Friday, August 30, 2002

POLITICS: Rites of Passage

As summer cools off, politicians take a breath and manage some transitions.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2002 at 4:00 AM

RITES OF PASSAGE The dog days of summer, they used to be called, before the events of last September 11th created an aura of menace which is likely to endure for a while whenever the anniversary of that occasion comes around. The current season, however, is still more suggestive of easeful transitions than of horrific stresses, and Monday’s meeting of the Shelby County Commission -- the last one ever for five of the 13 commissioners -- was as mellow as the autumnal shades that will shortly be upon us. Presiding over a brief ceremony in the Commission’s 6th floor quarters in the county administrative building, outgoing chairman Morris Fair presented framed composite photographs of the current commission to all of his colleagues and plaques to those who were leaving. There was lawyer Buck Wellford, for example, a poster boy for the proberbial “sadder and wiser” look after two terms during which he rarely shied away from battle -- losing one early on when he challenged the findings of a disparity study in county contracting and winning a major one late in the game when he took the lead in passing a tree ordinance which imposed new restrictions on developers (but which, he lamented Monday, could not have prevented the recent landslide on Mud Island). Wellford opted not to run this year; as he cracked Monday, “I always wanted to be a public official -- but I’ve got my fill of it!” There was first-termer Bridget Chisholm, a late 2000 appointee who was much-heralded as a woman of achievement in the financial sector but who seemed unhappy with the demands -- always political and often highly partisan -- of the disputatious public sector and decided to bow out gracefully. Another voluntary exile was Tommy Hart, the Collierville businessman who was a solid anchor for conservative and Republican causes but who found himself an active agent of compromise more than once and said Monday that he prided himself on never having succumbed to a sense of power during his two terms (including an eventful year as chairman) and opined, “The important thing is not to change from who you are.” Developer Clair VanderSchaaf, badly defeated in the May Republican primary by newcomer Joyce Avery for his unrepentant support of public funding for the new downtown arena and, he acknowledged, “a few other reasons” (presumably including notoriety from a much-publicized DUI arrest) was low-profile on Monday, his still-youthful appearance belying his 60-odd years and a generation of service on the commission. Erstwhile man-about-town VanderSchaaf kept smiling as he heard himself described fondly by colleagues, as, for example, the commissioner who “could always identify the female members of the media in the audience.” (That one came from fellow developer Tom Moss.)Fair made a point of chatting up the incoming commissioner who ousted him in a sometimes bitter primary -- conservative GOP populist John Willingham, who looked unusually natty Monday in a new suit. In the spirit of conciliaton which predominated, budget committee chairman Cleo Kirk said he hoped restaurateur Willingham would rise to the level of expertise on funding matters as had former banker and bond broker Fair, who enjoyed an unusual last hurrah Monday by shepherding through the commission several major retractions in the benefits package enjoyed by county employees. Economic factors being what they are, downsizing initiatives of that sort will, almost certainly , be one of the hallmarks of the commission when it meets again on September 9th with five new members -- Avery, Willingham, lawyer David Lillard, financial planner Bruce Thompson, and publicist Deidre Malone (the sole Democrat among the new commissioners). Democrat Julian Bolton went against expectations Monday by predicting that the new commission, despite the more conservative cast of the new members, would be “more progressive” than the current body. “That’s because the Republican majority has been joined at the hip with the administration of Mayor [Jim] Rout,” he explained, suggesting that “things will be different” when newly elected Democrat A C Wharton takes office as county mayor next week.
  • OTHER POLITICAL NOTES: George Flinn, the businessman/physician who carried the standard of a divided Republican Party against Wharton, got a standing ovation from attendees at the August meeting of the local GOP steering committee -- belatedly marking his de facto acceptance as a bona fide Republican luminary. Flinn promised to be heard from again. At the same meeting Young Republican chairman Rick Rout read a letter of apology for an email to YR board members during the campaign that had seemed to be critical of Flinn....Both Lamar Alexander and Bob Clement -- the Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S Senate, respectively -- have made frequent appearances in Shelby County of late, the middle-of-the-road nature of which can best be gauged by the fact that Clement has appeared before such groups as the arch-conservative Dutch Treat Luncheon and Alexander has allowed himself to sound measurably more moderate than when he was engaged in a hotly disputed primary with outgoing 7th district congressman Ed Bryant. Though former governor Alexander is favored over Nashville congressman Clement, the two will participate in a series of debates, and Clement may find himself the beneficiary of the same expectations game which boosted GOP gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary‘s stock in a recent debate in which he was judged to have held his own with favored Democrat Phil Bredesen (the former Nashville mayor who, however, has been a much more frequent visitor to Memphis and Shelby County than has 4th district congressman Hilleary)....A slenderized, silver-maned Bill Clinton possessed movie-star cachet in the relatively nondescript company of Arkansas political candidates and Memphis-area Democrats during visits Monday to West Memphis and Memphis, for a Democratic rally and a party fundraiser, respectively. Said the former president in West Memphis: “They [Republicans in Congress] spent $70 million trying to prove I was a sinner. And you could have told them that in the first place!”

