Friday, November 30, 2001

The Doctor Is In

Or make that "In Like Flinn," as the GOP may finally have a mayoral candidate.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Is radio magnate/radiologist George Flinn the Republican nominee-presumptive for the office of Shelby County mayor? It's beginning to look that way.

Dr. Flinn -- who owns a host of local radio stations and, as a radiologist, pioneered in (and got rich from) the now-widespread art of ultrasound technology -- hankered to run for mayor of Memphis in 1999 but decided that the number and variety of possible candidates made that race a potential three-ring circus for a political neophyte like himself and opted out.

Back then he foresaw himself being matched against the likes of Willie Herenton (the eventual winner), then city councilman Joe Ford, and wrestling eminence Jerry Lawler, among numerous others. As a potential candidate for the GOP nomination for county mayor, Flinn is all by himself. Nobody else seems to want the honor.

"I'm ready to go. I can put together the money, I believe, and if they'll help me with the essentials of running a major campaign, I think I can mount one," said the good doctor this week. The "they" of his commentary was the local GOP leadership, who have been running down the list of potential Republican heavyweights and seen them all deign not to run. The latest to say no was Allie Prescott, the recently retired president of the Memphis Redbirds.

Prescott was a new political face who would have been making his maiden race -- a fact that emboldens Flinn to believe that GOP eyes should now be turning to him.

Local Republican chairman Alan Crone, who has been heading the party's increasingly desperate efforts to find a standard-bearer, may be ready for a session with the doctor. "I think that a successful candidate has to be both politically viable and financially viable," Crone said. "I think that George is the latter, and it's possible he could be the former, too."

Any doubts Crone has on the matter are due to Flinn's relative inexperience in the GOP wars. He doesn't consider it an obstacle that Flinn's son Shea Flinn, a brand-new lawyer who is about to become a brand-new husband, ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic candidate for the legislature last year.

"George has been fairly convincing that he is a life-long Republican himself and I doubt that many people would be concerned about the fact that his son may have different personal politics. That happens a good bit," Crone said.

Crone does not buy into the widely accepted theory that name Republicans have ducked the race because recent demographic change has made it unwinnable for a Republican. "Not one of the people we talked to was of that persuasion," he said, meaning, among others, Prescott, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, former Memphis city councilman John Bobango, and Shelby County Trustee Bob Patterson (who technically is still thinking about it).

The GOP chairman then proceeded to qualify himself a tad, however: "I do think that political influence is cyclical and it's probably true that the Republican Party will need to adapt to population tendencies. We've been heavily suburban and rural, but we'll probably see ourselves becoming more urban-oriented in the years to come." Crone has been a consistent advocate of Republican outreach into traditionally Democratic minority communities.

Flinn believes in that respect he is exactly what the, er, doctor ordered: "My main offices are in the center city. I've had a center-city presence for years and I understand the thinking of people who live in the center city."

It remains to be seen what becomes of a Flinn candidacy or of a local Republican reorientation, just as it remains to be seen what the results of next year's mayoral election will be. But change of some sort is clearly in the offing in a season when the incumbent Republican mayor, Jim Rout, has decided against running and potential GOP successors are scarce indeed, while simultaneously three active Democratic candidates -- Shelby County Public Defender AC Wharton, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney -- are actively campaigning.

· It may have been inevitable but there was still an element of surprise to the sudden resignation of Bobby Lanier, top administrative aide to two-term mayor Rout (and Rout's four-term predecessor, Bill Morris).

Without much preliminary ado, Lanier filed for his retirement benefits last Friday, climaxing weeks of complaints from political opponents concerning his alleged use of county facilities on behalf of his current political protégé, mayoral candidate Wharton.

Lanier's move was said to have been prompted by the complaints, raised mainly by organization Republicans and by backers of Byrd. Lanier made a perfunctory denial Monday that he had resigned due to pressure, but others close to the situation acknowledged that the move owed much to the volume of the criticism, turned up considerably once Wharton, for whose candidacy Lanier was something of a prime mover, made his formal announcement last month

The well-liked Lanier didn't spend much, if any, time kicking back and relaxing after his "retirement." He spent Monday in the company of fellow Wharton backer Reginald French setting up Wharton's new downtown campaign office on Court Street and pushing ahead plans for the candidate's first major fund-raiser, scheduled for Thursday night at the Racquet Club.

There was a mishap connected with the latter. A list of potential donors was mislaid Monday during or after Lanier and French held a lunch meeting at the Cupboard Restaurant on Union Avenue in the hospital district.

Neither Lanier nor French hold any titles at the moment but they are two pivotal members of an ad hoc group that worked intensively -- in the aftermath of Rout's decision some months ago not to run again -- first to persuade Wharton to run and then to launch him as a mainstream candidate with appeal across racial and political lines.

Some of that crossover involved Wharton supporters from the ranks of Rout allies -- a circumstance that caused Rout himself some discomfiture that will no doubt be increased by a follow-up move by the Byrd camp Tuesday.

Attorney Richard Fields, a Byrd supporter, hand-delivered a letter to Rout which was subheaded "Re: Political activity by Bobby Lanier" and cited Section 12-46 of the county charter, which, as reprised by Fields, states that "[no] employee in the classified service may be required or directed, either directly or by implication, to contribute or solicit funds for any political candidate."

The Fields letter continued: "Clearly, Mr. Lanier's solicitation of funds for AC Wharton violates this section if he made solicitations of Shelby County employees and implicitly violates the purpose of the section when solictations are made from the office of the Mayor."

On behalf of the Byrd campaign, Fields asked for "a list of all persons contracted by Mr. Lanier for purposes of soliciting funds for the Wharton campaign" and "the telephone records for Mr. L's telephone extension in the county building showing incoming and outgoing calls with the phone numbers listed."

He also said that Wharton should be asked to withdraw from his "part-time" job as public defender and that Rout should engage independent legal counsel to investigate the matter since "Donnie Wilson, current county attorney, has openly stated his support of AC Wharton for county mayor and has appeared with him publicly at a church."

At press time Rout had not been reached for a reaction but County Attorney Wilson dismissed the allegations in the letter as "crazy" and said, "I'm surprised that Richard Fields would go to these lengths." Wilson said that while he privately supported Wharton's candidacy he had taken no public role and had not appeared with the public defender at a church.

· Jeff Sullivan, who had been working on behalf of state Senator Jim Kyle's mayoral campaign before Kyle's withdrawal from the race last month, is now Shelby County director of the gubernatorial campaign of former state Senator Andy Womack (D-Murfreesboro). Womack's is the only gubernatorial campaign so far to open a Shelby County office per se.

