Sunday, December 30, 2001

HILLEARY: WILL OVERCOME 'DISGRUNTLEMENT'

HILLEARY: WILL OVERCOME 'DISGRUNTLEMENT'

Posted By on Sun, Dec 30, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Insisting that, a recent news report to the contrary notwithstanding, he was aware of a looming state budget crisis and had no intention of denying it, U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary (R-4th) said in Memphis Thursday that TennCare was the major cause of the shortfall, and, without naming incumbent Governor Don Sundquist directly, indicated strongly that the current administration was also to blame.

Addressing a small group of supporters at a meet-and-greet at the Lulu Grill in East Memphis, GOP gubernatorial candidate Hilleary, who is opposed in the primary by former State Rep. Jim Henry of Kingston, said that state revenues had run ahead of inflation every year except the last one and that a “restructuring” of TennCare, the state-run insurance system for the indigent and uninsured, would do much to fix the problem.

“With TennCare, the state has been offering open-ended supply to go with open-ended demand. We can’t raise enough in taxes to keep up with that,” Hilleary said. He promised, if elected, to institute “two-way dialogue” and go beyond the “my way or the highway attitude” which he said had prevailed in recent years; he promised also to pursue economies like that of scaling TennCare benefits back to the level of surrounding states so that Tennessee ceased to be a “magnet” for patients.

Hilleary said the state had been hurt by the unchanging focus on an income tax during the last three years and added, “There’s been a certain amount of disgruntlement across the state in the last few years.” He said that he and the Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner, former Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen, had run “neck-and-neck” in polls “even after I’ve absorbged the disgruntlement.”

Goveernor Sundquist’s staff picks may also have come in for indirect criticism in Hilleary’s promise to appoint individuals more experienced than himself in their areas of competence. “It doesn’t work if you try to surround yourself with people less knowledgeable than you are. That’s guaranteed to fail.”

In private conversation before his public remarks, Hilleary said he would “wait and see” how things developed in the GOP primary race before pronouncing on whether the governor was, openly or tacitly, aiding Henry, but added, “I have a pretty strong opinion on that.”

The congressman also used the expression “wait and see” on the issue of Gov. Sundquist’s proposed TennCare reforms, saying that it remained to be seen what kind of Medicaid waiver the federal government would issue and how the courts would rule. But he said the governor’s downsizing plan was “a good first step.”

On other matters, Hilleary promised to follow the model of President George W. Bush in making educational improvements his first priority, warned that Democrats -- former Vice President Al Gore, in particular -- were increasing their grass-roots activity across the state, and said the state should attempt economic leverage through the industrial and agricultural base it already possesses. “We don’t need to be Silicon Valley,” Hilleary said.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

HILLEARY: WILL OVERCOME 'DISGRUNTLEMENT'

HILLEARY: WILL OVERCOME 'DISGRUNTLEMENT'

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

Insisting that, a recent news report to the contrary notwithstanding, he was aware of a looming state budget crisis and had no intention of denying it, U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary (R-4th) said in Memphis Thursday that TennCare was the major cause of the shortfall, and, without naming incumbent Governor Don Sundquist directly, indicated strongly that the current administration was also to blame.

Addressing a small group of supporters at a meet-and-greet at the Lulu Grill in East Memphis, GOP gubernatorial candidate Hilleary, who is opposed in the primary by former State Rep. Jim Henry of Kingston, said that state revenues had run ahead of inflation every year except the last one and that a “restructuring” of TennCare, the state-run insurance system for the indigent and uninsured, would do much to fix the problem.

“With TennCare, the state has been offering open-ended supply to go with open-ended demand. We can’t raise enough in taxes to keep up with that,” Hilleary said. He promised, if elected, to institute “two-way dialogue” and go beyond the “my way or the highway attitude” which he said had prevailed in recent years; he promised also to pursue economies like that of scaling TennCare benefits back to the level of surrounding states so that Tennessee ceased to be a “magnet” for patients.

Hilleary said the state had been hurt by the unchanging focus on an income tax during the last three years and added, “There’s been a certain amount of disgruntlement across the state in the last few years.” He said that he and the Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner, former Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen, had run “neck-and-neck” in polls “even after I’ve absorbged the disgruntlement.”

Goveernor Sundquist’s staff picks may also have come in for indirect criticism in Hilleary’s promise to appoint individuals more experienced than himself in their areas of competence. “It doesn’t work if you try to surround yourself with people less knowledgeable than you are. That’s guaranteed to fail.”

In private conversation before his public remarks, Hilleary said he would “wait and see” how things developed in the GOP primary race before pronouncing on whether the governor was, openly or tacitly, aiding Henry, but added, “I have a pretty strong opinion on that.”

The congressman also used the expression “wait and see” on the issue of Gov. Sundquist’s proposed TennCare reforms, saying that it remained to be seen what kind of Medicaid waiver the federal government would issue and how the courts would rule. But he said the governor’s downsizing plan was “a good first step.”

On other matters, Hilleary promised to follow the model of President George W. Bush in making educational improvements his first priority, warned that Democrats -- former Vice President Al Gore, in particular -- were increasing their grass-roots activity across the state, and said the state should attempt economic leverage through the industrial and agricultural base it already possesses. “We don’t need to be Silicon Valley,” Hilleary said.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

The Ground Floor

That -- and Ground Zero -- are metaphors for the political present and future.

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

To employ a modish metaphor, politics is a 24/7 process -- going on all the time, even in the non-election years that come along every three years.

The year just passed, 2001, was one of those. In some ways, it lacked the focused drama of the two previous such years -- 1993, which, among other things, saw the pivotal trial and acquittal of former congressman Harold Ford Sr. on bank-fraud charges; and 1997, much of which was taken up with Memphis mayor Willie Herenton's equally successful stand against "toy town" legislation from Nashville.

Victory in those respective endeavors gave each of these two titans a significant political boost for years to come. (In Ford's case, much of that would be passed along to his heirs and assigns -- notably Harold Ford Jr., his successor as U.S. representative from the 9th Congressional District and a hot political property on the statewide and national scenes.)

But 2001, the first election off-year of the new century, was marked by a series of events -- some distant, some near -- that may have more lasting aftershocks for more people over a longer time.

· Take the increasingly conflicted Tennessee legislature (please!). For the third straight year our state solons dissed the well-intentioned tax-reform efforts of Governor Don Sundquist and failed to produce a responsible budget that could pay for even basic state programs. As a result Tennessee is facing a half-billion-dollar shortfall for the next fiscal year and has already had to start pruning away at state parks and throttling initiatives in schooling, tourism, and economic development. Just for starters.

The state is now headed toward the bottom of the national rankings in categories ranging from basic and higher education (witness the increasingly unequipped laboratories and continued exodus of teaching staffs) to health expenditures (the once-promising TennCare system seemed on the verge of being abandoned).

None of this prevented the legislature from bowing to the frenzies of an enraged mob of anti-taxers which, on the memorable night of July 12th, besieged the state Capitol in Nashville, broke windows and shoved lawmakers, kept up a howling chorus, and prevented action on a compromise income-tax measure that would have required a statewide voter referendum to be fully enacted. Instead, the General Assembly voted to use up its share of national tobacco-settlement money just to pay its past-due bills then blew town, leaving the fiscal mess to worsen and fester.

On the high side, the state Senate finally passed legislation, promoted by Memphis' Sen. Steve Cohen for the last 16 years, that would allow the people of Tennessee to vote on instituting a statewide lottery, the proceeds of which would benefit education. (That vote will come next year and will be one of the highlights of a general-election ballot that will also see a U.S. Senate seat and the state's governorship open up.

· On the local scene, both the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission spent much of their time, energies, and capital (both political and the other kind) on the issue of funding for a new sports arena to house the transplanted Vancouver Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association.

Here, too, protesters concerned about a new commitment of public-tax dollars forced second thoughts, but, unlike what happened in the case of the legislature, the differing factions on the council and, especially, on the commission worked hard to achieve a compromise and, in the end, were able to craft a measure that did not tie the construction issue to ad valorem (property-based) revenues.

