Wednesday, December 12, 2001

HICK? CLAIR? ISAAC?!

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

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 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, nor 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 such 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 A C 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 RepresentativeCarol Chumney) is a former roommate of Harold Ford Sr.'s at Tennessee State Univerity, 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). ElseÉ. 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 PartyÕs 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 mainsstream, and that major GOP office-holders 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 Chanel 24 video of VanderSchaaf standing by a roadside while a sheriffÕs deputy checked him for intoxication. A DUI charge was the result.). VanderSchaaf, a mega-developer, 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.) DonÕt necessarily ask outgoing county mayor Jim Rout, though, whoÕs had X number of policy run-ins with VanderSchaaf. And especially donÕt 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 commissionÕs 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. StamsonÕs supporters were not mollified by the gesture, and LillardÕs backers Ð many of whom were the same people as StamsonÕs Ñwere 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 wonÕt be defending the commission seat. And, perversely enough, he might even have the support of some of the folks who have a mad on at him now but who are such true-blue Republicans that theyÕd 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. ÒThe numbers are there,Ó 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 if 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 havenÕt formally renounced a mayorÕs race. So for a little while anyway, the GOP can pretend it has an embarassment of riches and not merely an embarrassment as the party which called itself the countyÕs majority party after an electoral landslide in 1994 tries to decide if itÕs 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 ahgreed 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.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2001

    THERE'S A NEW GOP MAYORAL HOPE. GUESS WHO...

    THERE'S A NEW GOP MAYORAL HOPE. GUESS WHO...

    Posted By on Tue, Dec 11, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Okay, okay, it begins to look like Shelby County’s version of 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 never-ending struggle to find a mainstream candidate willing to run for Shelby County mayor. Ready for the newest 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 part of it has to do with some madcap interludes (we all remember that endlessly run Chanel 24 video of VanderSchaaf standing by a roadside while a sheriff’s deputy checked him for intoxication). VanderSchaaf, a mega-developer, has had his serious moments, 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 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 have a mad on 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 -- Harold Byrd, A C Wharton, or Carol 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 if 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 and not merely an embarrassment 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.

    Monday, December 10, 2001

    FIREARMS ADVOCATES TARGET BROOKS

    FIREARMS ADVOCATES TARGET BROOKS

    Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    State Rep.Henri Brooks (D-Memphis), whose earnestly pursued legislative crusades have made her an isolated figure in the General Assembly, will have some company in her reelection race next year if a Memphis-area member of the Tennessee Firearms Association has anything to say about it.

    David Waldrip, along with a colleague from the Association, attended Thursday night’s meeting of the executive committee of the Shelby County Democratic Party at the IBEW union building on Madison Avenue, to plead the case against Brooks, whom he described as an opponent of “the right to keep and bear arms.”

    Waldrip then said he hopes to be able to recruit an opponent for Brooks from among the ranks of local Democrats.

    To the mounting amusement of other committee members, the following dialogue then ensued between Waldrip and Bill Larsha, an executive committee member:

    Larsha: “You folks are Republicans, aren’t you?”

    Waldrip: “We’re bipartisan.”

    Larsha: “You give a lot of money in the way of contributions, don’t you?”

    Waldrip: “We do make a lot of contributions, yes.”

    Larhsa: “Well, we’re open.”

    In fact, Democrats as a rule have not been as open to appeals from Second Amendment groups as have Republicans, but that may change Ð especially as some Democrats are quite aware (as former state party chairman Doug Horne pointed out in his farewell message earlier this year) that active or passive support for gun control hurt party candidates in Tennessee from Al Gore on down.

    In fact, also, an opponent for Brooks may already exist in the person of one Damita Swearengen, member of a locally prominent African-American family, though Brooks’ position on firearms has not figured as a reason.

    Brooks won her seat in 1992 from former Representative Alvin King, who had alienated some of his base by his support of former Mayor Dick Hackett against then challenger (and now mayor) Willie Herenton in the 1991 Memphis mayor’s race.

    From the time Brooks entered the legislature, she seemed oblivious to the go-along-to-get-along protocols that have long governed relationships in the General Assembly. She took revisionist positions on a number of matters, ranging from policy questions to the way in which female members should be addressed. (Almost unnoticed during her tenure, the form of address has metamorphosized from “Lady.So-and-so” to “Representative So-and-So.”) Last spring, she got on the wrong side of House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (and much of the public) when she conspicuously declined to rise during the chamber’s daily morning recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

    And she may now have run afoul of the head of the other legislative body, Lt. Governor John Wilder (D-Somerville), who presides over the Senate. A witness on behalf of her resolution to study compensation for victims of slavery made accusations this week against Wilder’s family, alleging to a House committee that the Wilders of Fayette County had stolen land from blacks well over a century ago, a circumstance allegedly resulting in the Senate Speaker’s wealth today.

