Saturday, March 9, 2002

BRYANT IN? WHITE HOUSE MIGHT BOOST ALEXANDER

BRYANT IN? WHITE HOUSE MIGHT BOOST ALEXANDER

Posted By on Sat, Mar 9, 2002 at 4:00 AM

SATURDAY UPDATE: UNCONFIRMED NEWS REPORTS FROM HENDERSON INDICATE BRYANT MAY BE A CANDIDATE ALREADY -- UNCONDITIONALLY.)

(Previously posted Friday):Amid growing indications that former Governor Lamar Alexander will be a candidate for the pivotal U.S. Senate seat that Fred Thompson announced Friday he would be vacating, two other Republicans were ready to go.

One known contender is 7th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, who has eyed the seat for years and had let it be known a year ago, before Thompson’s temporary decision to run again, that he would compete for the Senate seat even if Alexander also pursued it.

That is still the case, as Bryant’s circle and the congressman himself made a point of indicating all day Friday. At the Madison County Republican party Lincoln Day dinner in Jackson, where Bryant introduced keynote speaker Thompson Friday night, that point was reinforced. But there was a caveat.

“I’m definitely running,” Bryant said, adding after a subtle pause, “if it’s an open race.” He defined that as being a contest in which “the White House” did not intervene on behalf of someone else -- namely, Alexander. Bryant said Tennessee’s other Senator, Bill Frist, had made it clear to him that, as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he would not attempt to single out Alexander as a preferred candidate.

In the increasingly unlikely event that Alexander does not run, Bryant will have a rival on the primary trail: former state Republican chairman Chip Saltsman, who, before Thompson’s announcement of a year ago, had been prepared to compete for the nomination with Bryant.

Saltsman, however, would not run against Alexander, whether or not the former governor had the imprimatur of George W. Bush's White House.

FORD JR. TAKES LEAD AMONG DEMS IN EYEING RACE

FORD JR. TAKES LEAD AMONG DEMS IN EYEING RACE

Posted By on Sat, Mar 9, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Even as firm battle lines were being drawn in Republican ranks on the matter of a successor to U.S. Senator Fred Thompson [see separate story], thing were somewhat fuzzier with Tennessee Democrats.

Most speculation centered on the state's Democratic congressmen, however, and one of them -- 9th District Rep. Harold Ford Jr. spent Friday and Saturday calling influential Democrats and sounding them out about his making a race for the Senate this year.

One of those called was Mayor Willie Herenton, who reportedly said he would be willing to support the most celebrated current member of a political family, the Fords of Memphis, with whom he has had a running feud.

Even if so, however, that did not resolve the question of what would happen to the 9th District congressional seat currently held by Ford. Would the Fords try to retain it with a family member -- say, Jake Ford, brother of the current congressman? Or would Herenton bend his efforts toward capturing the seat for one of his proteges, like lawyer Rickey Willkins?

Would, for that matter, well regarded Democrats like Blue Cross/Blue Shield executive Calvin Anderson be tempted to run?

How dependent are long-term family fortunes -- including those of former congressman Harold Ford Sr., now a highly paid consultant -- on possession of the 9th District seat as a secure power base?

Of course, Ford may not run after all, but the number and intensity of his phone calls the last two days suggest that he is serious -- if for no other reason than that his political star, which burns bright indeed in national and statewide Democratic and media circles, might lose lustre if he passed up a chance to run in an open race of importance.

Memories are still fresh of Ford's yearlong flirtation with a 2000 Senate race against Bill Frist,one that may have been aborted by the devastating loss suffered by the Ford clan in 1999 when then city councilman Joe Ford (now an appointed county commissioner seeking election in his own right)lost badly in an effort to unseat Mayor Herenton.

In a sense, the sudden withdrawal of Fred Thompson from his reelection campaign and the consequent creation of an open seat has put Rep. Ford on the spot -- calling his bluff, as it were.