Never mind that the future revenues finally pledged -- rental-car taxes and the like -- put the city and county in the position, Pollyanna-like, of betting on the come. Communities, like individuals, are entitled to wager on their futures, and polls indicated that a clear majority of local citizens were in favor of the Grizzlies/arena venture, which takes its place in what is, finally and indisputably, a bona fide redevelopment of downtown.

· Another major circumstance that presaged fundamental political change was statistical. Released in 2001 were the figures from the previous year's U.S. census, which showed that the demographics of Shelby County, like those of the city of Memphis a decade earlier, had taken the long-prophesied turn toward African-American predominance.

As in the case of the city earlier, this fact would not automatically determine the outcome of local elections, which continued to depend on relative degrees of participation by voter blocs and on other factors. But by the end of the current year, the extant candidacies for various local offices up for grabs next year made it obvious that blacks, running as Democrats, would be in hot competition for all local offices with whites, who (in the general election, anyhow), would be running as Republicans.

But certain situations -- the fact, for example, that various candidates for Shelby County mayor were making clear pitches to (or being pitched by) constituencies across racial and political lines -- augured a different political and social future than what Memphis and Shelby County got used to in the confrontational last half of the 20th century.

· The city and county are on the ground floor of the edifice that a new century and new perspectives will see constructed. And that metaphor, in more than one sense, is a reminder of another term that we all got used to in the tragic last quarter of the year just ending.

· Ground Zero: The devastation in New York has its counterpart in all our imaginations and in the local Zeitgeist as well. We know now that nothing can be counted on to endure, that elemental forces and unresolved conflicts can destroy the most harmonious purpose and the most developed plan. But, all the same, we sense an irrepressible spirit in the community, one that looks past economic downturns and the threat of the Apocalypse itself and is willing and able to keep on trucking.

For all of its storms and circuses, politics is and will remain the theater of the normal. For better and for worse, it is who we are. ·

PERSON LOOMED LARGE IN SAVING SHELBY'S 6 SEATS

PERSON LOOMED LARGE IN SAVING SHELBY'S 6 SEATS

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

State Senator Curtis Person (R-Memphis) is a big man in more than one way. Impressively sized physically, the amiable Person (whose father, the late Curtis Person Sr., was a well-known amateur golfing champion and entrepreneur ) has been unopposed in his reelection bids since 1966. He chairs the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and exercises his considerable clout as quietly as he speaks.

Most recently, Person's influence was felt in the redistricting process. He served as chairman of the GOP's legislative redistricting committee, and, as he confided last week at the announcement for Shelby County Mayor of State Rep. Larry Scroggs (R-Germantown), whom he introduced), he was able to work out a formula whereby Shelby County would get to keep all six of its Senate seats after reapportionment. The deal, Person said then, had been signed off on by State Senator Jo Ann Graves (D-Gallatin),who chairs the full legislative redistricting committee, and Lt. Governor John Wilder (D-Somerville), the Senate's longtime presiding officer and a close Person ally.

"I'll be going further east," acknowledged Person, whose base is in the Republican wards of East Memphis, "but Mark and I won't be in together, and he can continue to present Shelby County."

Which is to say, the long-presumed need to eliminate one of Shelby County's six Senate seats, a circumstance that almost surely would have required freshman Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to run in the same district as Person, has evaporated. The lines will be drawn so as to allow Person's district, as he indicated, to expand eastward, taking in part of Norris's present one, while the Collierville Senator's district, already representing parts of Fayette and Lauderdale counties, will expand even further into those reaches. But it will keep its anchor in east Shelby County.

The new Norris district, predominantly rural now, won't be a slam-dunk for the suburban senator to win in, but his reelection task will be considerably easier than it would have been if required to run against the venerable Person.

Wednesday, December 26, 2001

PERSON LOOMED LARGE IN SAVING SHELBY'S 6 SEATS.

PERSON LOOMED LARGE IN SAVING SHELBY'S 6 SEATS.

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

State Senator Curtis Person (R-Memphis) is a big man in more than one way. Impressively sized physically, the amiable Person (whose father, the late Curtis Person Sr., was a well-known amateur golfing champion and entrepreneur ) has been unopposed in his reelection bids since 1966. He chairs the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and exercises his considerable clout as quietly as he speaks.

Most recently, Person's influence was felt in the redistricting process. He served as chairman of the GOP's legislative redistricting committee, and, as he confided last week at the announcement for Shelby County Mayor of State Rep. Larry Scroggs (R-Germantown), whom he introduced), he was able to work out a formula whereby Shelby County would get to keep all six of its Senate seats after reapportionment. The deal, Person said then, had been signed off on by State Senator Jo Ann Graves (D-Gallatin),who chairs the full legislative redistricting committee, and Lt. Governor John Wilder (D-Somerville), the Senate's longtime presiding officer and a close Person ally.

"I'll be going further east," acknowledged Person, whose base is in the Republican wards of East Memphis, "but Mark and I won't be in together, and he can continue to present Shelby County."

Which is to say, the long-presumed need to eliminate one of Shelby County's six Senate seats, a circumstance that almost surely would have required freshman Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to run in the same district as Person, has evaporated. The lines will be drawn so as to allow Person's district, as he indicated, to expand eastward, taking in part of Norris's present one, while the Collierville Senator's district, already representing parts of Fayette and Lauderdale counties, will expand even further into those reaches. But it will keep its anchor in east Shelby County.

The new Norris district, predominantly rural now, won't be a slam-dunk for the suburban senator to win in, but his reelection task will be considerably easier than it would have been if required to run against the venerable Person.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Dems: It s Chism vs. Ford; Reps: It ain t over.

Dems: It s Chism vs. Ford; Reps: It ain t over.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2001 at 4:00 AM

The Democrats: Chism vs. Joe Ford

A new theater is about to open up in the struggle for Democratic supremacy.

by JACKSON BAKER

Don't think for a moment that the old Ford-Herenton political wars are over. The main parties -- former congressman Harold Ford Sr. and Memphis mayor Willie Herenton -- may be keeping a nominal peace, but you can measure the depth of their continuing struggle by what their key surrogates are up to.

Case in point: Sidney Chism, the ex-Teamster leader who in recent years has been the mayor's chief political lieutenant, is not content merely to figure as the key strategist in three 2002 political races, two of which are direct contests with Ford choices; he is now determined to take on a Ford himself, head-on.

Chism, a veteran of inner-city and intra-Democratic politics who has extended his reach into the county, says he intends to oppose former city councilman Joe Ford in the race to succeed the late Dr. James Ford, the well-regarded Shelby County Commission member who died recently of cancer.

The former councilman, who ran unsuccessfully against Herenton in the city mayor race in 1999, is the choice of the Ford family and various others to succeed his brother. And county commissioner Michael Hooks, not necessarily a full-time Ford ally, pledged at a recent commission meeting to do what he could to get Joe Ford appointed to the seat.

(The commission has advertised the vacancy but has not yet resolved whether or at what point to appoint someone to succeed Dr. Ford; the position will, in any case, be on the 2002 primary and general-election ballots, like all commission seats, and Joe Ford is indeed expected to be a candidate.)

Chism protests that he will be running "for the commission, not against Joe Ford," but he makes a point of saying, "A seat on the county commission shouldn't be regarded as an inheritance or the property of a family. We don't need to be creating -- or sustaining -- any dynasties in Shelby County."

The confrontation between Chism and Ford, if it comes to pass, will be a major theater in a combat which already includes the Shelby County mayor's race and another commission seat. Chism is backing Bartlett banker Harold Byrd for mayor, and former Rep. Ford has indicated through allies and family members that he will offer vigorous support in the Democratic primary to Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, his former college roommate. (A third Democratic candidate is state Representative Carol Chumney.)

Chism is also supporting Deidre Malone in a District 2 commission race against Bridget Chisholm, who was appointed to fill a vacancy last year with strong support from the Ford family. A third Chism-backed candidate, Randy Wade, a Sheriff's Department official running for sheriff, is not at the moment confronted by an obvious Ford-supported candidate. City councilman E.C. Jones is a candidate in the Democratic primary, however, and former Secret Service agent Henry Hooper may enter it.