Both Republican gubernatorial candidates made Memphis stops during the last week. Fourth District U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary was the beneficiary of a fund-raiser at the Crescent Club on Monday, while his sole GOP opponent so far, former state Senator Jim Henry of Kingston, stopped over for a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Henry recruited veteran Republican activist Bob Schroeder as a member of his campaign committee. ·

Thursday, November 29, 2001

THE DOCTOR IS IN

...or should that be 'In like Flinn'?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Éor make that ‘in like Flinn,’ as the GOP may finally have a mayoral candidate Is radio magnate/radiologist George Flinn the Republican nominee-presumptive for the office of Shelby County mayor? It begins to look that way. Dr. Flinn -- who owns a host of local radio stations and, as a radiologist, pioneered in (and got rich from) the now widespread art of ultrasound technology -- hankered to run for mayor of Memphis in 1999 but decided that the number _ and variety _ of candidates then available made that race a potential “three-ring circus” for a political neophyte like himself and therefore opted out. Back then he foresaw himself being matched against the likes of Hizzoner Willie Herenton (the eventual winner), then City Councilman Joe Ford, and wrestling eminence Jerry Lawler, among numerous others. As a potential candidate for the GOP nomination for county mayor, he won’t have that problem of standing out in a crowd. Right now Flinn is all by himself as a potential Republican candidate. Nobody else seems to want the honor. “I’m ready to go. I can put together the money, I believe, and if they’ll help me with the essentials of running a major campaign, I think I can mount one,” said the good doctor this week. The “they” of his commentary was the local GOP leadership, who have been running down the list of potential Republican heavyweights and seen them all deign not to run. The latest to say no was Allie Prescott, the recently retired president of the Memphis Redbirds. Prescott was a new political face who would have been making his maiden race _ a fact that emboldens Flinn to believe that GOP eyes should now be turning to him. And local Republican chairman Alan Crone, who has been heading the party’s increasingly desperate efforts to find a standard-bearer, may be ready for a session with the doctor. “I think that a successful candidate has to be both politically viable and financially viable,” Crone said. “I think that George is the latter, and it’s possible he could be the former, too.” Any doubts Crone has on the matter are owing to Flinn’s relative inexperience in the GOP wars, though he doesn’t consider it to be an obstacle that Flinn’s son Shea Flinn, a brand-new lawyer who is about to become a brand-new husband, ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic candidate for the legislature last year. “George has been fairly convincing that he is a life-long Republican himself, and I doubt that many people would be concerned about the fact that his son may have a different personal politics. That happens a good bit,” Crone said. Crone does not buy into the widely accepted theory that name Republicans have ducked the race because recent demographic change has made it unwinnable for a Republican. “Not one of the people we talked to was of that persuasion,” he said, meaning, among others, Prescott, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, former Memphis city councilman John Bobango, and Shelby County Trustee Bob Patterson (who technically is still thinking about it). The GOP chairman then proceeded to qualify himself a tad, however. “I do think that political influence is cyclical, and it’s probably true that the Republican Party will need to adapt to population tendencies. We’ve been heavily suburban and rural , but we’ll probably see ourselves becoming more urban-oriented in the years to come.,” opined Crone,who over the years has been a consistent advocate of Republican outreach into traditionally Democratic minority communities. Flinn believes that, in that respect, he is exactly what the, er, doctor ordered. “My main offices are in the center city. I’ve had a center city presence for years, and I understand the thinking of people who live in the center city.” It remains to be seen what becomes of a Flinn candidacy or of a local Republican re-orientation, just as it remains to be seen what the results of next year’s mayoral election will be. But change of some sort is clearly in the offing in a season when the incumbent Republican mayor, Jim Rout, has decided against running and potential GOP successors are scarce indeed, while simultaneously three active Democratic candidates _ Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney _ are actively campaigning..

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

ROUT AIDE LANIER RESIGNS TO ASSIST WHARTON

ROUT AIDE LANIER RESIGNS TO ASSIST WHARTON

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2001 at 4:00 AM

It may have been inevitable, but there was still an element of surprise to the sudden resignation of Bobby Lanier, top administrative aide to two-term Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout as he was to Rout’s four-term predecessor, Bill Morris.

Without much preliminary ado, Lanier filed for his retirement benefits last Friday, climaxing weeks of complaints from political opponents concerning his alleged use of county facilities on behalf of his current political protégé, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, a Democratic candidate for county mayor.

Lanier’s move was unexpected and was said to have been prompted by the aforesaid complaints, raised mainly by organization Republicans and by backers of one of Wharton’s Democratic opponents, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd.

Lanier made a perfunctory denial Monday that he had resigned due to pressure, but others close to the situation acknowledged that the move owed much to the volume of the criticism, turned up considerably once Wharton, for whose candidacy Lanier was something of a prime mover, made his formal announcement last month

The well-liked Lanier didn’t spend much, if any, time kicking back and relaxing after his “retirement.” He spent Monday in the company of fellow Wharton backer Reginald French setting up Wharton’s new downtown campaign office on Court and pushing ahead plans for the candidate’s forthcoming Thursday-night fundraiser at the Racquet Club.

(There was a mishap connected with the latter. A list of potential donors was mislaid Monday during or after a lunch meeting of Lanier and French at the Cupboard Restaurant on Union Avenue, in the hospital district.).

Neither Lanier nor French hold any titles at the moment, but they are two pivotal members of an ad hoc group that worked intensively -- in the aftermath of Rout’s decision some months ago not to run again -- first to persuade Wharton to run and then to launch his candidacy as a mainstream candidate, with appeal across both racial and political lines.

Some of that crossover involved Wharton supporters from the ranks of Rout allies _ a circumstance that caused Rout himself some discomfiture.

The incumbent mayor joined other key Republicans in the last several weeks in a search _ unsuccessful so far -- for a name Republican candidate to carry the party’s hopes.

As previously reported in the Flyer, radiologist/media baron George Flinn has developed an interest in running for county mayor as a Republican, and, though something of a political neophyte (and the father of a Democratic legislative candidate last year, Shea Flinn), he may end up as the party’s standard-bearer.

Meanwhile, a lively contest is expected in Democratic ranks between Wharton, Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

ROUT AIDE LANIER RESIGNS TO ASSIST WHARTON

Longtime political figure denies complaints forced his hand.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2001 at 4:00 AM

It may have been inevitable, but there was still an element of surprise to the sudden resignation of Bobby Lanier, top administrative aide to two-term Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout as he was to Rout’s four-term predecessor, Bill Morris.

Without much preliminary ado, Lanier filed for his retirement benefits last Friday, climaxing weeks of complaints from political opponents concerning his alleged use of county facilities on behalf of his current political protégé, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, a Democratic candidate for county mayor.

Lanier’s move was unexpected and was said to have been prompted by the aforesaid complaints, raised mainly by organization Republicans and by backers of one of Wharton’s Democratic opponents, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd.