Of the state's other Democratic congressmen, the notoriously cautious John Tanner of the 8th District was considered a viable candidate but unlikely to take the gamble of a Senate race. Bart Gordon of the 6th District had not committed himself, while the 5th District's Bob Clement, who represents Nashville, is in the position of having possibbly cried wolf too many times on statewide races, so far exclusively in aborted gubernatorial runs.

The names of Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who recently withdrew from the Shelby County Mayor's race, and State Senator Steve Cohen have received some play, but Cohen indicated it was unlikely he would attempt another statewide race (he run unsuccessfully for governor in 1994).

A dark horse candidate is Memphis entrepreneur John Lowery, who is hoping to put his business (Revelation Corporation) on a sound enough, self-sustaining basis in the next month so that he could consider running.

"If none of the congressmen end up doing it, I'm in," Lowery said on Friday.

As it happens, an ex-congressman has expressed some interest as well -- former U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, now a consultant living in Nashville, who lost the 1994 special election that saw Thompson first elected to the Senate.

Friday, March 8, 2002

THOMPSON NOT RUNNING

THOMPSON NOT RUNNING

Posted By on Fri, Mar 8, 2002 at 4:00 AM

U.S. Senator Fred Thompson will not seek reelection, it was reported reliably earlier today.

The decision by the state's senior senator, who had thought long and hard about not running before the tragic events of September 11th impelled him to reconsider, was apparently influenced to reverse that earlier judgment by the recent death of his daughter.

The news has already set off rampant speculation as to possible candidates to succeed Thompson. Among those known to have considered a race are, among Republicans: former Governor Lamar Alexander, 7th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, and former state Republican chairman Chip Saltsman, now an employee of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Among Democrats, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford of Memphis has been reported as interested, and there are already efforts underway statewide to draft former Vice President Al Gore to run.

If either Ford or Bryant make the race, there will be a stampede of possible candidates to succeed them in Congress.

Among those who were known to be prepared to run for Bryant's 7th District seat are Memphis lawyer David Kustoff, city councilman Brent Taylor, and former local Republican chairman Phil Langsdon, all of the GOP.

Stay tuned for Flyer updates.

'WHAT DID IMUS KNOW?'

'WHAT DID IMUS KNOW?'

Posted By on Fri, Mar 8, 2002 at 4:00 AM

from The Hotline

Before news of [Sen. Fred] Thompson's retirement leaked out, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-09) appeared on "Imus" this a.m. and here's Imus's first question: "What is the potential of you becoming a senator by the way? Good or 50/50 or what?"

Ford: "It's up to the voters here. If they promoted me, I'd take it."

Imus: "If it was up to us, you'd be one now. Then we wouldn't have to suffer the humiliation of actually having to have a congressman on here."

Ford [laughing]: "I appreciate you compromising your standards to have me on."

Imus closed the interview with: "Congressman Harold Ford, who one would hope would soon be a senator so we can all feel better about having him on" (MSNBC, 3/8).

Ford: "It's up to the voters here. If they promoted me, I'd take it."

Imus: "If it was up to us, you'd be one now. Then we wouldn't have to suffer the humiliation of actually having to have a congressman on here."

Ford [laughing]: "I appreciate you compromising your standards to have me on."

Imus closed the interview with: "Congressman Harold Ford, who one would hope would soon be a senator so we can all feel better about having him on" (MSNBC, 3/8).

Thursday, March 7, 2002

GLOVES OFF IN CASTLE-COOPER MATCHUP

GLOVES OFF IN CASTLE-COOPER MATCHUP

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2002 at 4:00 AM

The Democratic primary for the District 5 seat of the Shelby County Commission is about to get down and dirty. The Guthrie Castle campaign will present a detailed pleading at the 4 p.m. Election Commission meeting Thursday in an effort to purge rival Joe Cooper‘s name from the May 7th primary ballot because of alleged illegalities and improprieties in his financial disclosures.

Cooper, headed with associate Rusty Hyneman to Los Angeles for a Thursday meeting with Home Box Office executives in an effort to land a Lennox Lewis/Mike Tyson championship fight for The Pyramid , responded angrily, “I’m surprised at those boys. I’m trying to talk about the issues, and they want to take the low road. Well, I’m going to be busy trying to bring this fight home for the glory and good fortune of Memphis. They can put that in their disclosure and stick it up their ass!”