It is uncertain as of yet what role will be taken in the various 2002 races by Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who saw his momentum for a senatorial race in 2000 set back by his involvement in his uncle Joe Ford's losing 1999 mayoral race. The current congressman, whose future horizons are primarily statewide and national, is nevertheless a family loyalist and will doubtless conduct himself accordingly.

Likewise in some doubt is the exact role to be played by Mayor Herenton, who was early on presumed to be in sympathy with Byrd's candidacy but has also been close to Wharton, who headed up two of his mayoral election efforts. Herenton may find himself forced out of his current position of de facto neutrality by the unexpected twists and turns of a Chism-Joe Ford race.

Jake Ford, the younger brother of Harold Ford Jr. and the older brother of Isaac Ford, who filed for county mayor last week as an independent, is normally a model of soft-spoken courtesy (a virtue which is, in fact, in fairly abundant supply among the sometimes volatile Fords). But, as the self-proclaimed manager of his brother's maiden political race, he professed himself outraged last week by the local media's disinclination so far to regard the Isaac Ford candidacy as major.

The fact is, however, that candidates' assumed importance is usually weighted heavily on such factors as their background in public or private life and on the political networks supporting them. The campaign of the 27-year-old Isaac Ford, who works for the consulting firm of his father, former congressman Harold Ford Sr., is generally regarded as light in both regards and therefore suspect.

Young Isaac promised last week to be forthcoming on matters of "philosophy" and issues of county importance, but it will take more than position papers for him to be taken seriously as a candidate for Shelby County's major executive position. (To be sure, as Jake Ford points out, his 31-year-old congressman brother, now regarded as a major national comer, was also taken lightly by some at the start of his 1996 congressional campaign to succeed his father.)

Almost all observers tend to see the Isaac Ford candidacy as being temporary and a Trojan Horse ploy of one sort or another, although there are those who take it at face value.

What complicates the issue is the certainty, circulated along the Fords' network last week and acknowledged even by Jake Ford, that father Harold Sr., who has been spending much of his time in Florida, will play a role in the county election as a vigorous supporter of Democratic mayoral candidate Wharton. It was the former congressman who is given credit for talking Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles into switching his support to Wharton from Byrd. "He'll hurt A C more among whites than he'll help him elsewhere," contended Chism, whether out of wishful thinking or reasoned analysis. ™


The Republicans: It Ain't Over 'Til ...

Well, it ain't over, according to GOP wannabes who dispute a Scroggs consensus.

POLITICS by JACKSON BAKER

Well, at long last the era of uncertainty is over for Shelby County Republicans: After a long period of bashfulness and befuddlement, during which there was much more backing than filling, they've settled on a candidate for county mayor, state Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown.

Or have they?

If it's true, somebody needs to tell county trustee Bob Patterson, county commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf, and radiologist/radio-station-owner George Flinn, all of whom were still, at press time, considering active races for mayor in the GOP primary.

"I think there's still a lot of play in this thing," said Patterson on Monday, a day after local party chairman Alan Crone presented Scroggs as the party's consensus candidate to Republicans gathered at Kirby Farms for the local GOP's annual Christmas party. (Patterson has already filed for reelection as trustee but said he might reconsider and switch tracks.)

Another skeptic was VanderSchaaf, who announced last week he was a possible mayoral candidate and made a point of saying at mid-week that he was still thinking about it. And then there was Flinn, who has been talking up a mayoral race for some time and pronounced himself "amazed" at hearing Crone describe him to the GOP party-goers Sunday as a candidate for state representative.

"I never told him I was a candidate for state representative. I guess he was trying to tell me," said Flinn, who added he was grateful to restaurateur John Willingham, an antiestablishment activist who interrupted Crone's introduction of party office-holders and candidates to declare, "Mr. Chairman, you're wrong about that. I believe Mr. Flinn is still a candidate for mayor!"

Mr. Flinn thinks so too, as it turns out.

"I know they want Larry to be the candidate and they asked me to consider running for state rep, which I said I would," Flinn says. "But I decided against that. What they're doing is trying to make up my mind for me."

Flinn's complaint echoes a running one by such other Republicans as Willingham and longtime party dissenter Jerry Cobb, who feel that chairman Crone, incumbent (and outgoing) county mayor Jim Rout, party national committeeman John Ryder, and other perennially prominent party members try to dictate to other Republicans on policy matters.

Patterson concurs. "Until fairly recently, we had a candidate recruitment committee to work up a consensus on candidates. They've done away with that, unfortunately." It has been no secret that Crone and Ryder, along with other Republican leaders like former chairman David Kustoff, have been trying for the last several months to find a name Republican to carry the party standard in next year's general election.

District attorney general Bill Gibbons, former city councilman John Bobango, and former Memphis Redbirds president Allie Prescott were three favored prospects, but all said no. Scroggs responded favorably to the group's entreaties last week.

On the immediate matter of Flinn's candidacy, Crone said Sunday he was under the impression, after having talked with the radiologist's political adviser, former county commissioner Ed Williams, that Flinn had agreed to run for state representative rather than for mayor, but Flinn said no such answer had been given by either him or Williams.

"I don't even know what district they want me to run in," said Flinn, who noted that, with the exception of the Germantown district being vacated by Scroggs and which may be subject to virtual elimination anyway (see below), all Shelby County districts are filled with incumbents, either Republicans or Democrats.

"There are plenty Democrats he can run against," shrugged Crone, suggesting as one possibility Henri Brooks, who represents a predominantly African-American inner-city district, which is likely, however, to be redistricted eastward, encompassing some traditional Republican turf in East Memphis.

The legislature's forthcoming reapportionment had a significant influence on Scroggs' decision to run. Scroggs, a serious legislator who has harbored ambitions for higher political office for some time, reflected on the fact that his position as one of the Shelby County GOP's junior House members in the Shelby County delegation made him vulnerable to a redistricting process which will be accomplished during the next few months under Democratic domination and in the wake of census results that call for elimination of one of the county's seats.

Scroggs will faithfully complete the 2002 legislative session, taking advantage of weekends and other breaks to do active campaigning for mayor. Meanwhile he may file some sort of legal challenge to a state law freezing fund-raising for legislators during a session (the General Assembly will reconvene in January), and he will avail himself of a loophole in that law that will be activated in the event of a special session (on taxes or whatever) midway in the regular session.

™ Scroggs' willingness to run for mayor simplified more than one problem for the GOP. As state Representative Paul Stanley (R-Cordova, Germantown) said, "Alan Crone got an early Christmas present." But Santa Claus was most generous to Stanley himself, who as the newest House Republican elected from Shelby County, was even more likely to be redistricted out of his seat than was colleague Scroggs.

Last year's census results indicated population shifts that will cost the county at least one seat in the state House of Representatives, where the number will go from 17 to 16, and one in the state Senate, where the reduction will be from six to five. ™

IT AIN'T OVER 'TIL...IT AIN'T OVER?!

IT AIN'T OVER 'TIL...IT AIN'T OVER?!