    In all fairness, there is no evidence yet that Brooks has associated herself with such accusations, but frontal assaults of that sort are characteristic of her. As one local wag has put it, “Henri was so dedicated to being a legislator and making sweeping changes that she skipped charm school altogether.”

    What has failed to endear her to the gun lobby, of course, is her continued sponsorship of a measure to mandate the equipping of handguns with safety devices and lock combinations that would prevent anyone but the firearm's owner from using it.

    "Obviously, if you have to deal with an unexpected intruder, you would see a crucial delay in your reaction time," says Waldrip, who now waits to see what the reaction is to his invitation for someone to become a challenger to Rep. Brooks.

    Sunday, December 9, 2001

    FIREARMS ADVOCATES TARGET BROOKS

    FIREARMS ADVOCATES TARGET BROOKS

    Posted By on Sun, Dec 9, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    State Rep.Henri Brooks (D-Memphis), whose earnestly pursued legislative crusades have made her an isolated figure in the General Assembly, will have some company in her reelection race next year if a Memphis-area member of the Tennessee Firearms Association has anything to say about it.

    David Waldrip, along with a colleague from the Association, attended Thursday night’s meeting of the executive committee of the Shelby County Democratic Party at the IBEW union building on Madison Avenue, to plead the case against Brooks, whom he described as an opponent of “the right to keep and bear arms.”

    Waldrip then said he hopes to be able to recruit an opponent for Brooks from among the ranks of local Democrats.

    To the mounting amusement of other committee members, the following dialogue then ensued between Waldrip and Bill Larsha, an executive committee member:

    Larsha: “You folks are Republicans, aren’t you?”

    Waldrip: “We’re bipartisan.”

    Larsha: “You give a lot of money in the way of contributions, don’t you?”

    Waldrip: “We do make a lot of contributions, yes.”

    Larhsa: “Well, we’re open.”

    In fact, Democrats as a rule have not been as open to appeals from Second Amendment groups as have Republicans, but that may change Ð especially as some Democrats are quite aware (as former state party chairman Doug Horne pointed out in his farewell message earlier this year) that active or passive support for gun control hurt party candidates in Tennessee from Al Gore on down.

    In fact, also, an opponent for Brooks may already exist in the person of one Damita Swearengen, member of a locally prominent African-American family, though Brooks’ position on firearms has not figured as a reason.

    Brooks won her seat in 1992 from former Representative Alvin King, who had alienated some of his base by his support of former Mayor Dick Hackett against then challenger (and now mayor) Willie Herenton in the 1991 Memphis mayor’s race.

    From the time Brooks entered the legislature, she seemed oblivious to the go-along-to-get-along protocols that have long governed relationships in the General Assembly. She took revisionist positions on a number of matters, ranging from policy questions to the way in which female members should be addressed. (Almost unnoticed during her tenure, the form of address has metamorphosized from “Lady.So-and-so” to “Representative So-and-So.”) Last spring, she got on the wrong side of House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (and much of the public) when she conspicuously declined to rise during the chamber’s daily morning recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

    And she may now have run afoul of the head of the other legislative body, Lt. Governor John Wilder (D-Somerville), who presides over the Senate. A witness on behalf of her resolution to study compensation for victims of slavery made accusations this week against Wilder’s family, alleging to a House committee that the Wilders of Fayette County had stolen land from blacks well over a century ago, a circumstance allegedly resulting in the Senate Speaker’s wealth today.

    In all fairness, there is no evidence yet that Brooks has associated herself with such accusations, but frontal assaults of that sort are characteristic of her. As one local wag has put it, “Henri was so dedicated to being a legislator and making sweeping changes that she skipped charm school altogether.”

    What has failed to endear her to the gun lobby, of course, is her continued sponsorship of a measure to mandate the equipping of handguns with safety devices and lock combinations that would prevent anyone but the firearm's owner from using it.

    "Obviously, if you have to deal with an unexpected intruder, you would see a crucial delay in your reaction time," says Waldrip, who now waits to see what the reaction is to his invitation for someone to become a challenger to Rep. Brooks.

