm to assist during the exploratory phase. “Our county faces many challenges m the coming years. It is essential that we have a county mayor who is focused on reducing crime, improving schools and strengthening our neighborhoods. If' we build a reputation as a safe community with good schools and strong neighborhoods, we will be a community where residents want to remain and others will want to live, we will be a community where existing businesses want to stay and expand, and new businesses will want to locate. “While we have made significant progress in the fight against crime, our crime rate remains far too high Those on the front line lack the necessary resources to ensure a dramatic reduction in our crime rate. “We must have a county mayor committed to a dramatic reduction in crime. The mayor is in a position to take the lead in ensuring enough prosecutors to quickly and effectively hold criminals accountable and in providing the necessary treatment dollars to move non-violent drug addicts away from crime and into productive lives “More than 60 of our public schools have been officially rated as failures, The status quo in our schools is not acceptable. We must be open to new, innovative approaches such as increased public school choice, which would promote healthy competition among our schools. We must have a strong county mayor who is willing to tie support for increased funding to a commitment to fundamental changes and to high expectations for the children of our community, especially disadvantaged children whose only hope is a good education. “We must have a mayor who is committed to revitalizing existing inner city neighborhoods while at the same time insuring the proper kind of growth through the development of new, well planned neighborhoods with long-term stability. In the coming weeks, I will be considering very carefully what I could do as the next county mayor to deliver less crime, better schools and stronger neighborhoods. I will also consider what I feel I can accomplish by remaining district attorney. I will make my decision based upon a careful look at how I can have the strongest positive impact on our community." -- JACKSON BAKER
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