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Well, at long last the era of uncertainty would seem to be over for Shelby County Republicans: After a long period of bashfulness and befuddlement, during which there was much more backing than filling, they’ve settled on a candidate for county mayor, State Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown, who has a formal announcement scheduled for Thursday. Or have they? If it’s true, somebody needs to tell County Trustee Bob Patterson, county commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf, and radiologist/radio-station owner George Flinn, all of whom were still, at press time, considering active races for mayor in the GOP primary. “I think there’s still a lot of play in this thing,” said Patterson on Monday, a day after local party chairman Alan Crone presented Scroggs as the party’s consensus candidate to Republicans gathered at Kirby Farms on Poplar Pike for the local GOP’s annual Christmas party. (Patterson has already filed for reelection as trustee but said he might reconsider and switch tracks.) Another skeptic was VanderSchaaf, who announced last week he was a possible mayoral candidate and made a point of saying at mid-week that he was still thinking about it. And then there was Flinn, who has been talking up a mayoral race for some time and pronounced himself “amazed” at hearing Crone describe him to the GOP party-goers Sunday as a candidate for state representative. “I never told him I was a candidate for state representaive. I guess he was trying to tell me,” said Flinn, who added he was grateful to restaurateur John Willingham, an anti-establishment activist who interrupted Crone’s introduction of party office-holders and candidates to declare, “Mr. Chairman, you’re wrong about that. I believe Mr. Flinn is still a candidate for mayor!” Mr. Flinn thinks so, too, as it turns out. “I know they want Larry to be the candidate, and they asked me to consider running for state rep, which I said I would,” Flinn says. “But I decided against that. What they’re doing is trying to make up my mind for me.” Flinn’s complaint echoes a running one by such other Republicans as Willingham and longtime party dissenter Jerry Cobb, who feel that chairman Crone, incumbent (and outgoing) county mayor Jim Rout, party national committeeman John Ryder, and other perennially prominent party members try to dictate to other Republicans on policy matters. Patterson concurs. “Until fairly recently, we had a candidate recruitment committee to work up a consensus on candidates. They’ve done away with that, unfortunately.” It has been no secret that Crone and Ryder, along with other Republican leaders like former chairman David Kustoff, have been trying for the last several months to find a name Republican to carry the party standard in next year’s general election. District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, former city councilman John Bobango, and former Memphis Redbirds president Allie Prescott were three favored prospects, but all said no. Scroggs responded favorably to the group’s entreaties last week. On the immediate matter of Flinn’s candidacy, Crone said Sunday he was under the impression, after having talked with the radiologist’s political advisier, former county commissioner Ed Williams, that Flinn had agreed to run for state representative rather than for mayor, but Flinn said no such answer had been given by either him or Williams. “I don’t even know what district they want me to run in,” said Flinn, who noted that, with the exception of the Germantown district being vacated by Scroggs and which may be subject to virtual elimination, anyway (see separate item, this column), all Shelby County districts are filled with incumbents, either Republicans or Democrats. “There are plenty Democrats he can run against,” shrugged Crone, suggesting as one possibility Henri Brooks , who represents a predominantly African-American inner-city district, which is likely, however, to be redistricted eastward, encompassing some traditional Republican turf in East Memphis.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

IT AIN'T OVER 'TIL...IT AIN'T OVER?!

No, it ain't , according to GOP wannabes who dispute a Scroggs consensus.

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

Well, at long last the era of uncertainty would seem to be over for Shelby County Republicans: After a long period of bashfulness and befuddlement, during which there was much more backing than filling, they’ve settled on a candidate for county mayor, State Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown, who has a formal announcement scheduled for Thursday. Or have they? If it’s true, somebody needs to tell County Trustee Bob Patterson, county commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf, and radiologist/radio-station owner George Flinn, all of whom were still, at press time, considering active races for mayor in the GOP primary. “I think there’s still a lot of play in this thing,” said Patterson on Monday, a day after local party chairman Alan Crone presented Scroggs as the party’s consensus candidate to Republicans gathered at Kirby Farms on Poplar Pike for the local GOP’s annual Christmas party. (Patterson has already filed for reelection as trustee but said he might reconsider and switch tracks.) Another skeptic was VanderSchaaf, who announced last week he was a possible mayoral candidate and made a point of saying at mid-week that he was still thinking about it. And then there was Flinn, who has been talking up a mayoral race for some time and pronounced himself “amazed” at hearing Crone describe him to the GOP party-goers Sunday as a candidate for state representative. “I never told him I was a candidate for state representative. I guess he was trying to tell me,” said Flinn, who added he was grateful to restaurateur John Willingham, an anti-establishment activist who interrupted Crone’s introduction of party office-holders and candidates to declare, “Mr. Chairman, you’re wrong about that. I believe Mr. Flinn is still a candidate for mayor!” Mr. Flinn thinks so, too, as it turns out. “I know they want Larry to be the candidate, and they asked me to consider running for state rep, which I said I would,” Flinn says. “But I decided against that. What they’re doing is trying to make up my mind for me.” Flinn’s complaint echoes a running one by such other Republicans as Willingham and longtime party dissenter Jerry Cobb, who feel that chairman Crone, incumbent (and outgoing) county mayor Jim Rout, party national committeeman John Ryder, and other perennially prominent party members try to dictate to other Republicans on policy matters. Patterson concurs. “Until fairly recently, we had a candidate recruitment committee to work up a consensus on candidates. They’ve done away with that, unfortunately.” It has been no secret that Crone and Ryder, along with other Republican leaders like former chairman David Kustoff, have been trying for the last several months to find a name Republican to carry the party standard in next year’s general election. District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, former city councilman John Bobango, and former Memphis Redbirds president Allie Prescott were three favored prospects, but all said no. Scroggs responded favorably to the group’s entreaties last week. On the immediate matter of Flinn’s candidacy, Crone said Sunday he was under the impression, after having talked with the radiologist’s political adviser, former county commissioner Ed Williams, that Flinn had agreed to run for state representative rather than for mayor, but Flinn said no such answer had been given by either him or Williams. “I don’t even know what district they want me to run in,” said Flinn, who noted that, with the exception of the Germantown district being vacated by Scroggs and which may be subject to virtual elimination, anyway (see separate item, this column), all Shelby County districts are filled with incumbents, either Republicans or Democrats. “There are plenty Democrats he can run against,” shrugged Crone, suggesting as one possibility Henri Brooks, who represents a predominantly African-American inner-city district, which is likely, however, to be redistricted eastward, encompassing some traditional Republican turf in East Memphis.

Monday, December 17, 2001

SANTA CLAUS AND REP. STANLEY

SANTA CLAUS AND REP. STANLEY

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

Republicans everywhere in Shelby County breathed the proverbial sigh of relief when State Representative Larry Scroggs‘ decision to run for Shelby County mayor was first indicated via the Flyer website on Wednesday. “Alan Crone [the county GOP chairman] got an early Christmas present,” said State Representative Paul Stanley.

But Santa Claus was most generous to Stanley, who as the junior Republican from Shelby County, was on the verge of being redistricted out of his seat until his colleague Scroggs decided conveniently to absent himself.

Democrats, as the legislature’s majority party, decide how the lines are drawn after each ten-year census, and the census of 2000 indicated population shifts that will cost the county at least one seat in the state House of Representatives, where the number will go from 17 to 16, and one in the state Senate, where the reduction will be from six to five.

Collierville’s Mark Norris, as the most junior GOP senator from Shelby County, is the most vulnerable of the county’s senators, and his suburban district could be drawn into that of the venerable Curtis Person. who has not even had an opponent since 1966.

Stanley is now likely to escape an equivalent fate, in that the requirements to reduce a House seat can be met by dissecting that of the absented Scroggs, allowing the lines of Stanley’s District 96 from the north and GOP incumbent Joe Kent‘s District 83 to be redrawn so as to meet. Other Republicans, like Tre Hargett in District 97 and Bubba Pleasant in District 99 (both Bartlett-area districts), are also probably off the hook as possible sacrificial victims.

Word is that all Democratic incumbents from Shelby County are likely to be given districts more or less in accordance with their present ones in the redistricting plan which will probably be presented to the legislature for its approval in late January or early February.

KINGS TAKE REMATCH WITH GRIZZLIES, 104-87

Rookie Spoils Williams' Return to Sacramento

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

SACRAMENTO, Calif, Dec. 17 (Ticker) -- The story was supposed to be Jason Williams coming back to Arco Arena. It turned into a coming-out party for Gerald Wallace. Wallace scored a season-high 20 points off the bench as the Sacramento Kings wrecked the return of Williams with a 104-87 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Williams spent his first three seasons with the Kings, helping them reach the playoffs each year. The point guard endeared himself to the fans at Arco Arena with his flashy ballhandling and long-range shooting reminiscent of Pete Maravich. Hedo Turkolglu scored eight of 35 first quarter points, and the Kings never trailed. But Williams ran into trouble on and off the court, earning a suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy and fines for verbally abusing fans in enemy arenas. His suspect defense often landed him on the bench in the fourth quarter. In June, the Kings traded Williams to the Grizzlies for point guard Mike Bibby in a four-player deal. Williams got a fresh start, while the Kings received a steadier floor general. Williams received a pleasant welcome from the sellout crowd of 17,317, who were treated to an acrobatics show by Wallace. The 19-year-old rookie played almost entirely above the rim, which he ratlled with a handful of dunks.