    Thursday, August 29, 2002

    Rites Of Passage

    As summer cools off, politicians take a breath and manage some transitions.

    Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    The dog days of summer, they used to be called, before the events of last September 11th created an aura of menace likely to endure for a while whenever the anniversary of that occasion comes around.

    The current season, however, is still more suggestive of easeful transitions than of horrific stresses, and Monday's meeting of the Shelby County Commission -- the last one ever for five of the 13 commissioners -- was as mellow as the autumnal shades that will shortly be upon us.

    Presiding over a brief ceremony in the commission's sixth-floor quarters in the county administrative building, outgoing chairman Morris Fair presented framed composite photographs of the current commission to all of his colleagues and plaques to those who were leaving.

    There was lawyer Buck Wellford, for example, a poster boy for the proverbial "sadder and wiser" look after two terms during which he rarely shied away from battle -- losing one early on when he challenged the findings of a disparity study on county contracting and winning a major one late in the game when he took the lead in passing a tree ordinance that imposed new restrictions on developers (but that, he lamented Monday, could not have prevented the recent landslide on Mud Island). Wellford opted not to run this year. As he cracked Monday, "I always wanted to be a public official -- but I've got my fill of it!"

    There was first-termer Bridget Chisholm, a late 2000 appointee who was much-heralded as a woman of achievement in the financial sector but who seemed unhappy with the demands -- always political and often highly partisan -- of the disputatious public sector and decided to bow out gracefully.

    Another voluntary exile was Tommy Hart, the Collierville businessman who was a solid anchor for conservative and Republican causes but who found himself an active agent of compromise more than once. He said Monday that he prided himself on never having succumbed to a sense of power during his two terms (including an eventful year as chairman) and opined, "The important thing is not to change from who you are."

    Developer Clair VanderSchaaf, badly defeated in the May Republican primary by newcomer Joyce Avery for his unrepentant support of public funding for the new downtown arena and, he acknowledged, "a few other reasons" (presumably including notoriety from a much-publicized DUI arrest) was low-profile on Monday, his still-youthful appearance belying his 60-odd years and a generation of service on the commission.

    In the spirit of conciliaton which predominated, budget committee chairman Cleo Kirk said he hoped incoming commissioner John Willingham would rise to the level of expertise on funding matters as had former banker and bond broker Fair, who enjoyed an unusual last hurrah Monday by shepherding through the commission several major retractions in the benefits package enjoyed by county employees.

    Economic factors being what they are, downsizing initiatives of that sort will, almost certainly, be one of the hallmarks of the commission when it meets again on September 9th with five new members -- Avery, Willingham, lawyer David Lillard, financial planner Bruce Thompson, and publicist Deidre Malone (the sole Democrat among the new commissioners).

    Democrat Julian Bolton went against expectations Monday by predicting that the new commission, despite the more conservative cast of the new members, would be "more progressive" than the current body. "That's because the Republican majority has been joined at the hip with the administration of Mayor [Jim] Rout," he explained, suggesting that "things will be different" when newly elected Democrat A C Wharton takes office as county mayor next week.

    • OTHER POLITICAL NOTES: George Flinn, the businessman/physician who carried the standard of a divided Republican Party against Wharton, got a standing ovation from attendees at the August meeting of the local GOP steering committee. Flinn promised to be heard from again. At the same meeting, Young Republican chairman Rick Rout read a letter of apology for an e-mail to YR board members during the campaign that had seemed to be critical of Flinn. Both Lamar Alexander and Bob Clement -- the Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, respectively -- have made frequent appearances in Shelby County of late, the middle-of-the-road nature of which can best be gauged by the fact that Clement has appeared before such groups as the archconservative Dutch Treat Luncheon and Alexander has allowed himself to sound measurably more moderate than in his hotly disputed primary with outgoing 7th District congressman Ed Bryant. Though Alexander is favored over Nashville congressman Clement, the two will participate in a series of debates, and Clement may find himself the beneficiary of the same expectations game that boosted GOP gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary's stock in a recent debate in which he was judged to have held his own with favored Democrat Phil Bredesen, the former Nashville mayor.