Thursday’s filing of a formal complaint with the Election Commission concerning Cooper includes a representation by Clear Channel Outdoor, whose general manager, Tony Dailey, alleges, among other things, that Cooper beat his media company out of $23,700, which sum became “an unvoluntary, but illegal, contribution.” Two representations by Jeff Sullivan, the newly appointed campaign manager of lawyer Castle’s campaign itemize what Sullivan says are illegally large contributions from individuals and other entities, defiance of disclosure obligations in the case of outstanding debts, inaccurate information, and a variety of other “illegal contributions and illegal loans.”

Sullivan asks that “the illegalities and improprieties reflected in Mr. Cooper’s Campaign Disclosure Statements should be referred by this Commission to the District Attorney and the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance for investigation and appropriate action.”

“I guess they don’t think they can beat me fair and square. They may be right about that,” Cooper said, while denying all the allegations and contending that he had filed correct, complete, and timely accounts of all information required of him.

After the Fact

In the wake of Byrd's withdrawal, Wharton may choose to start talking policy.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2002 at 4:00 AM

To start by telling it like it is, especially in the wake of Democrat Harold Byrd's withdrawal: At this stage, the only way AC Wharton can lose the Shelby County mayor's race (in all fairness, we should add the qualifier "arguably") is to get run over by a truck.

There are two or three trucks out there, in the form of other major candidates, but it's hard to see how Democrat Carol Chumney or Republicans Larry Scroggs and George Flinn can muster the necessary octane and/or momentum.

Wharton will come under considerable pressure of another sort, however. Memphis mayor Willie Herenton said Sunday that he was "disappointed" with Wharton's failure to come out foursquare for city/county consolidation, and he praised the public defender's primary opponent, Chumney, for being "courageous and forthright" on the issue.

"I think AC's advisers have been keeping the wraps on him or giving him bad advice," Herenton said while attending Sunday's NBA game at The Pyramid between the Memphis Grizzlies and Seattle Supersonics. He said he still had no plans to endorse a candidate for Shelby County mayor but might end up doing so between the May 7th countywide primaries and the August general election.

Despite considerable prodding from the media, Wharton -- who served as chairman of two Herenton election campaigns -- has contented himself so far with saying he approved the Memphis mayor's recent appointment of a task force on consolidation and would wait on its results before commenting. Meanwhile, Wharton has said, he would welcome "functional" consolidation of certain joint services.

Of course, virtually every local public figure -- even those, like Germantown mayor Sharon Goldsworthy, who vehemently oppose consolidation per se -- has come out for some degree of functional consolidation of services.

Chumney alone has endorsed a form of consolidation quite similar to that of Herenton himself and has pledged to push for both it and a form of school funding similar to the Memphis mayor's call for separate city and county districts linked via a single-source funding method.

State Representative Scroggs has said he doubts both the desirability of consolidation and the accuracy of projections that it would reduce governmental costs, while radiologist/media mogul Flinn has not yet been heard from.

An influential member of Wharton's "A" team said this week that the surprise last-minute dropout of Byrd, only minutes before last Thursday's deadline for withdrawals at the Election Commission, might free up Wharton, who has so far campaigned in generalities and run on his persona, to talk turkey on issues.

"With Harold in the race, we had a potential threat from the left," said the adviser, who does not discount Chumney entirely but reckons her as less of a threat than Byrd, whose ubiquitous bus signs and billboards -- now sad artifacts of a spent campaign -- advertised the financial wherewithal of a candidate with several hundred thousand dollars in the bank.

With Scroggs locked into an anticonsolidation position and with Flinn a possible skeptic on the issue as well, Wharton would presumably feel freer to express a contrasting view in the general election.

Meanwhile, Chumney indicated she would step up her efforts to force specific answers from Wharton. "Otherwise, we're not going to have any change in the same old way things are done in Shelby County."