CHISM WILL TAKE ON JOE FORD FOR COMMISSION SEAT

CHISM WILL TAKE ON JOE FORD FOR COMMISSION SEAT

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

Don’t think for a moment that the old Ford-Herenton political wars are over. The main parties -- former congressman Harold Ford St. and Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton -- may be keeping a nominal peace, but you can measure the depth of their continuing struggle by what their key surrogates are up to.

Case in point: Sidney Chism, the ex-Teamster leader who in recent years has been the mayor’s chief political lieutenant, is not content merely to figure as the key strategist in three 2002 political races, two of which are direct contests with Ford choices; he is now determined to take on a Ford himself, head on.

Chism says he intends to oppose former city councilman Joe Ford in the race to succeed the late Dr. James Ford, the well-regarded Shelby County Commission member who died recently from the effects of cancer.

The former councilman, who ran unsuccessfully against Herenton in the city mayor’s race of 1999, is the choice of the Ford family and various others to succeed his brother, and county commissioner Michael Hooks, not necessarily a fulltime Ford ally, pledged at a recent commission meeting to do what he could to get Joe Ford appointed to the seat.

(The commission has advertised the vacancy but has not yet resolved whetheror at what point to appoint someone to succeed Dr. Ford; the position will, in any case, be on the 2002 primary and general election ballots, like all commission seats,and Joe Ford is indeed expected to be a candidate.)

Chism protests that he will be running “for the commission, not against Joe Ford,” but he makes a point of saying, “A seat on the county commission shouldn’t be regarded as an inheritance or the property of a family. We don’t need to be creating -- or sustaining -- any dynasties in Shelby County.”

The confrontation between Chism and Ford, if it comes to pass, will be a major theatre in a combat which already includes the Shelby County mayor’s race and one more commission seat. Chism is backing Bartlett banker Harold Ford for mayor, and former Rep. Ford has indicated through allies and family members that he will offer vigorous support in the Democratic primary to Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, his former college roommate. (A third Democratic candidate is State Representative Carol Chumney.)

Chism is also supporting Deidre Malone in a District 2 commission race against Bridget Chisholm, who was appointed to fill a vacancy last year with strong support from the Ford family. A third Chism-backed candidate, Randy Wade, a Sheriff’s Department official running for sheriff, is not at the moment confronted by an obvious Ford-supported candidate. City councilman E.C. Jones is a candidate in the Democratic primary, however, and former Secret Service agent Henry Hooper ma enter it.

It is uncertain as of yet what role be taken in the various 2002 races by current U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who saw his momentum for a senatorial race in 2000 set back by his involvement in Joe Ford’s losing 1999 mayoral race. The current congressman, whose future horizons are primarily statewide and national, is nevertheless a family loyalist and will doubtless conduct himself accordingly.

Likewise in some doubt is the exact role to be played by Mayor Herenton, who was early on presumed to be in sympathy with Byrd’s candidacy but has also been close to Wharton, who headed up two of his mayoral election efforts. Herenton may find himself forced out of his current position of de facto neutrality by the unexpected twists and turns of a Chism-Joe Ford race.

Saturday, December 15, 2001

POLITICAL UPDATE

POLITICAL UPDATE

Posted By on Sat, Dec 15, 2001 at 4:00 AM

“Things are moving fast now. This mayor’s race is getting a shake-up. It’s kind of like an earthquake.”: That sentiment, expressed Wednesday night by Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, a Democrat and one of the already declared candidates for Shelby County mayor, is, if anything, something of an understatement.

Just within the last 24 hours [editor's note: original post date 12-12-01]all of the following facts became known:

  • Sir Isaac Ford, a 27-year-old and the youngest son of former congressman/powerbroker Harold Ford Sr., filed a petition with the Election Commission to run for mayor as an independent;

  • Ex-Rep. Ford himself hardened plans to throw his entire political weight behind the existing mayoral candidacy of another Democrat, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton;

  • State Representative Larry Scroggs, a Germantown Republican, finalized his own definite plans to run for mayor;

  • Shelby County Commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf insisted that Scroggs’ decision would not deter him from running, thus creating the real possibility of a contested Republican primary.

    Whew!

    The devil, as usual, is in the details. Here, then, are the details, case by case:

  • ISAAC FORD: Young Ford’s completed filing, which occurred less than 24 hours after he picked up his petition on Monday, is the realization of a plan which he had confided two weeks ago, immediately after the funeral of his uncle, the late Shelby County commissioner James Ford. Although it is hard to imagine that his action was completely out of sync with his father’s plans, one of the former congressman’s siblings insisted that the senior Ford, now a political consultant residing mainly in Florida, had not signed off in advance on his son’s action. Isaac Ford himself had said his father thought his run would be a “great idea” and had, said the younger Ford (a brother of current congressman Harold Ford Jr.), bought him five new suits to signify his approval.

    It is rare but not unprecedented for members of the Ford clan to take divergent paths during an election year; in 1994, as one example, State Senator John Ford ran for county mayor without the endorsement of his brother, the then congressman, who supported independent Jack Sammons, then as now a Memphis city councilman, for the position.

    But the former congressman is also a master of elaborately orchestrated scenarios whose purpose does not fully reveal itself until fairly late in the game. One immediate theory of the Isaac Ford candidacy (if it turns out that Ford Sr. did indeed condone it, at least tacitly) is that the former congressman would use his son’s candidacy as a means to force specific concessions from Wharton in return for the withdrawal of Isaac Ford, whose independent candidacy presents the specter of a split in Democratic and African-American ranks that would threaten all Democrats, including Byrd and State Representative Carol Chumney, another candidate, but would impact Wharton most seriously.

    Another theory was that Isaac Ford’s venture is only a shadow candidacy, a temporary one meant to immobilize other possible opposition to Wharton.

    One thing for sure: if there is method to this madness, it is subtle stuff indeed.

  • THE FORD-WHARTON AXIS. Former Representative Ford is not only solidly in the Wharton camp, he has been an active force in lining up endorsements and alliances helpful to the Public Defender. It was he who prevailed on the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, an erstwhile Byrd supporter, to switch sides recently, and the ex-congressman has also called other Democrats partial to the Bartlett-based Democrat, asking them to change over, too. Ford Sr. has promised to make a highly public appearance on Wharton’s behalf in the near future in Memphis and to line up virtually the entire Ford apparatus, once a mighty force in Memphis elections (especially in Democratic primaries) behind Wharton.

    Byrd’s partisans, who once held out hope that the congressman might at least keep neutrality, concede that the ex-congressman will be an active force behind Wharton, Ford’s former college roommate at Tennessee State University, but express a hope that his move will somehow benefit Byrd. “He’ll drive away votes from A C in the white community,” insisted former Teamster leader and current Byrd campaign kingpin Sidney Chism. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

    Other than his former relationship with Wharton and perhaps an honest belief that Wharton would be best for the county, what factors are behind the ex-congressman’s campaign plans? Probably foremost is the fact that the political allies of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, Ford’s historical arch-rival for political leadership, though split somewhat between the candidacies of Byrd and Wharton, are still primarily in the camp of the former -- Chism and lawyer Richard Fields being cases in point. (Another Herenton heavy hitter, Reginald French, is with Wharton.)