Lanier made a perfunctory denial Monday that he had resigned due to pressure, but others close to the situation acknowledged that the move owed much to the volume of the criticism, turned up considerably once Wharton, for whose candidacy Lanier was something of a prime mover, made his formal announcement last month

The well-liked Lanier didn’t spend much, if any, time kicking back and relaxing after his “retirement.” He spent Monday in the company of fellow Wharton backer Reginald French setting up Wharton’s new downtown campaign office on Court and pushing ahead plans for the candidate’s forthcoming Thursday-night fundraiser at the Racquet Club.

(There was a mishap connected with the latter. A list of potential donors was mislaid Monday during or after a lunch meeting of Lanier and French at the Cupboard Restaurant on Union Avenue, in the hospital district.).

Neither Lanier nor French hold any titles at the moment, but they are two pivotal members of an ad hoc group that worked intensively -- in the aftermath of Rout’s decision some months ago not to run again -- first to persuade Wharton to run and then to launch his candidacy as a mainstream candidate, with appeal across both racial and political lines.

Some of that crossover involved Wharton supporters from the ranks of Rout allies _ a circumstance that caused Rout himself some discomfiture.

The incumbent mayor joined other key Republicans in the last several weeks in a search _ unsuccessful so far -- for a name Republican candidate to carry the party’s hopes.

As previously reported in the Flyer, radiologist/media baron George Flinn has developed an interest in running for county mayor as a Republican, and, though something of a political neophyte (and the father of a Democratic legislative candidate last year, Shea Flinn), he may end up as the party’s standard-bearer.

Meanwhile, a lively contest is expected in Democratic ranks between Wharton, Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney.

Monday, November 26, 2001

ROUT AIDE LANIER RESIGNS TO ASSIST WHARTON

Longtime political figure denies complaints forced his hand.

Posted By on Mon, Nov 26, 2001 at 4:00 AM

It may have been inevitable, but there was still an element of surprise to the sudden resignation of Bobby Lanier, top administrative aide to two-term Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout as he was to Rout’s four-term predecessor, Bill Morris.

Without much preliminary ado, Lanier filed for his retirement benefits last Friday, climaxing weeks of complaints from political opponents concerning his alleged use of county facilities on behalf of his current political protégé, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, a Democratic candidate for county mayor.

Lanier’s move was unexpected and was said to have been prompted by the aforesaid complaints, raised mainly by organization Republicans and by backers of one of Wharton’s Democratic opponents, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd.

Lanier made a perfunctory denial Monday that he had resigned due to pressure, but others close to the situation acknowledged that the move owed much to the volume of the criticism, turned up considerably once Wharton, for whose candidacy Lanier was something of a prime mover, made his formal announcement last month

The well-liked Lanier didn’t spend much, if any, time kicking back and relaxing after his “retirement.” He spent Monday in the company of fellow Wharton backer Reginald French setting up Wharton’s new downtown campaign office on Court and pushing ahead plans for the candidate’s forthcoming Thursday-night fundraiser at the Racquet Club.

(There was a mishap connected with the latter. A list of potential donors was mislaid Monday during or after Lanier and French held a lunch meeting at the Cupboard Restaurant on Union Avenue, in the hospital district.).

Neither Lanier nor French hold any titles at the moment, but they are two pivotal members of an ad hoc group that worked intensively -- in the aftermath of Rout’s decision some months ago not to run again -- first to persuade Wharton to run and then to launch his candidacy as a mainstream candidate, with appeal across both racial and political lines.

Some of that crossover involved Wharton supporters from the ranks of Rout allies _ a circumstance that caused Rout himself some discomfiture.

The incumbent mayor joined other key Republicans in the last several weeks in a search _ unsuccessful so far -- for a name Republican candidate to carry the party’s hopes.

As previously reported in the Flyer, radiologist/media baron George Flinn has developed an interest in running for county mayor as a Republican, and, though something of a political neophyte (and the father of a Democratic legislative candidate last year, Shea Flinn, he may end up as the party’s standard-bearer.

Meanwhile, a lively contest is expected in Democratic ranks between Wharton, Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney.

Friday, November 23, 2001

Allie Up?

Prescott will decide by week's end to be or not to be the GOP's county mayoral candidate.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 23, 2001 at 4:00 AM

By the end of the current week, the Republicans of Shelby County may have a mayoral candidate to call their own, after all. Former Memphis Redbirds president and general manager Allie Prescott acknowledges that he met last week in the law office of Shelby County Republican chairman Alan Crone with a high-level group of local GOP dignitaries, who offered him their support.

"I told them I wouldn't be meeting with them if I wasn't seriously interested," said Prescott, who promised a decision by this weekend to a blue-ribbon recruiting group including current Shelby County mayor Jim Rout, district attorney general Bill Gibbons, Chairman Crone, former county chairmen Bill Watkins and David Kustoff, and state GOP committeeman John Ryder.

Prescott, who retired earlier this year from his Redbirds duties, is a former chairman of the Park Commission and of MIFA, and served as vice president and general manager of the old Memphis Chicks.

Though he says he has always been a Republican, Prescott concedes that he's had little political involvement, most of it confined to assisting in the various election campaigns of his wife, Memphis School Board member Barbara Prescott. "I've had a good deal of experience in nailing yard signs," he jests.

If Prescott does give the Shelby GOP the high sign, he will end what has turned into an increasingly desperate hunt for an officially sanctioned party candidate since the decision some months ago by Rout not to seek reelection.

Since then, various party dignitaries have opted out of running, among them Gibbons, former city councilman John Bobango, councilman Jack Sammons, Shelby County commissioner Buck Wellford, state Senator Mark Norris, Probate Court clerk Chris Thomas. All but formally ruling themselves out have been Circuit Court clerk Jimmy Moore and county trustee Bob Patterson. If he decides to run, Prescott is expected to have little or no opposition in next May's primary.

Democrats so far vying in their party's primary for the right to run in the August general election include Shelby County public defender A C Wharton, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and state Representative Carol Chumney.

· Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen made his umpteenth recent appearance before a Memphis audience Monday night at Folk's Folly restaurant on Mendenhall. There were two main differences this time: The former Nashville mayor, who for some months was cultivating local soil with a series of free meet-and-greets, was well into the fund-raising stage of his campaign this time ($1,000 and up was the amount "suggested" for attendees). And perhaps more importantly, Republicans were every bit as prominent as Democrats at the affair.

Tellingly, several of those present were prominent supporters of current Republican governor Don Sundquist in the last two elections. A case in point was co-host Jim McGhee, the developer and former Airport Authority chairman, who introduced Bredesen with remarks that included a lament that sitting congressmen -- he mentioned Sundquist and former Governor Ray Blanton (the center of a pardons-for-cash scandal who served time for selling liquor licenses) -- had proved "a mistake" in the role of chief executives for the state.