* Byrd's withdrawal astonished most observers, though in retrospect it seems to have had a certain inevitability. The Bartlett banker's decision followed receipt Tuesday of a fresh voter survey by his Washington-based pollster, whose findings were that Wharton had a significant lead and was guaranteed victory in a three-candidate primary.

The prospective vote totals of Byrd and Chumney, however, added up to more than Wharton's total; so Byrd resolved to try to persuade Chumney to withdraw. The poll showed Wharton with a percentage of 41 percent, while Byrd and Chumney were each at 22.

Clearly, neither of the runners-up could prevail in a three-way race, and Byrd, on the strength of his far larger war chest, hoped to persuade Chumney that he was better equipped to hazard a challenge that only one of them could feasibly make.

This determination culminated in a two-hour conversation between the two Thursday morning -- after which Chumney, though she agreed to "think about it," resolved to continue.

Her decision resulted in Byrd's own decision to withdraw, roughly an hour before the deadline.

Wharton held a press conference at his newly opened Poplar Avenue headquarters Thursday afternoon, praising Byrd for having Shelby County's welfare at heart and inviting Byrd to join his own campaign. That may not happen any time soon; both the game ex-candidate himself and many of his influential supporters may need an adjustment period before committing themselves to anybody else's efforts.

Byrd could be pardoned for feeling snake-bit. His race for Congress in the state's 7th District fell victim to Republican Ed Bryant. And he was considered to have good chances against incumbent Republican mayor Jim Rout, whose own decision not to run opened up a pathway for Wharton.

* Publicity this past week concerning former congressman Harold Ford's business activities demonstrated so tight a connection between himself and son Sir Isaac Ford that some wondered how the latter's independent candidacy for county mayor jibed with his father's steadfast support for Wharton.

One possible answer: Isaac Ford was there as a possible drain on the votes of Byrd, had he gotten the nomination. Though Byrd had been anxious to propitiate the onetime political power broker, who is still influential, Ford never forgets a political slight, and there had been several occasions when he and Byrd had been on opposite sides of intra-party matters.

The upshot: Expect no serious campaigning from Sir Isaac with Wharton as the Democratic nominee.

Tuesday, March 5, 2002

HOW IT LOOKS

HOW IT LOOKS

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Monday, March 4, 2002

HERENTON 'DISAPPOINTED' IN WHARTON

HERENTON 'DISAPPOINTED' IN WHARTON

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Though he is not inclined to make an endorsement for Shelby County mayor any time soon, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said Sunday that he was “disappointed” with the failure of Democratic candidate A C Wharton to come out foursquare for city/county consolidation, and he praised Wharton’s primary opponent, Carol Chumney, for being “courageous and forthright” on the issue.

“I think A C’s advisers have been keeping the wraps on him or giving him bad advice,” Herenton said while attending Sunday’s NBA game at The Pyramid between the Memphis Grizzles and Seattle Supersonics. He said he still had no plans to endorse a candidate for Shelby County Mayor but might end up doing so between the May 7th countywide primaries and the August general election.

Despite considerable prodding from the media, Wharton -- who served as chairman of two Herenton election campaigns -- has contented himself so far with saying he approved the Memphis mayor’s recent appointment of a task force on consolidation and would wait on its results before commenting. Meanwhile, Wharton has said, he would welcome “functional” consolidation of certain joint services.

Virtually every local public figure -- even those, like Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy, who oppose consolidation per se -- has come out for some degree of functional consolidation of services.

Of the remaining candidates for county mayor considered major, State Representative Chumney has endorsed a form of consolidation quite similar to that of Herenton himself and has pledged to push for both it and a form of school funding similar to the Memphis mayor’s call for separate city and county districts linked via a single-source funding method.

Among Republican candidates, State Representative Larry Scroggs has said he doubts both the desirability of consolidation and the accuracy of projections that it would reduce governmental costs, while radiologist/media mogul George Flinn has not yet been heard from.

Herenton continued to simmer over what he regarded as a snub administered by suburban mayors who, during last week’s annual meeting of the Tennessee Municipal League in Nashville, scheduled a dinner for Shelby legislators concurrent with Herenton’s own legislative dinner.