  • THE SCROGGS CAMPAIGN: The news that other Republicans (most recently VanderSchaaf and possibly County Trustee Bob Patterson) might enter the mayor’s race served as a stimulus to the Republican establishment that centers on such pillars as incumbent Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout, party chairman Alan Crone, and lawyer John Ryder, a national committeeman whose presence in a campaign is the GOP establishment’s version of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

    Moreover, Scroggs, a serious legislator who has harbored ambitions for higher political office for some time, reflected on the fact that his position as one of the junior House Republicans in the Shelby County delegation (senior only to Paul Stanley) makes him subject to the vagaries of legislative redistricting, a process which will be accomplished during the next few months under Democratic domination and in the wake of census results that call for elimination of one of the county’s seats.

    A scenario agreed upon Tuesday by such GOP stalwarts as Rout, Ryder, and former county Republican chairman David Kustoff calls for the following schedule: an anticipated flattering column about Scroggs in the Sunday Commercial Appeal, one which would reveal his decision to run; a formal announcement of candidacy on December 20th, during which Scroggs will be flanked by former mainline GOP mayoral prospects Bill Gibbons and John Bobango; a $1000-a-head fund-raiser to be held on January 7th, the eve of the 2002 session of the General Assembly, during which Scroggs’ ability to raise funds will be suspended by state law prohibiting legislators from raising money during session.

    Scroggs will faithfully complete the 2002 legislative session, taking advantage of weekends and other breaks to do active campaigning for mayor. Meanwhile he may file some sort of legal challenge to the statute freezing his fundraising ability, and he will avail himself of a loophole in that law that will be activated in the event of a special session (on taxes or whatever) midway in the regular session.

  • VANDERSCHAAF: Not many details here, except that the commissioner says he has received abundant encouragement to run for mayor since news of his intention were made public in The Flyer, and he had no intention to back down gracefully, making the way clear for Scroggs.

    A factor here is that a condition of mutual estrangement exists between VanderSchaaf and members of the GOP establishment. There are several factors accounting for this -- two of them being a history of disagreements with Rout and the anger of several Republicans close to lawyer David Lillard and former deputy Juvenile Court clerk Steve Stamson over VanderSchaaf's role in commission horse-trading that kept Lillard and Stamson from getting to fill vacancies, respectively, on the commission and for the office of Juvenile Court clerk.

    VanderSchaaf is not alone; he could count on allies among other dissident Republicans weary of what they see as the long-term domination of party affairs by an establishment cabal.

    Though VanderSchaaf would have to sacrifice a reelection bid (which is currently opposed by GOP activist Joyce Avery), he may have reached a point in his political career at which he would just as soon shake the pillars of the temple as try to live meekly within it.

    Then again, it may be a simple case of his math telling him he can win.

    Friday, December 14, 2001

    POLITICAL UPDATE

    POLITICAL UPDATE

    Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    ÒThings are moving fast now. This mayorÕs race is getting a shake-up. ItÕs kind of like an earthquake.Ó: That sentiment, expressed Wednesday night by Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, a Democrat and one of the already declared candidates for Shelby County mayor, is, if anything, something of an understatement.

    Just within the last 24 hours [editor's note: original post date 12-12-01]all of the following facts became known:

  • Sir Isaac Ford, a 27-year-old and the youngest son of former congressman/powerbroker Harold Ford Sr., filed a petition with the Election Commission to run for mayor as an independent;

  • Ex-Rep. Ford himself hardened plans to throw his entire political weight behind the existing mayoral candidacy of another Democrat, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton;

  • State Representative Larry Scroggs, a Germantown Republican, finalized his own definite plans to run for mayor;

  • Shelby County Commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf insisted that ScroggsÕ decision would not deter him from running, thus creating the real possibility of a contested Republican primary.

    Whew!

    The devil, as usual, is in the details. Here, then, are the details, case by case:

  • ISAAC FORD: Young FordÕs completed filing, which occurred less than 24 hours after he picked up his petition on Monday, is the realization of a plan which he had confided two weeks ago, immediately after the funeral of his uncle, the late Shelby County commissioner James Ford. Although it is hard to imagine that his action was completely out of sync with his fatherÕs plans, one of the former congressmanÕs siblings insisted that the senior Ford, now a political consultant residing mainly in Florida, had not signed off in advance on his sonÕs action. Isaac Ford himself had said his father thought his run would be a Ògreat ideaÓ and had, said the younger Ford (a brother of current congressman Harold Ford Jr.), bought him five new suits to signify his approval.

    It is rare but not unprecedented for members of the Ford clan to take divergent paths during an election year; in 1994, as one example, State Senator John Ford ran for county mayor without the endorsement of his brother, the then congressman, who supported independent Jack Sammons, then as now a Memphis city councilman, for the position.

    But the former congressman is also a master of elaborately orchestrated scenarios whose purpose does not fully reveal itself until fairly late in the game. One immediate theory of the Isaac Ford candidacy (if it turns out that Ford Sr. did indeed condone it, at least tacitly) is that the former congressman would use his sonÕs candidacy as a means to force specific concessions from Wharton in return for the withdrawal of Isaac Ford, whose independent candidacy presents the specter of a split in Democratic and African-American ranks that would threaten all Democrats, including Byrd and State Representative Carol Chumney, another candidate, but would impact Wharton most seriously.

    Another theory was that Isaac FordÕs venture is only a shadow candidacy, a temporary one meant to immobilize other possible opposition to Wharton.

    One thing for sure: if there is method to this madness, it is subtle stuff indeed.

  • THE FORD-WHARTON AXIS. Former Representative Ford is not only solidly in the Wharton camp, he has been an active force in lining up endorsements and alliances helpful to the Public Defender. It was he who prevailed on the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, an erstwhile Byrd supporter, to switch sides recently, and the ex-congressman has also called other Democrats partial to the Bartlett-based Democrat, asking them to change over, too. Ford Sr. has promised to make a highly public appearance on WhartonÕs behalf in the near future in Memphis and to line up virtually the entire Ford apparatus, once a mighty force in Memphis elections (especially in Democratic primaries) behind Wharton.

    ByrdÕs partisans, who once held out hope that the congressman might at least keep neutrality, concede that the ex-congressman will be an active force behind Wharton, FordÕs former college roommate at Tennessee State University, but express a hope that his move will somehow benefit Byrd. ÒHeÕll drive away votes from A C in the white community,Ó insisted former Teamster leader and current Byrd campaign kingpin Sidney Chism. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

    Other than his former relationship with Wharton and perhaps an honest belief that Wharton would be best for the county, what factors are behind the ex-congressmanÕs campaign plans? Probably foremost is the fact that the political allies of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, FordÕs historical arch-rival for political leadership, though split somewhat between the candidacies of Byrd and Wharton, are still primarily in the camp of the former Ð Chism and lawyer Richard Fields being cases in point. (Another Herenton heavy hitter, Reginald French, is with Wharton.)

  • THE SCROGGS CAMPAIGN: The news that other Republicans (most recently VanderSchaaf and possibly County Trustee Bob Patterson) might enter the mayorÕs race served as a stimulus to the Republican establishment that centers on such pillars as incumbent Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout, party chairman Alan Crone, and lawyer John Ryder, a national committeeman whose presence in a campaign is the GOP establishmentÕs version of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

    Moreover, Scroggs, a serious legislator who has harbored ambitions for higher political office for some time, reflected on the fact that his position as one of the junior House Republicans in the Shelby County delegation (senior only to Paul Stanley) makes him subject to the vagaries of legislative redistricting, a process which will be accomplished during the next few months under Democratic domination and in the wake of census results that call for elimination of one of the countyÕs seats.

    A scenario agreed upon Tuesday by such GOP stalwarts as Rout, Ryder, and former county Republican chairman David Kustoff calls for the following schedule: an anticipated flattering column about Scroggs in the Sunday Commercial Appeal, one which would reveal his decision to run; a formal announcement of candidacy on December 20th, during which Scroggs will be flanked by former mainline GOP mayoral prospects Bill Gibbons and John Bobango; a $1000-a-head fund-raiser to be held on January 7th, the eve of the 2002 session of the General Assembly, during which ScroggsÕ ability to raise funds will be suspended by state law prohibiting legislators from raising money during session.