One edge of that blade swiped at the leading Republican candidate, 4th District congressman Van Hilleary. Another longtime local Republican, industrialist Jim Fri, said he distrusted Hilleary's adamant stand against the income tax and, even though Bredesen has also shied away from espousing such a tax, said, "I trust Jim McGhee on this."

A prominent former aide of Sundquist's, AutoZone executive Ray Pohlmann, was also in attendance.

Of course, Democrats were on hand, too -- including Shelby County party chairman Gale Jones Carson, former chairman Sidney Chism, current county mayor candidate Wharton, and hotelier and co-host Pace Cooper.

But the emphasis was on the Republicans and independents on hand, a fact underscored by the candidate himself, who noted the political diversity of the room and referred to those present as a "cross section" of the Memphis community.

In a reference to last week's flap concerning the fund-raiser that Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams hosted for him at Adelphia Coliseum, Bredesen quipped that he had discovered "maybe seven people" in the state who were upset about the financial package he helped prepare (along with Sundquist) to entice the NFL contender to Nashville. If the Titans matter became an issue, Bredesen said, "I'll be all right."

· There's increasing talk that insurance man Henry Hooper, a former Secret Service agent who has said he will run for Shelby County sheriff as an independent, may switch tracks and run as a Democrat. Two other Democrats, Deputy Chief Randy Wade and city councilman E.C. Jones, have their druthers as to which way Hooper should do it. Jones, a white with a solid working-class base in Frayser, would undoubtedly profit from a split of the black vote in the party primary between Wade and Hooper, both African Americans.

Wade, on the other hand, would just as soon Hooper bypassed both the primary and the general election, where Hooper's presence would greatly assist a white Republican nominee.

The GOP race, as of now, is four-way, with Captain Bobby Simmons, who is backed by a number of members of the Memphis City Council, vying with departmental field commander Mike Jewell, a Bartlett alderman who has support from several of his city's officials, Mark Luttrell, director of the Shelby County Corrections System, who is backed by a number of figures in the current county administration, and Chief Don Wright, regarded as the candidate of the reigning department hierarchy.

· One of the largest political crowds of the season gathered at the Germantown home of Wayne Mashburn last week to provide a show of support (financial and otherwise) for Steve Stamson, the former deputy clerk at Juvenile Court who left his position for an equivalent one at General Sessions Court after he failed to get the chief clerk's job at Juvenile Court last year to some horse-trading on the Shelby County Commission.

When former Juvenile Court clerk Bob Martin retired, he and most members of the county's Republican establishment supported Stamson as Martin's successor, but then Commissioner Shep Wilbun got the job instead as part of a complicated trade-off which saw another favorite, Memphis lawyer David Lillard, defeated for a commission vacancy by developer Tom Moss.

As a consequence of all that maneuvering, several looming contests on the county's 2002 political calendar have a grudge-match quality. There is the developing general-election race between Republican Stamson and Democrat Wilbun; a Republican primary race between GOP regular Joyce Avery and Commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf (who voted with the commission's Democrats to seat Moss); and another primary race that has former Lakeland mayor Jim Bomprezzi running against Moss.

· Lillard had been another possible contender for that seat, but when Commissioner Tommy Hart made a surprise announcement last week that he would not seek reelection, Lillard, a current member of the Shelby County Election Commission, decided to run for Hart's seat instead and made an announcement to that effect Tuesday.

· Two members of the Memphis School Board, Lora Jobe and Barbara Prescott, achieved official positions at last week's annual meeting of the Tennessee School Board Association in Nashville. Prescott (wife of potential county-mayor candidate Allie Prescott) was named president of the organization and Jobe became chairperson of TSBA's state "legislative network," which also includes Shelby County School Board member Ron Lollar as a member.

Jobe, whose position is essentially one of organizing lobbying efforts, presided over a debate in Nashville involving four Democratic gubernatorial candidates -- Bredesen, Knoxville district attorney Randy Nichols, former state Education Commissioner Charles Smith, and former state Senator Andy Womack of Murfreesboro. ·

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

PRESCOTT TO DECIDE ON MAYOR'S RACE BY WEEKEND

PRESCOTT TO DECIDE ON MAYOR'S RACE BY WEEKEND

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2001 at 4:00 AM

By the end of the current week, the Republicans of Shelby County may have a mayoral candidate to call their own, after all. Former Memphis Redbirds president and general manager Allie Prescott acknowledges that he met last week with a high-level group of local GOP dignitaries, who offered him their support for Shelby County Mayor.

“I told them I wouldn’t be meeting with them if I wasn’t seriously interested,” said Prescott, who promised a decision by this weekend to a blue-ribbon recruiting group including current Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, Shelby County Republican chairman Alan Crone, former county chairmen Bill Watkins and David Kustoff, and state GOP committeeman John Ryder.

Prescott, who retired earlier this year from his Redbirds duties, is also a former chairman of the Park Commission and of MIFA, and served as vice president and general manager of the old Memphis Chicks.

Though he says he has always been a Republican, Prescott concedes that he’s had little political involvement, most of it confined to assisting in the various election campaigns of his wife, Memphis School Board member Barbara Prescott. “I’ve had a good deal of experience nailing in yard signs,” he jests.

If Prescott does give the Shelby GOP the high sign, he will end what has turned into an increasingly desperate hunt for an officially sanctioned party candidate since the decision some months ago by Rout not to seek reelection.

Since then, various party dignitaries have opted out of running-- among them Gibbons, former city councilman John Bobango, councilman Jack Sammons, Shelby County Commissioner Buck Wellford, State Senator Mark Norris, Probate Court Clerk Chris Thomas. All but formally ruling themselves out have been Circuit Court Clerk Jimmy Moore and County Trustee Bob Patterson.

If he decides to run, Prescott is expected to have little or no opposition in next May’s Republican primary. Democrats so far vying in their party’s primary for the right to run in the August general election include Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

BREDESEN HARVEST INCLUDES SOME FROM GOP

BREDESEN HARVEST INCLUDES SOME FROM GOP

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen made his umpteenth recent appearance before a Memphis audience Monday night at the Folks Folly restaurant on Mendenhall. There were two main differences this time: The former Nashville mayor, who for some months was cultivating local soil with a series of meet-and-greets, was well into the fund-raising stage of his campaign this time ($1,000 and up was the amount “suggested” for attendees) and, perhaps more importantly, Republicans were every bit as prominent as Democrats at the Folks folly affair.

Tellingly, several of those present were prominent supporters of current Republican governor Don Sundquist in the last two elections. A case in point was co-host Jim McGhee, the developer and former Airport Authority chairman, who introduced Bredesen with remarks that included a lament that sitting congressmen _ he mentioned Sundquist and former Governor Ray Blanton -- had proved “a mistake” in the role of chief executives for the state.