    Saturday, December 8, 2001

    EXPERIENCED WOMACK VOWS TO BE A SURVIVOR

    EXPERIENCED WOMACK VOWS TO BE A SURVIVOR

    Posted By on Sat, Dec 8, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    Former state Education Commissioner Jane Walters, who may be remembered by some Tennesseans for shedding tears while testifying to the legislature about the perils awaiting a financially starved educational infrastructure, felt some more vicarious pain Thursday night at a meet-and-greet which she hosted at her Memphis townhouse for gubernatorial candidate Andy Womack.

    Recalling the difficulties which her former boss, Governor Don Sundquist, has experienced with the General Assembly. Walters recalled, shaking her head mournfully, “I saw what that did to him. He didn’t know how to deal with that legislature.” She went on to declare that the members of the legislature had become “so distrustful” in these fractious, fiscally challenged times that “only someone with legislative experience” is capable of reaching them.

    The someone she had in mind, of course, was Womack, the former state senator from Murfreesboro, who hails from a family of educators and was known in the General Assembly as an advocate for educational causes. Womack gladly embraces the support of educators in his current campaign for governor and said at Walters’ event that he’d be happy to be represented to the public by the people gathered in her cramped living room.

    The fact is, however, that the genial Vietnam War vet lacks either the judgmentalism that is so often the occupational vice of professional educators (and their detractors) or the desire, on this or other issues, to be confined to the narrow precincts of the permanently wise.

    On the former score, Womack has declined to follow the lead of two other Democratic candidates in their attacks on the perceived party frontrunner, former Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen; on the latter, he made it clear in Memphis, as he has elsewhere, that his outlook is increasingly moving beyond purely educational issues to encompass larger economic ones.

    Womack is especially concerned, as he had said earlier at a luncheon meeting held in the working-class Frayser area of Memphis, that the state is not only losing quality jobs but that the “replacement jobs,” when and if these come, are less well-paying and have a more meager economic impact on the host community.

    “We don’t have time for a vision that’s three or five years long,” Womack said at Walter’s townhouse concerning the need for action on the economic front. He stressed the need to provide support for “existing industry and small business” in addition to the standard preoccupations of attracting large new industries to Tennessee.

    Similarly, he had noted at the luncheon meeting that, pending the development of sweeping new approaches to revenue at a time when the legislature is “resistant” to tax reform, there are ways of achieving results within existing formats. Teacher pay raises, for example, could be partly achieved in a de facto way by exempting teachers from contributions to their own pension funds-- a consideration already granted state employees.

    As for Womack’s own financial future, he professed optimism Thursday that, when the first candidate financial disclosures are called for in January, the record will show his receipts to be far and above those of Knoxville District Attorney Randy Nichols and former Education Commissioner Charles Smith. He expects to be the survivor of an informal round robin among the three candidates to determine who will become the foremost primary challenger to Bredesen.

    How much will that take in the primary? “Two million dollars,” Andy Womack says, and he promises to have it.

    He has put his money where his mouth is in at least one visible way, establishing the first gubernatorial field office in Shelby County with a paid staffer, the energetic and capable Jeff Sullivan, who had previously toiled in the now abandoned campaign for Shelby County mayor of Womack’s former colleague, State Senator Jim Kyle of Memphis. When Kyle, facing strong opposition and the annual General Assembly curtailment of fundraising, dropped out, Sullivan shopped himself around. Womack was the only candidate able (or willing) to punch his ticket.

    Friday, December 7, 2001

    Still Looking

    That describes the Shelby County GOP in its search for a mayoral candidate.

    Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2001 at 4:00 AM

    The Shelby County Republican Party hierarchy has not given up trying to call the shots on a hand-selected nominee for Shelby County mayor.

    After virtually every big name in the GOP has so far turned down chairman Alan Crone and his local helpers, their last hopes are being invested in state Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown, who has so far proved receptive to the blandishments of Crone and company.

    If Scroggs says no, the party nominee is likely to be radio magnate/radiologist George Flinn, who has been trying hard to get party sanction for a run.

    Scroggs, who is heavily involved in pending TennCare legislation and journeyed to Nashville this week for a committee meeting on the state-run insurance system, is faced with a situation superficially similar to that of state Representative Carol Chumney, who is running for county mayor in the Democratic primary. But his choices are more limited than hers.