    Scroggs will faithfully complete the 2002 legislative session, taking advantage of weekends and other breaks to do active campaigning for mayor. Meanwhile he may file some sort of legal challenge to the statute freezing his fundraising ability, and he will avail himself of a loophole in that law that will be activated in the event of a special session (on taxes or whatever) midway in the regular session.

  • VANDERSCHAAF: Not many details here, except that the commissioner says he has received abundant encouragement to run for mayor since news of his intention were made public in The Flyer, and he had no intention to back down gracefully, making the way clear for Scroggs.

    A factor here is that a condition of mutual estrangement exists between VanderSchaaf and members of the GOP establishment. There are several factors accounting for this -- two of them being a history of disagreements with Rout and the anger of several Republicans close to lawyer David Lillard and former deputy Juvenile Court clerk Steve Stamson over VanderSchaaf's role in commission horse-trading that kept Lillard and Stamson from getting to fill vacancies, respectively, on the commission and for the office of Juvenile Court clerk.

    VanderSchaaf is not alone; he could count on allies among other dissident Republicans weary of what they see as the long-term domination of party affairs by an establishment cabal.

    Though VanderSchaaf would have to sacrifice a reelection bid (which is currently opposed by GOP activist Joyce Avery), he may have reached a point in his political career at which he would just as soon shake the pillars of the temple as try to live meekly within it.

    Then again, it may be a simple case of his math telling him he can win.

    Thursday, December 13, 2001

    MAYORAL-FRONT EARTHQUAKE!

    Ford son in, but Dad backs Wharton; Scroggs in, VanderSchaaf too?

    Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    “Things are moving fast now. This mayor’s race is getting a shake-up. It’s kind of like an earthquake.”: That sentiment, expressed Wednesday night by Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, a Democrat and one of the already declared candidates for Shelby County mayor, is, if anything, something of an understatement.

    Just within the last 24 hours all of the following facts became known:

  • Sir Isaac Ford, a 27-year-old and the youngest son of former congressman/powerbroker Harold Ford Sr., filed a petition with the Election Commission to run for mayor as an independent;

  • Ex-Rep. Ford himself hardened plans to throw his entire political weight behind the existing mayoral candidacy of another Democrat, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton;

  • State Representative Larry Scroggs, a Germantown Republican, finalized his own definite plans to run for mayor;

  • Shelby County Commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf insisted that Scroggs’ decision would not deter him from running, thus creating the real possibility of a contested Republican primary.

    Whew!

    The devil, as usual, is in the details. Here, then, are the details, case by case:

  • ISAAC FORD: Young Ford’s completed filing, which occurred less than 24 hours after he picked up his petition on Monday, is the realization of a plan which he had confided two weeks ago, immediately after the funeral of his uncle, the late Shelby County commissioner James Ford. Although it is hard to imagine that his action was completely out of sync with his father’s plans, one of the former congressman’s siblings insisted that the senior Ford, now a political consultant residing mainly in Florida, had not signed off in advance on his son’s action. Isaac Ford himself had said his father thought his run would be a “great idea” and had, said the younger Ford (a brother of current congressman Harold Ford Jr.), bought him five new suits to signify his approval.

    It is rare but not unprecedented for members of the Ford clan to take divergent paths during an election year; in 1994, as one example, State Senator John Ford ran for county mayor without the endorsement of his brother, the then congressman, who supported independent Jack Sammons, then as now a Memphis city councilman, for the position.

    But the former congressman is also a master of elaborately orchestrated scenarios whose purpose does not fully reveal itself until fairly late in the game. One immediate theory of the Isaac Ford candidacy (if it turns out that Ford Sr. did indeed condone it, at least tacitly) is that the former congressman would use his son’s candidacy as a means to force specific concessions from Wharton in return for the withdrawal of Isaac Ford, whose independent candidacy presents the specter of a split in Democratic and African-American ranks that would threaten all Democrats, including Byrd and State Representative Carol Chumney, another candidate, but would impact Wharton most seriously.

    Another theory was that Isaac Ford’s venture is only a shadow candidacy, a temporary one meant to immobilize other possible opposition to Wharton.

    One thing for sure: if there is method to this madness, it is subtle stuff indeed.

  • THE FORD-WHARTON AXIS. Former Representative Ford is not only solidly in the Wharton camp, he has been an active force in lining up endorsements and alliances helpful to the Public Defender. It was he who prevailed on the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, an erstwhile Byrd supporter, to switch sides recently, and the ex-congressman has also called other Democrats partial to the Bartlett-based Democrat, asking them to change over, too. Ford Sr. has promised to make a highly public appearance on Wharton’s behalf in the near future in Memphis and to line up virtually the entire Ford apparatus, once a mighty force in Memphis elections (especially in Democratic primaries) behind Wharton.

    Byrd’s partisans, who once held out hope that the congressman might at least keep neutrality, concede that the ex-congressman will be an active force behind Wharton, Ford’s former college roommate at Tennessee State University, but express a hope that his move will somehow benefit Byrd. “He’ll drive away votes from A C in the white community,” insisted former Teamster leader and current Byrd campaign kingpin Sidney Chism. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

    Other than his former relationship with Wharton and perhaps an honest belief that Wharton would be best for the county, what factors are behind the ex-congressman’s campaign plans? Probably foremost is the fact that the political allies of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, Ford’s historical arch-rival for political leadership, though split somewhat between the candidacies of Byrd and Wharton, are still primarily in the camp of the former-- Chism and lawyer Richard Fields being cases in point. (Another Herenton heavy hitter, Reginald French, is with Wharton.)

  • THE SCROGGS CAMPAIGN: The news that other Republicans (most recently VanderSchaaf and possibly County Trustee Bob Patterson) might enter the mayor’s race served as a stimulus to the Republican establishment that centers on such pillars as incumbent Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout, party chairman Alan Crone, and lawyer John Ryder, a national committeeman whose presence in a campaign is the GOP establishment’s version of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

    Moreover, Scroggs, a serious legislator who has harbored ambitions for higher political office for some time, reflected on the fact that his position as the junior House Republican in the Shelby County delegation made him likely to be the sacrificial victim during legislative redistricting, a process which will be accomplished during the next few months under Democratic domination and in the wake of census results that call for elimination of one of the county’s seats. Scroggs would seem to be odd man out.

    A scenario agreed upon Tuesday by such GOP stalwarts as Rout, Ryder, and former county Republican chairman David Kustoff calls for the following schedule: an anticipated flattering column about Scroggs in the Sunday Commercial Appeal, one which would reveal his decision to run; a formal announcement of candidacy on December 20th, during which Scroggs will be flanked by former mainline GOP mayoral prospects Bill Gibbons and John Bobango; a $1000-a-head fund-raiser to be held on January 7th, the eve of the 2002 session of the General Assembly, during which Scroggs’ ability to raise funds will be suspended by state law prohibiting legislators from raising money during session.

    Scroggs will faithfully complete the 2002 legislative session, taking advantage of weekends and other breaks to do active campaigning for mayor. Meanwhile he may file some sort of legal challenge to the statute freezing his fundraising ability, and he will avail himself of a loophole in that law that will be activated in the event of a special session (on taxes or whatever) midway in the regular session.

  • VANDERSCHAAF: Not many details here, except that the commissioner says he has received abundant encouragement to run for mayor since news of his intention were made public in The Flyer, and he had no intention to back down gracefully, making the way clear for Scroggs.

    A factor here is that a condition of mutual estrangement exists between VanderSchaaf and members of the GOP establishment. There are several factors accounting for this -- two of them being a history of disagreements with Rout and the anger of several Republicans close to lawyer David Lillard and former deputy Juvenile Court clerk Steve Stamson over VanderSchaaf's role in commission horse-trading that kept Lillard and Stamson from getting to fill vacancies, respectively, on the commission and for the office of Juvenile Court clerk.

    VanderSchaaf is not alone; he could count on allies among other dissident Republicans weary of what they see as the long-term domination of party affairs by an establishment cabal.

    Though VanderSchaaf would have to sacrifice a reelection bid (which is currently opposed by GOP activist Joyce Avery), he may have reached a point in his political career at which he would just as soon shake the pillars of the temple as try to live meekly within it.

