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..

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