    Chumney is in a position to hazard her mayoral race while preserving her options to run for reelection to her House seat. The deadline for filing a petition at the Election Commission to run for the state legislature is April 4th. The primary date for the mayoral and other local county races is May 7th. There is no reason why Chumney could not, for that intervening month, be an official candidate for both positions. (Serving in both positions would be another matter!)

    If the Midtown legislator should lose her mayoral bid in a primary race that currently includes such stout opponents as Bartlett banker Harold Byrd and Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, she could shift into a legislative reelection race without too much loss of momentum.

    Scroggs would not have such an option. The very premise of his possible candidacy is that, as a candidate, he would have such support -- organizational and financial -- from the local Republican establishment as to virtually guarantee his victory in the GOP primary. That's the good news for Scroggs. The bad news is that he would, ipso facto, have to give up his legislative race.

    Since victory, to say the least, would by no means be certain over the Democratic mayoral nominee, lawyer Scroggs might find himself in the position of having to sacrifice a public career he began fairly late in life and for which he has already garnered considerable respect.

    "I'm serious about running, but I have to be very sure that's what I want to do before I make a commitment," said Scroggs, who promised a decision on the mayor's race by the weekend.

    Another factor in Scroggs' decision is that he can't count on an exit from Flinn, who insisted this week that he intends to run whatever Scroggs or any other potential Republican candidate with establishment backing might do.

    Flinn wouldn't be doing it totally by the seat of his pants (the pockets of which, it should be said, are well stuffed with money earned either from the ultrasound pioneer's patents or from the proceeds of his several Memphis-area radio stations). He'll have help from former legislator and county commissioner Ed Williams, a veteran of Republican politics who is serving just now in the more or less informal and honorific post of Shelby County historian.

    * Several Republican conservatives still haven't given up on persuading former U.S. Attorney Hickman Ewing Jr., now back in Shelby County after years of serving in Arkansas as an aide to Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr, to run as a Republican candidate for county mayor.

    * Even as Wharton was staging his long-awaited first public fund-raiser last Thursday night at the Racquet Club, he was welcoming at least one high-profile defector from Byrd's campaign.

    This was the Rev. Billy Samuel Kyles of Monumental Baptist Church, an influential African-American cleric known from his friendship with the late Dr. Martin Luther King. Kyles was prominent in earlier stages of the current mayoral campaign as a listed supporter and co-sponsor of Byrd's campaign.

    "There's another one coming right around the bend," claimed a supporter of Wharton's about the likelihood of another prominent black defection.

    Byrd took the loss in stride. "I know there are going to be people who come under pressure to make some kind of change. I expect, in fact, there'll be some back-and-forth here and there between now and election day. I'm happy with the support I have, which is increasing -- not decreasing -- in both the African-American and the white communities."

    Maxine Smith
    Indeed, one of Byrd's key supporters is civil rights legend Maxine Smith, the former school board member and NAACP head, who proclaimed her continued fervor for Byrd in the wake of Kyles' change of venue. "This is not some overnight choice I've made," she said. "I'm super-positive for Harold."

    And Byrd got two more backers from the African-American community: the Revs. Kenneth Whalum Jr. and Sr., the former of whom endorsed Byrd from the pulpit of Olivet Baptist church.

    * Wharton's fund-raiser was a well-attended affair, which his backers said raised something in the $300,000 range.

    The business support on hand proved reasonably wide and impressive (including well-known Republican consultant Mike Carpenter, who was there, he said, in his role as director of the state Association of Builders and Contractors).

    Among the Democratic supporters present were state Senator Steve Cohen, former Democratic chairman David Cocke, and members of the political Hooks and Bailey families.

    TV judge Joe Brown, clad in baseball cap and leather jacket, introduced Wharton, who spoke with his usual smooth aplomb.

    Best line of the evening was from Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey, the stoutest governmental opponent last spring of the commision/city council package that added public money to the NBA Grizzlies' kitty to attract them here.

    Said Bailey, after admitting he'd attended three Grizzlies games: "I rooted for them all three times, just as I'm rooting for Duncan Ragsdale to beat 'em in court."

    * Mayoral candidate Chumney pulled off something of a coup recently, getting the formal endorsement of the Memphis/Shelby County Women's Political Caucus. She continues to run hard, so far with a series of neighborhood gatherings rather than the high-profile public affairs of Wharton and Byrd (who had a fund-raiser scheduled this week at the home of lawyer Leslie Ballin).