(One edge of that blade swiped at the leading Republican candidate, 4th district congressman Van Hilleary.)

Another longtime local Republican, industrialist Jim Fri, said he distrusted Hilleary’s adamant stand against the income tax and, even though Bredesen has also shied away from espousing such a tax, said, “I trust Jim McGhee on this.”

A prominent former aide of Sundquist’s, AutoZone executive Ray Pohlmann, was also in attendance.

Of course, Democrats were on hand, too _ including Shelby County party chairman Gale Jones Carson, former chairman Sidney Chism, current county mayor candidate A C Wharton, and hotelier Pace Cooper.

But the emphasis was on the Republicans and independents present, a fact underscored by the candidate himself, who noted the political diversity of the room and referred to those present as a “cross section” of the Memphis community.

In a reference to last week’s flap concerning the fundraiser that Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams hosted for him at Adelphia Coliseum, Bredesen, quipped that he had discovered “maybe seven people” in the state who were upset about the financial package he helped prepare (along with Sundquist) to entice the NFL contender to Nashville. If the Titans matter became an issue, Bredesen said, “I’ll be all right.”

PRESCOTT TO DECIDE ON MAYOR'S RACE BY WEEKEND.

PRESCOTT TO DECIDE ON MAYOR'S RACE BY WEEKEND.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2001 at 4:00 AM

By the end of the current week, the Republicans of Shelby County may have a mayoral candidate to call their own, after all. Former Memphis Redbirds president and general manager Allie Prescott acknowledges that he met last week with a high-level group of local GOP dignitaries, who offered him their support for Shelby County Mayor.

“I told them I wouldn’t be meeting with them if I wasn’t seriously interested,” said Prescott, who promised a decision by this weekend to a blue-ribbon recruiting group including current Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, Shelby County Republican chairman Alan Crone, former county chairmen Bill Watkins and David Kustoff, and state GOP committeeman John Ryder.

Prescott, who retired earlier this year from his Redbirds duties, is also a former chairman of the Park Commission and of MIFA, and served as vice president and general manager of the old Memphis Chicks.

Though he says he has always been a Republican, Prescott concedes that he’s had little political involvement, most of it confined to assisting in the various election campaigns of his wife, Memphis School Board member Barbara Prescott. “I’ve had a good deal of experience nailing in yard signs,” he jests.

If Prescott does give the Shelby GOP the high sign, he will end what has turned into an increasingly desperate hunt for an officially sanctioned party candidate since the decision some months ago by Rout not to seek reelection.

Since then, various party dignitaries have opted out of running-- among them Gibbons, former city councilman John Bobango, councilman Jack Sammons, Shelby County Commissioner Buck Wellford, State Senator Mark Norris, Probate Court Clerk Chris Thomas. All but formally ruling themselves out have been Circuit Court Clerk Jimmy Moore and County Trustee Bob Patterson.

If he decides to run, Prescott is expected to have little or no opposition in next May’s Republican primary. Democrats so far vying in their party’s primary for the right to run in the August general election include Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney.

Monday, November 19, 2001

3 VIEWS OF BREDESEN'S MNF AFFAIR

3 VIEWS OF BREDESEN'S MNF AFFAIR

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Phil Bredesen may be crying all the way to the bank. His two-tiered fundraising reception at Adelphia Coliseum last Monday night--a $2,500-a-head affair attended by about 200 people, and another for $500 that drew draw another 150 donors-- drew fire from both Democratic and Republican sources, who focused on the host for the affair, Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams.

In a news release issued even before the fundraiser-- which paralleled and overlooked the Titans-Ravens Monday-Night-Football thriller-- was held, the state GOP recapped the beneficial arrangements which enticed Adam’s then Houston Oilers to Nashville and said “While the city continues to pay the bills on the new stadium, Adams retains control of events held there. The original deal struck between Bredesen and Adams stipulates that the city can hold three events in the stadium per year. However, the contract also requires that half the profits from those events go back into the stadium capital fund. As a result of these contract provisions, Nashville has been unable to convince major artists to host their events at the new stadium.

”Bud Adams has unrestricted access to the building, with all of the profits from events he hosts at his own discretion. On November 13, Adams will give those profits to the man who gave him that privilege, Phil Bredesen.”

An equally scornful appraisal came from the gubernatorial campaign of former Education Commissioner Charles Smith, the Democrat who has so far proved most willing to get in Bredesen's face: “The biggest story is that Phil Bredesen is obviously more comfortable with the Nashville elite than with the average people of Tennessee. The rank and file will find it alarming that Bredesen will align himself so tightly with one of the Go-To guys of the Republican Party, Bud Adams, who was the money darling for the likes of Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bob Dole.

”It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Bud Adams got the sweetheart deal of the century and is returning the favor a couple of years later. If it costs $2500 a pledge you gotta be paying for more than the food. Tennessee loves the Titans but the taxpayers of Tennessee hate the new taxes it’s taking. By this time the stadium was supposed to making money. The most recent year cost the taxpayers of Nashville $20 million.

Meanwhile, the Bredesen campaign, which came out some quarter-million dollars ahead Monday night (the Titans, alas, lost at the buzzer), sounded unperturbed. Said the former Nashville mayor himself to The Tennessean: ''We were on Monday Night Football last night in an exciting game. You can't buy publicity for the city like that. When you look at what it's done for the city, pulling together different parts of the city. The presence it's given us nationally. In retrospect, it's been a great bargain for the city. I'm real proud of it.''

Bredesen backer Byron Trauger sounded a similar note: ''I guess they're grasping at straws. This is a great civic space. We couldn't be prouder that Phil Bredesen brought the Tennessee Titans to Tennessee.''

Thursday, November 15, 2001

The Larsha Gambit

Wharton's foes move to keep his name off the Democratic ballot.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2001 at 4:00 AM

The most original, disruptive, problematic (pick one) ploy of the developing Shelby County mayor's race will shortly get a trial -- probably in more than one sense of that word -- when opponents of the mayoral candidacy of Shelby County public defender A C Wharton make a serious effort to keep his name off the Democratic Party ballot for next May's local party primaries.

The strategy surfaced last week when, at the monthly meeting of the party's county executive committee, member Bill Larsha (pronounced Lar-shay) introduced a resolution that would give the committee absolute discretion over the names that would go on the party ballot and in particular the power to purge the names of potential candidates judged to be supported in substantial degree by Republicans.

The resolution was tabled at the suggestion of committee chairperson Gale Jones Carson, who remanded it to a bylaws subcommittee for a recommendation. But Larsha, who identified himself as a supporter of Bartlett banker Harold Byrd and left no doubt the resolution was aimed at Wharton, said he would move for the the full committee's adoption of the resolution, however the subcommittee should rule.