Seemingly angered by Goldsworthy’s recent suggestion that he was advocating city/county consolidation as a means, ultimately, of extending his own power, Herenton nevertheless made some purposely cryptic statements that some might consider consistent with the Germantown mayor’s interpretation..

“I think this current county mayor election should be the last one we have,” Herenton said, pointedly making a connection between the likelihood of his being reelected Memphis mayor in 2003 and the timetable he has proposed for consolidation -- which calls for a countywide referendum on the subject in 2004 or 2005 and elections for a “metropolitan” mayor and council in 2006.

Without elaborating, Herenton said with a sly grin that this set of concurrent facts should lead to “the right analysis.”

Friday, March 1, 2002

On Their Mark

Pending possible withdrawals, the field of candidates for county offices is set.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2002 at 4:00 AM

On Thursday of this week, the 2002 election for countywide offices will have reached that point best characterized in a Churchillian phrase: The End of the Beginning. The buildup is over and from this point on it's a downhill scramble (perhaps in more senses than one).

Mayor's Race: Not much change on the Democratic side; it's still a three-way struggle between Public Defender AC Wharton, Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and state Representative Carol Chumney. Wharton's camp -- candidate, entourage, and all -- exudes a confidence that could, in the end, be self-limiting.

At the opening of his Poplar Avenue headquarters on Saturday, Wharton exhorted his crowd (several hundred strong but containing no notable new faces) with thoughts about victory and of "progress" for Shelby County but avoided mention of any issues or other particulars.

As before, the chief plank in Wharton's platform would seem to be himself -- a smooth, likable, reassuring presence but one with a rhetoric that so far is skating lightly on the surface of eggs.

During the previous week, a member of Wharton's campaign team fretted about an "image problem" and confided that the candidate might be taking his African-American base for granted. He noted the continued courtship of black ministers by opponent Byrd, who indeed scheduled a "Ministers' Luncheon" as such for this week.

Despite occasional reports from his own camp that he intends some hard-hitting issues-talk, Byrd himself has tended so far to be somewhat unspecific, although at a recent, well-attended women's luncheon he promised an array of "position papers" and uttered some cautious grace notes about Memphis mayor Willie Herenton's proposals for city/county consolidation.

Chumney, meanwhile, has her endorsements -- from the AFL-CIO and from the Women's Caucus, among others -- and is pursuing a strategy of direct advocacy for positions, including those of consolidation and programmed debt-reduction.

On the Republican side, most party cadres are still lined up solidly with state Representative Larry Scroggs, who -- along with Chumney -- has been freshly empowered by new legislation, signed week before last by Governor Don Sundquist, that eases restrictions on in-session fund-raising for members of the General Assembly, who are now allowed to raise money for local races.

Especially considering that the legislature -- hung up as always in a budget-plan stalemate -- is now in the second week of a three-week hiatus, that should generate some immediate fund-raising activity on the part of Scroggs and Chumney, both of whom are facing opponents with fatter war chests.

In Scroggs' case, that's George Flinn, the radiologist and broadcasting magnate, who is prepared to open his considerable private cash box wide -- to the tune of half a million dollars in the primary alone, "or more if the situation requires it," according to campaign chairman Phil Langsdon. Much of that would presumably be used for newspaper and broadcast advertising -- the "air war," as it is referred to in political-campaign lingo. The Flinn campaign has also hired as campaign manager Ruth Ogles, who ran a respectable race of her own for the Memphis school board in 2000.

· Democratic sheriff's candidate Randy Wade had some of the heat taken off him by the decision last week of city councilman E.C. Jones to leave the sheriff's race and file instead for county trustee (against fellow Democrats Charles Jackson and Coleman Thompson for the right to challenge GOP incumbent Bob Patterson).

Wade promptly put some heat on the rest of the sheriff's candidates -- now including Democrats Henry Hooper and Paula Castillo, an unknown, as well as several Republicans and independents -- by notifying Sheriff A.C. Gilless in a letter-cum-press release that he would be taking a leave of absence, as of March 15th, from his administrative position in the department.