    * Shelby County Republicans may have had a hard time coming up with a candidate for county mayor. They've had little trouble finding people willing to run for sheriff. Mark Luttrell, director of the county Corrections Division, swelled the ranks of GOP candidates to four this week with a formal announcement Tuesday at the Ridgeway Inn on Poplar.

    Luttrell made it clear he intends to feature the county-jail mess in his campaign. Pointing out that Shelby County had spent almost $5 million in the last decade in various legal expenses stemming from suits and judicial judgments concerning the jail, Luttrell said it was clear that the federal judiciary, members of which have levied a number of court orders against the county and mandated outside consultants for the jail, "don't trust the people running the department."

    Other Republicans running for sheriff are Don Wright, the current chief deputy, whom Luttrell called "the de facto mayor," and departmental administrators Bobby Simmons and Mike Jewell (each of whom is running as an outsider within the department).

    Tuesday, December 4, 2001

    POLITICAL NOTES

    POLITICAL NOTES

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

  • The Shelby County Republican Party hierarchy has not given up trying to call the shots on a hand-selected nominee for Shelby County mayor. After virtually every big name in the GOP has so far turned down chairman Alan Crone and his local helpers, their last hopes are being invested in State Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown,who has so far proved receptive to the blandishments of Crone and company.

    If Scroggs says no, the party nominee is likely to be radio magnate/radiologist George Flinn, who has been trying hard to get party sanction for a run.

  • The long-anticipated opening fundraiser for the county mayoral campaign of Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton took place Thursday night at The Racquet Club and went off more or less as foreseen.

    Wharton's business support proved reasonably wide and impressive (including well-known Republican consultant Mike Carpenter, who was there, however, in his role as director of the state Association of Builders and Contractors), and Democrat Wharton's receipts were being estimated by his main men as being in the $300,000 range.

    There were few real surprises among those present, however, especially among the pols who turned up -- most of whom (e.g., State Senator Steve Cohen, former Dem chairman David Cocke, assorted members of the Hooks family)-- had been ID'd previously as Wharton supporters.

    TV judge Joe Brown, clad in baseball cap and leather jacket, introduced Wharton, who spoke with his usual smooth aplomb.

    Best line of the evening was from Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey, the stoutest governmental opponent last spring of the commision-city council package that added public money to the NBA Grizzlies' kitty to attract them here.

    Said Bailey, after admitting he'd attended three Grizzly games: "I rooted for them all three times, just as I'm rooting for Duncan Ragsdale to beat 'em in court."

    (Lawyer Ragsdale has appeal litigation pending challenging the Grizzlies' deal.)

    Sunday, December 2, 2001

    POLITICAL NOTES

    POLITICAL NOTES

    Posted By on Sun, Dec 2, 2001 at 4:00 AM

  • The Shelby County Republican Party hierarchy has not given up trying to call the shots on a hand-selected nominee for Shelby County mayor. After virtually every big name in the GOP has so far turned down chairman Alan Crone and his local helpers, their last hopes are being invested in State Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown,who has so far proved receptive to the blandishments of Crone and company.

    If Scroggs says no, the party nominee is likely to be radio magnate/radiologist George Flinn, who has been trying hard to get party sanction for a run.

  • The long-anticipated opening fundraiser for the county mayoral campaign of Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton took place Thursday night at The Racquet Club and went off more or less as foreseen.

    Wharton's business support proved reasonably wide and impressive (including well-known Republican consultant Mike Carpenter, who was there, however, in his role as director of the state Association of Builders and Contractors), and Democrat Wharton's receipts were being estimated by his main men as being in the $300,000 range.

    There were few real surprises among those present, however, especially among the pols who turned up -- most of whom (e.g., State Senator Steve Cohen, former Dem chairman David Cocke, assorted members of the Hooks family)-- had been ID'd previously as Wharton supporters.

    TV judge Joe Brown, clad in baseball cap and leather jacket, introduced Wharton, who spoke with his usual smooth aplomb.

    Best line of the evening was from Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey, the stoutest governmental opponent last spring of the commision-city council package that added public money to the NBA Grizzlies' kitty to attract them here.

    Said Bailey, after admitting he'd attended three Grizzly games: "I rooted for them all three times, just as I'm rooting for Duncan Ragsdale to beat 'em in court."

    (Lawyer Ragsdale has appeal litigation pending challenging the Grizzlies' deal.)

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