Adjudicaton Certain

Contacted this week, Larsha, Carson, and Shelby County Election Commission O.C. Pleasant all agreed that, if it passed, the resolution would then be adjudicated in court. None ventured a guess as to the result, since the case would involve bedrock issues ranging from a party's right to control its own primaries to the voting population's right to have unfettered elections.

Pleasant cited a state law allowing parties to withdraw the party label from candidates for the legislature or for the party's own governing committees who had a demonstrated record of voting in the other party's primaries.

"But the statute says nothing about other positions or an executive committee's discretionary powers over the ballot," said Pleasant.

"What's important," Larsha said, "is that we Democrats act to prevent Republicans from choosing our candidates for us." Like other foes of Wharton's bid, mainly supporters of Byrd, Larsha, a part-time journalist for African-American publications, pointed to the prevalence in Wharton's current support group of several current associates of GOP mayor Jim Rout -- all white and, for the most part, Republican.

He said that Wharton, an African American, and his backers were trying to "play the race card" and that the county's black populations had long ago held meetings and "selected" Byrd as their preferred nominee. Larsha did not, however, spell out when or where these meetings were held or how official were their auspices.

Scrambling the Lines

Larsha's claim would seem, by any standards, to be a bit sweeping. It is a fact, however, that just as Wharton has white supporters, Byrd has a number of black ones, and his campaign continues to be active in African-American circles; Byrd does not accept the conventional wisdom that Wharton will necessarily inherit the county's black vote. Principals in his campaign say he hopes to get as much as 30 to 35 percent of it himself in a primary contest with Wharton.

Byrd's supporters point to the substantial vote that city councilman Jack Sammons got in from the county's black population in 1994 against a field that included eventual winner Rout, the Republican nominee, and Otis Higgs, a black lawyer (now a Criminal Court judge) who had the official endorsement of the Democratic Party.

Sammons, now the Shelby County Republican Party's treasurer, had the support of then congressman Harold Ford Sr. and of the vaunted Ford political organization. That organization is more loosely constituted now that Ford has been succeeded in Congress by his namesake son, whose focus is more on national issues than on local power-broking. Moreover, the organization was presumably weakened when former city councilman Joe Ford, who carried the family standard, was soundly beaten by incumbent Willie Herenton in the 1999 Memphis mayoral race.

The major campaign strategist in the 1999 city election was ex-Teamster leader (and former Democratic Party chairman) Sidney Chism, who is now the major force behind the Byrd campaign and those of several other Democratic candidates for various offices in 2002. Chism professed this week to have had no advance knowledge of Larsha's current resolution but -- in language strikingly similar to that of Larsha -- said he approved of its goals.

"It's okay for the Republicans to come out in support of our candidates once we get them nominated but we shouldn't let them pick our nominees," Chism said.

Chism's at least tacit support for the resolution was bound to be meaningful, since he more or less called the shots last year on the naming of members of the current party executive committee and on the selection of its chairperson, Carson.

An interesting indicator of how scrambled the normal power lines are in the developing county mayor's race is that, while Chism has long been been known as the political-action arm of Herenton, Wharton himself served twice as the mayor's campaign chairman. That circumstance has lent credibility to Herenton's public claim of neutrality in the Shelby County mayor's race.

The Ford Factor

A sleeper factor in the looming Shelby County showdown is the question of whether former congressman Ford Sr., now a political consultant living mainly in Florida, will choose to involve himself in the 2002 race. Some of Wharton's supporters contend that he ultimately will and point to the current support Wharton is getting from state Senator John Ford, who is assisting in Wharton's fund-raising activities.

"That's fine if [Ford Sr.] does get involved," says Chism, who insists that such a circumstance would create a backlash against Wharton. For his part, Byrd, who has never been considered close with the Fords, is at great pains these days to insist that he has no problem with them.

Like Chism, Byrd said this week that he had not been aware of the Larsha resolution until asked about it and that he would take no position on it, but he added that he "understood" why Larsha and others felt aggrieved.

"I think there's a genuine resentment of the same old worn-out group of insiders trying to control things," he said -- apparently making reference to a group of Wharton backers that includes longtime governmental figures Bobby Bowers and Bobby Lanier and developers Jackie Welch and former Shelby County Commission member Charles Perkins.

Wharton: 'Losing No Sleep'

Of course, Wharton also has backing from undeniable Democratic Party regulars -- like state Senator Steve Cohen and former party chairman David Cocke, the latter of whom said angrily, "Let Sidney try something like this! Terrific! We'll accuse him of hijacking the Democratic Party, and we'll win with AC as an independent."

Cocke voiced the suspicion that Carson had never followed through on the committee's decision months ago to petition the Election Commission for a primary next year and speculated that under her leadership the current committee might even attempt to nominate candidates by its own action rather than by public election.

Carson, who doubles as Mayor Herenton's press secretary, angrily denied that, saying that she had long ago forwarded the necessary papers to the Election Commission. Pleasant backed her up on that.

Another Democratic candidate for mayor, state Representative Carol Chumney responded to the growing controversy by saying she preferred to let "the people" decide matters by their vote but would not take a position on the resolution, which the committee should decide for itself.

"One thing for sure," she said, "nobody's ever going to accuse me of not being a Democrat!"

As for Wharton himself, he was informed of developments late Monday night as he arrived home and said, "The gravity of the problems looming over this county right now are what I'm worried about. I'm not even going to concern myself with something like this. It won't cause me to a lose even a minute's sleep."

· One thing has to be said for Joe Cooper, the onetime squire of the old Shelby County Court and current candidate for the District 5 seat on the present-day Shelby County Commission: He doesn't lack either for issues nor for self-assertiveness.

So far Democrat Cooper is one of a few declared candidates for the East Memphis seat, which is being vacated by the current Republican seat-holder, Buck Wellford. One reason is that commissioners have not yet agreed upon the boundaries for a "toss-up" district which, by general agreement, will probably determine the balance of power on a commission which would otherwise be occupied by six white Republicans and six black Democrats.

Cooper, who is white, hand-delivered to each sitting commissioner his own reapportionment formula Monday. It would shift the district lines slightly in the direction of Hickory Hill and increase the number of black voters residing therein and keeping the registered-voter level more or less racially balanced.

"Let's get the show on the road," said Cooper, who has so far proposed, among other planks, the abolition of the county wheel tax, the sale of naming rights to county facilities; and a joint city/county committee to bring about governmental consolidation..

· "Here are the magic words: 'Governor Bredesen.'" So said Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton Saturday at a well-attended luncheon at the Rendezvous restaurant at which 8th district congressman John Tanner took the virtually unprecedented step of endorsing an active Democrat in a contested primary -- in this case, ex-Nashville mayor Phil Bredesen, a candidate for governor. "Phil Bredesen is still Bredesen," scoffed one opponent, former state Education Commissioner Charles Smith. Other Bredesen opponents are former State senator Andy Womack of Murfreesboro and Knoxville district attorney Randy Nichols. ·

HART TO RUN FOR MAYOR? PATTERSON? FLINN? PRESCOTT?