    Then again, it may be a simple case of his math telling him he can win.

    Hick? Clair? Isaac!?

    Where is Lewis Carroll when you need him? The mayoral-wannabe list gets surreal.

    Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Anybody who thought the ongoing Shelby County mayor's race was going to be a cut-and-dried affair can think again. But accept this fair warning: To even think about what comes next could induce a psychedelic episode.

    There are three new prospective candidates, for one thing, and one of them is named Ford. Sir Isaac Ford! Yes, that's his real name, and yes, this is yet another son of former congressman, now political consultant Harold Ford Sr. Sir Isaac (who will answer to just plain Isaac) is not to be confused with brother Harold Ford Jr., the current 9th District congressman, or with brother Jake Ford (though he often is mistaken for the latter).

    Isaac Ford is all of 27 years old, works for his dad, and has never really figured in politics before. For those with medium-sized memories, yes, it was middle son Jake who first talked up the idea of running for mayor a month or so ago. Youngest son Isaac vented the idea during the series of events connected with the funeral, weekend before last, of his uncle, County Commissioner James Ford, who received extraordinary (and well-deserved) homage across the political boards.

    "Dad thought it was a great idea," young Isaac said at the time. "He bought me five new suits when I told him about it."

    It was possible to imagine that Isaac was joking. But the fact is: He pulled a petition at the Election Commission Monday to run as an independent in the mayor's race.

    Much still remains before Isaac Ford can become a bona fide candidate for mayor. His gesture may or may not (bet on the latter) be consummated. Meanwhile, what method is there in what appears to be madness?

    The answer can best be divined from the fact that supporters of Shelby County public defender AC Wharton seem the most concerned about this latest turn of events (as they had previously seemed most worried about Jake Ford's thinking out loud).

    Wharton, one of three active Democratic candidates (the others are Bartlett banker Harold Byrd and state Representative Carol Chumney), is a former roommate of Harold Ford Sr.'s at Tennessee State University, and he has always been friendly with the former congressman/power broker (as indeed he is with most people). But he was campaign manager twice for Ford's on-again, off-again political rival, Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, and conjecture has it that "the son also rises" ploy involving Isaac Ford is a signal from the Ford camp to the Wharton camp, the message being: 'Before you start thinking you'll have a free run (assuming Wharton gets the Democratic nomination and the Republicans nominate a less-than-major candidate), be careful you don't do to us what Willie did.

    What the Ford people think Herenton did was cut them out of the loop as soon as they had helped him win the 1991 mayor's race with a razor-thin majority.

    No one can seriously think that Isaac Ford could be elected mayor as an independent or as anything else. But the Fords still maintain a formidable corps of supporters in city politics, and the mere existence of a family member on the ballot might mean enough of a split vote as to defeat Wharton in a three-way general-election race.

    In other words, one interpretation of what would otherwise be inexplicable is that the political Fords desire certain reassurances (perhaps they would want them of Byrd and Chumney, too).

    Be certain: Conversations will be had in inner-city political circles this week.

    · And now, your attention to another ring of the circus, ladies and gentleman: It begins to look like Shelby County is updating the old (1975-vintage) Saturday Night Live running joke which featured ever more outrageous weekly updates on the condition of a Generalissimo Francisco Franco who lay in his sickbed and took forever to die.

    Our local version has to do with the county Republican Party's struggle to find a mainstream candidate willing to run for Shelby County mayor.

    As reported last week, some Republicans have been courting former Whitewater assistant prosecutor (and former U.S. Attorney) Hickman Ewing Jr. to fill the GOP's place on the ballot. Latest word is that the initiative, which began in the party's conservative wing, has floated by now into the Republican mainstream, and that major GOP officeholders are actively trying to persuade Ewing to make the race. He hasn't said yes yet, but he hasn't said no, either.

    Now, ready for the newest GOP name? Clair VanderSchaaf! So at first you smiled, then as you thought about it, it got more and more serious, right? Join the club.

    The long-term Shelby County Commissioner, who is somewhere around the age of 60 but looks maybe 15 years younger (check out that new spiked hairdo of his), has name recognition, for one thing. And never mind if some of it has to do with some madcap interludes. (We all remember that endlessly run Channel 24 video of VanderSchaaf standing by a roadside while a sheriff's deputy checked him for intoxication. A DUI charge was the result.)

    VanderSchaaf, a megadeveloper, has had his serious moments of the positive sort, too. And owns the kind of charm that makes it difficult to stay mad at him. Just ask his ex-wife, Memphis city council member Pat VanderSchaaf, a consistent supporter. (And vice versa, thank you.) Don't necessarily ask outgoing county mayor Jim Rout, though, who's had X number of policy run-ins with VanderSchaaf. And especially don't ask the mainstream GOP faction which is supporting former deputy Juvenile Court clerk Steve Stamson against incumbent Democrat Shep Wilbun next year.

    There are a lot of Republicans in Shelby County who hold it against VanderSchaaf bigtime that he voted with the commission's Democrats at the tag end of 2000 to elect fellow developer Tom Moss (instead of lawyer David Lillard) to fill a commission vacancy. Immediately thereafter Moss joined with the Democrats to put Wilbun over to fill another vacancy, that for Juvenile Court clerk.

    VanderSchaaf himself voted with the rest of the Republicans for Stamson, who finished one vote short. Stamson's supporters were not mollified by the gesture, and Lillard's backers – many of whom were the same people as Stamson's --were even less pleased. Hence, the current candidacy of Republican activist Joyce Avery in the GOP primary to oppose VanderSchaaf for reelection to his commission seat.

    Of course, if he runs for mayor, he won't be defending the commission seat. And, perversely enough, he might even have the support of some of the folks who may be mad at him now but who are such true-blue Republicans that they'd be grateful to VanderSchaaf for making the party look at least nominally competitive against whichever candidate -- Byrd, Wharton, or Chumney -- emerges from the Democratic primary.

    "The numbers are there," insists VanderSchaaf, who gives himself until the end of the year to make a decision about running. He knows, presumably, that there is a streak in humankind that warms to the regenerated self in public affairs. Call it the Henry IV Syndrome, after the redoubtable English monarch who transformed himself from the wastrel Prince Hal, who -- as Shakespeare demonstrated dramatically -- chose to "redeem time when men least think I will."

    Meanwhile, two other Republicans, state Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown and Memphis radiologist/radio magnate George Flinn haven't formally renounced a mayor's race.

    So for a little while anyway, the GOP can pretend it has an embarrassment of riches as the party, which called itself the county's majority party after an electoral landslide in 1994, tries to decide if it's even up to competing with the Democrats in the demographically altered 21st century.

    · Before Wharton gets into the possible general-election quandary indicated above, by the way, he must still wage what is likely to be an intense and highly competitive campaign to get the nomination. And there's a challenge confronting him even before that takes place.

    Last week, the executive committee of the Shelby County Democratic Party once again tabled a resolution from member Bill Larsha that would have the effect of forcing Wharton out of the primary. Larsha, a Byrd partisan, proposes that the committee reserve for itself the right to consider the credentials of possible primary contestants, based upon their involvement with Republican causes.

    The Byrd camp (which is taking no active role per se in pushing the resolution) has long insisted that Wharton's Democratic persona is sullied by the fact that a generous number of allies of GOP incumbent Mayor Rout are supporting the public defender's candidacy. And they cite a Wharton statement made some months ago praising Rout's performance and professing himself open to the mayor's support. (For the record, Rout is directly involved in the ongoing hunt for a GOP candidate.)

    Byrd partisans Larsha and Jerry Hall spoke for the resolution at last Thursday night's meeting at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall on Madison. Wharton advocate Percy Harvey countered that the party, by formally requesting a primary, has implicitly agreed to resolve questions of party legitimacy that way, at the ballot box.

    In the end, no vote was taken, but another try will be made in January. Meanwhile, Larsha has been named chairman of a credentials committee. "They just put the fox in charge of the chicken coop," he said after last week's meeting, wearing a wicked grin. ·

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