· Among the notable filings last week for county commission races: Karla Templeton issued one challenge to a Republican incumbent, Linda Rendtorff, in District 1, Position 2, while Templeton's father, restaurateur John Willingham, was making another, to current chairman Morris Fair, in District 1, Position 3.

Six candidates filed for the now-open seat of outgoing Commissioner Bridget Chisholm in District 2, Position 3. Among Democrats, Deidre Malone has the early jump on Dedrick Fentress, and Green Party activist Scott Banbury is one of several independents.

Former Lakeland mayor Jim Bomprezzi is one of several Republicans (others: newcomers Deandre Forney and Mark E. Hartz) challenging GOP incumbent Tom Moss in District 4, Position 2.

As expected, Democrat Guthrie Castle joined the Democrats seeking the District 5 seat, also sought by veteran pol Joe Cooper and by three other Democrats, Zelda Hill, Mickey Keep, and K. Mortez Washington. Republicans have a three-way race between John Ryder, Bruce Thompson, and Jerry Cobb.

Two Ford-family siblings, interim appointee Joe Ford and sister Ophelia Ford, are vying for the seat formerly held by their late brother, Dr. James Ford, in District 3, Position 3.

Another sibling-vs.-sibling race has generated some controversy. Republican Joyce Avery, who's hoping to unseat Clair VanderSchaaf in District 4, Position 1, charges that the incumbent and his half-brother, Greg Brannick, who also filed as a Republican in the race, are in cahoots to split the anti-VanderSchaaf vote. "Skullduggery" she called it in a press release on Sunday.

The half-brothers shrugged it off. "We're not even all that close," said VanderSchaaf. "I didn't know he was going to file or why. He didn't tell me. Maybe he thought I wasn't going to." ·

BYRD EXITS MAYOR'S RACE

Chumney vows to stay in, force Wharton to commit on issues.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Bartlett banker Harold Byrd formally dropped out of the Shelby County Mayor's race Thursday, just before the noon withdrawal deadline at the Shelby County Election Commission.

Byrd's action will, in the opinion of most observers, virtually assure Public Defender A C Wharton the Democratic nomination for mayor, although an underfunded but determined State Rep. Carol Chumney remains in the race -- resisting last-minute efforts by Byrd to persuade her to withdraw instead.

Byrd's decision to withdraw followed receipt Tuesday of a fresh voter survey by his Washington-based pollster, whose findings were that Wharton had a significant lead and was guaranteed victory in a three-candidate primary.

The prospective vote totals of Byrd and Chumney, however, added up to more than Wharton's total; so Byrd resolved to try to persuade Chumney to withdraw. The poll showed Wharton with a percentage of 41 percent, while Byrd and Chumney were each at 22. Clearly, neither of the runners-up could prevail in a three-way race, and Byrd, on the strength of his fair larger warchest -- which still contained some $300 thousand that was uncommitted -- hoped to persuade Chumney that he was better equippped to hazard a challenge that only one of them could feasibly make.

This determination culminated in a two-hour conversation between the two Thursday morning -- after which Chumney, despite what was said to be some wavering, resolved to continue.

Her decision resulted in Byrd's own decision to withdraw, roughly an hour before the deadline.

Wharton held a press conference at his newly opened Poplar Avenue headquarters Thursday afternoon, praising Byrd for having Shelby County's welfare at heart and inviting the latter to join in his own campaign.

Despite several efforts by reporters to entice Wharton into addressing the specifics of issues, notably consolidation, the candidate replied in generalities, as is his mode. As an aide acknowledged afterward , Wharton's persona -- smooth, knowledgeable, above-the-battle, and disengaged from issue talk as such -- is his platform.

After attending a forum for Democratic candidates for sheriff later Thursday evening in Frayser, Chumney indicated she would step up her efforts to force specific answers from Wharton. "Otherwise, we're not going tohave any change in the same old way things are done in shelby County," said Chumney, who has been outspoken in favor of consolidation.

There were no withdrawals on the Republican side of the mayoral race, with both State Representative Larry Scroggs and radiologist/radio magnate George Flinn staying in.

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