HART TO RUN FOR MAYOR? PATTERSON? FLINN? PRESCOTT?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2001 at 4:00 AM

The decision of Shelby County Commission member Tommy Hart not to seek reelection, announced to colleagues at a meeting of the commission’s Budget Committee Wednesday, led to immediate speculation that Hart intends running instead for Shelby County mayor. Hart, a Collierville Republican with a pronounced interest in fiscal issues, has consistently indicated an interest in the mayor’s race, but the public spotlight has generally been on other high-profile GOP possibilities-- District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, former Memphis councilman John Bobango, State Senator (and former commissioner) Mark Norris, Probate Court Clerk Chris Thomas, County Trustee Bob Patterson, among them. All have renounced an interest by now except Patterson, who said this week he was “95 percent certain he would seek reelection” but would speak about the race with outgoing GOP mayor Jim Rout and Shelby County Republican chairman Alan Crone. Contacted later Wednesday, Hart attributed his desire to leave the commission to the wish (often expressed at such times) to spend more time on this business and with his family. But, although he said he was not actively planning a race for mayor, he declined to rule one out. And he said, "I'm concerned that some of the people running or thinking of running have no background in county government. I think it's important that a county mayor should be informed about county problems." George Flinn, the radiologist and Memphis media baron (he owns several high-profile radio stations based in the city)who thought long and hard about a race for Memphis mayor in 1999 said Wednesday that he was "very seriously" considering a run for county mayor. Flinn's name had surfaced after county Republicans let it be known they were hoping to influence local businessmen to run under the party label. Yet another name that has gone around in Republican circles in recent days is that of former Memphis Redbirds general manager Allie Prescott, who has so far been non-committal. City councilman Jack Sammons expressed the possibility last week, at the time of Norris' withdrawal of his name from consideration, that the Republican Party (which only eight years ago totally dominated countywide elections, incidentally) may not furnish a mayoral candidate at all for next year's election. (Sammons, the local GOP's treasurer, had demurred on running himself.) That is still unlikely, but the list of unusual suspects has almost been exhausted; any new lists of Republican hopefuls will grow progressively more unusual.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

FOES SEEK TO KEEP WHARTON OFF DEMOCRATIC BALLOT

FOES SEEK TO KEEP WHARTON OFF DEMOCRATIC BALLOT

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2001 at 4:00 AM

The most original, disruptive, problematic (pick one) ploy of the developing Shelby County Mayor’s race will shortly get a trial -- probably in more than one sense of that word -- when opponents of the mayoral candidacy of Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton make a serious effort to keep his name off the Democratic Party ballot for next May’s local party primaries. The strategy surfaced last week when, at the monthly meeting of the party’s county executive committee, member Bill Larsha introduced a resolution that would give the committee absolute discretion over the names that would go on the party ballot and in particular the power to purge the names of potential candidates judged to be supported in substantial degree by Republicans. The resolution was tabled at the suggestion of chairperson Gale Jones Carson, who remanded it to a bylaws subcommittee for a recommendation. But Larsha, who identified himself as a supporter of Bartlett banker Harold Byrd and left no doubt the resolution was aimed at Wharton, said he would move for the full committee’s adoption of the resolution however the subcommittee should rule. Contacted this week, Larsha, Carson, and Shelby County Election Commission O.C. Pleasant all agreed that, if it passed, the resolution would then be adjudicated in court. None ventured a guess as to the result, since the case would involve bedrock issues ranging from a party’s right to control its own primaries to the voting population’s right to have unfettered elections. Pleasant cited a state law allowing parties to withdraw the party label from candidates for the legislature or for the party’s own governing committees who had a demonstrated record of voting in the other party’s primaries. “But the statute says nothing about other positions or an executive committee’s discretionary powers over the ballot,” said Pleasant. “What’s important,” Larsha said, “is that we Democrats act to prevent Republicans from choosing our candidates for us.” Like other foes of Wharton’s bid, mainly supporters of Byrd, Larsha, a part-time journalist for African-American publications, pointed to the prevalence in Wharton’s current support group of several current associates of GOP mayor Jim Rout He said that Wharton and his backers were trying to “play the race card” and that the county’s African Americans had long ago held meetings and “selected” Byrd as their preferred nominee. He did not, however, spell out when or where these meetings were or how official were their auspices. (Byrd, in fact, does have a number of black supporters and his campaign continues to be active in African-American circles; he does not accept the conventional wisdom that Wharton will necessarily inherit the county’s black vote and hopes to get as much as 30 to 35 percent of it hsmelf in a primary contest with Wharton.) Former Teamster leader Sidney Chism, the major force behind the Byrd campaign and those of several other Democratic candidates for various offices, professed to have had no advance knowledge of Larsha’s resolution but -- in language similar to that of Larsha -- said he approved of its goals. “It’s okay for the Republicans to come out in support of our candidates once we get them nominated but we shouldn’t let them pick our nominees,” he said. Chism’s at least tacit support for the resolution was bound to be meaningful, since he more or less called the shots last year on the naming of members of the current party executive committee and on the selection of its chairperson, Carson. Previously, Chism had been known as the political-action arm of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton -- with whom Wharton himself, as the mayor’s two-time campaign chairman, is also close. (That circumstance has lent credibility to Herenton’s public claim of neutrality in the mayor’s race.) Byrd said that he, too, had not been aware of the Larsha resolution until asked about it and that he would take no position on it but added that he “understood” why Larsha and others felt aggrieved. “I think there’s a genuine resentment of the same old worn-out group of insiders trying to control things,” he said -- apparently making reference to a group of Wharton backers including longtime governmental figures like Bobby Bowers and Bobby Lanier and developers like Jackie Welch and former Shelby County Commission member Charles Perkins. Of course, Wharton also has backing from undeniable Democratic Party regulars -- like State Senator Steve Cohen and former party chairman David Cocke, the latter of whom said angrily, “Let Sidney try something like this! Terrific! We’ll accuse him of hijacking the Democratic Party, and we’ll win with A C as an independent.” Cocke voiced the suspicion that Carson had never followed through on the committee’s decision months ago to petition the Election Commission for a primary next year and speculated that, under her leadership, the current committee might even attempt to nominate candidates by its own action rather than by public election. Carson angrily denied that, saying that she had long ago forwarded the necessary papers to the Election Commission. Pleasant backed her up on that. Another Democratic candidate for mayor, State Representative Carol Chumney responded to the growing controversy by saying she preferred to let “the people” decide matters by their vote but would not take a position on the resolution, which she said the committee should decide for itself. “One thing for sure,” she said. “Nobody’s ever going to accuse me of not being a Democrat!” As for Wharton himself, he was informed of developments late Monday night as he arrived home and said, “The gravity of the problems looming over this county right now is what I’m worried about. I’m not even going to concern myself with something like this. It won’t cause me to a lose even a minute’s sleep.”

Monday, November 12, 2001

BREDESEN, WILDER IN EARLY HOLIDAY MODE

BREDESEN, WILDER IN EARLY HOLIDAY MODE

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Christmas came early Saturday for ex-Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen, who at a luncheon of supporters at Memphis’ downtown Rendezvous restaurant got the formal endorsement for his gubernatorial campaign of a fellow Democrat, 8th District congressman John Tanner of Union City. Meanwhile, across town and shortly thereafter, an equally early New Year’s resolution was voiced by Lt. Governor John Wilder of Somerville, who addressed the Dutch Treat Luncheon at the Audubon Cafe in East Memphis and promised afterward that he would do “everything in my power” in next year’s regular legislative session to bring about a constitutional convention on “equity in taxation.” Tanner’s endorsement was due, said the congressman, to his respect for Bredesen’s “public service record” coupled with his “private sector experience.” Talking earlier to reporters, Tanner acknowledged that a sitting public official’s endorsement of a candidate in a primary campaign, especially one this early, was unusual but said, “I knew I was going to do it sooner or later, so I just decided, ‘Why not go ahead and do it?’” (Bredesen was properly appreciative to Tanner for making the endorsement “at this point of my campaign.” Tanner’s action was almost certainly meant to be pre-emptive, of course, so as to encourage Democratic unity around Bredesen and to discourage the efforts of three other contenders: Knoxville District Attorney General Randy Nichols, former State Senator Andy Womack of Murfreesboro, and Charles Smith of Nashville, who served stints both as state Education Commissioner and as chancellor of the state Board of Regents. Smith was quickest with a retort, saying in a statement, “Phil Bredesen is still Phil Bredesen,” and going on to repeat his previous doubts that Bredesen, who as the Democratic nominee lost the 1994 governor’s race to Republican Don Sundquist, would be able to make favorable public impression on the state’s voters. Whoever emerges from next year’s Democratic primary will take on the winner in a Republican field that so far includes 4th District U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary and former State Senator Jim Henry of Kingston. Both Bredesen and Hilleary, the presumed GOP frontrunner, have rejected a state income tax as a reponse to the state’s fiscal problems, while their opponents have declined to close the door on such a solution. Wilder, who as the presiding officer of the Senate, has been a central figure in the legislature’s ongoing search for a solution to its revenue problems, told the Dutch Treat audience that he regarded a state income tax as “unconstitutional,” holding to a position he has taken throughout the current three-year-old tax-reform debate. The lieutenant governor, known for his occasional use of a kind of pidgin English (as in his frequent declaration that “the Senate is good”), chose on Saturday to strike an erudite note, speaking of “law in the cosmos” and pronouncing that “all wealth is production and all property is production less taxes.” Continuing to wax philosophical, Wilder told the overwhelmingly conservative audience, “All taxes are income taxes.The sales tax-- all consumption taxes-- are income taxes.” The most important principle, he said, was that a state tax should be made deductible from one’s federal taxes. For years Wilder has carried on a crusade to restore an element of deductibility to sales taxes, which were removed from deductible status by federal tax legislation in 1986. What is needed, he said, was “a constitutional convention on equity in taxation.” He later elaborated on that, saying that if an income tax could be made indisputably constitutional, he would support efforts to enact one in the legislature.

Sunday, November 11, 2001

BREDESEN, WILDER IN EARLY HOLIDAY MODE

BREDESEN, WILDER IN EARLY HOLIDAY MODE

Posted By on Sun, Nov 11, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Christmas came early Saturday for ex-Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen, who at a luncheon of supporters at Memphis’ downtown Rendezvous restaurant got the formal endorsement for his gubernatorial campaign of a fellow Democrat, 8th District congressman John Tanner of Union City. Meanwhile, across town and shortly thereafter, an equally early New Year’s resolution was voiced by Lt. Governor John Wilder of Somerville, who addressed the Dutch Treat Luncheon at the Audubon Cafe in East Memphis and promised afterward that he would do “everything in my power” in next year’s regular legislative session to bring about a constitutional convention on “equity in taxation.” Tanner’s endorsement was due, said the congressman, to his respect for Bredesen’s “public service record” coupled with his “private sector experience.” Talking earlier to reporters, Tanner acknowledged that a sitting public official’s endorsement of a candidate in a primary campaign, especially one this early, was unusual but said, “I knew I was going to do it sooner or later, so I just decided, ‘Why not go ahead and do it?’” (Bredesen was properly appreciative to Tanner for making the endorsement “at this point of my campaign.” Tanner’s action was almost certainly meant to be pre-emptive, of course, so as to encourage Democratic unity around Bredesen and to discourage the efforts of three other contenders: Knoxville District Attorney General Randy Nichols, former State Senator Andy Womack of Murfreesboro, and Charles Smith of Nashville, who served stints both as state Education Commissioner and as chancellor of the state Board of Regents. Smith was quickest with a retort, saying in a statement, “Phil Bredesen is still Phil Bredesen,” and going on to repeat his previous doubts that Bredesen, who as the Democratic nominee lost the 1994 governor’s race to Republican Don Sundquist, would be able to make favorable public impression on the state’s voters. Whoever emerges from next year’s Democratic primary will take on the winner in a Republican field that so far includes 4th District U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary and former State Senator Jim Henry of Kingston. Both Bredesen and Hilleary, the presumed GOP frontrunner, have rejected a state income tax as a reponse to the state’s fiscal problems, while their opponents have declined to close the door on such a solution. Wilder, who as the presiding officer of the Senate, has been a central figure in the legislature’s ongoing search for a solution to its revenue problems, told the Dutch Treat audience that he regarded a state income tax as “unconstitutional,” holding to a position he has taken throughout the current three-year-old tax-reform debate. The lieutenant governor, known for his occasional use of a kind of pidgin English (as in his frequent declaration that “the Senate is good”), chose on Saturday to strike an erudite note, speaking of “law in the cosmos” and pronouncing that “all wealth is production and all property is production less taxes.” Continuing to wax philosophical, Wilder told the overwhelmingly conservative audience, “All taxes are income taxes.The sales tax-- all consumption taxes-- are income taxes.” The most important principle, he said, was that a state tax should be made deductible from one’s federal taxes. For years Wilder has carried on a crusade to restore an element of deductibility to sales taxes, which were removed from deductible status by federal tax legislation in 1986. What is needed, he said, was “a constitutional convention on equity in taxation.” He later elaborated on that, saying that if an income tax could be made indisputably constitutional, he would support efforts to enact one in the legislature.
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