    A slenderized, silver-maned Bill Clinton possessed movie-star cachet in the relatively nondescript company of Arkansas political candidates and Memphis-area Democrats during visits Monday to West Memphis and Memphis, for a Democratic rally and a party fund-raiser, respectively. Said the former president in West Memphis, "They [Republicans in Congress] spent $70 million trying to prove I was a winner. And you could have told them that in the first place!"

    Friday, August 9, 2002

    Flying High

    It's August 2002. Do you know who your candidates are? Now the two parties do.

    Posted By on Fri, Aug 9, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    It is a familiar ritual. Candidates who have vilified each other nonstop for months and led everyone else to believe that their opponents are unfit for public service suddenly appear on the stump in the immediate aftermath of an election to bestow beatitudes and blessings on each other. So it hath been with the state's Democrats and Republicans during the last several days.

    Lamar Alexander's metaphor for the phenomenon, as he expressed it in Memphis at the end of a six-stop state fly-around of GOP winners and losers Monday, had to do with friendly football rivalries. A boxing match, during which the brawlers do their best to kill each other but after which they embrace, might be a better description of what happened between former Governor Alexander, the winner, and 7th District U.S. Representative Ed Bryant, the loser, in the state Republicans' U.S. Senate primary that ended last Thursday.

    "I am solidly behind Lamar Alexander," said Bryant at the Signature Air Terminal gathering Monday afternoon. The sentence was an ironic echo of a campaign in which Bryant contrasted the "solid" nature of his take-no-prisoners conservatism with what he suggested was the moderate "plaid" variety represented by Alexander, whose characteristic plaid shirt was a symbol of his 1978 gubernatorial campaign and of his two presidential campaigns in 1995/1996 and 1999.

    For his part, Alexander complimented the "great" congressman who had, just a few days before, been his "mean-spirited" opponent and promised Bryant his support for any future political venture. ("I don't know what I'm going to do," joked Bryant,who will leave office at the end of the year, "but one thing I'm not going to do, I'm not going to grow a beard!")

    Similar obsequies were exchanged between 4th District congressman Van Hilleary, the winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary, and his erstwhile foe, former state Representative Jim Henry of Kingston. This race too had been bitterly contested, but Henry dismissed what he called "this little family argument" and said of the man whose credentials he had so recently and so publicly doubted, "Van Hilleary is going to be a great governor of this state." Responded Hilleary, "This is sincere, folks." The GOP gubernatorial nominee went on to decry the state's educational deficiencies and promised to remedy them -- without, however, the kind of "cradle-to-grave" governmental activism favored by the Democrats.

    The occasion was also a farewell appearance of sorts for retiring Senator Fred Thompson, whose announcement of noncandidacy in March set up the Alexander-Bryant race. (Various observers had theorized that Thompson's belated announcement left the relatively unknown Bryant insufficient time to establish a statewide identity to compete with the well-known Alexander. But the congressman himself confided last week, on the eve of the election, that he disagreed. "I doubt that I could have kept this up for much longer than four months," Bryant said of the grueling campaign ordeal.)

    Thompson heaped praise on all the combatants, referring to "four really good men, two really good races," and making the expected declaration that the future of the state and the nation depended on their election. He was less forthcoming about his own future, though the erstwhile movie actor had earlier mused privately, "I may have time now to go looking for a good western to do."

    Conspicuously missing from the fly-around, both in Memphis and in the other five venues (the tour had begun in the Tri-Cities area of northeast Tennessee) had been Governor Don Sundquist, a circumstance which had led state Democratic chairman Bill Farmer to issue a press release charging the Republicans with an "out and out snub-fest." Said Farmer: "How on earth the Republicans can claim they're unified in Tennessee is beyond me."

    · Democrats too were on the move. After a well-attended party unity rally in Nashville on Friday morning (presided over by 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis), the party's two main nominees, senatorial candidate Bob Clement and gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen, launched their own independent forays into Tennessee's nooks and corners.

    Clement arrived bright and early on a steamy Saturday morning for a photo-op with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida), a former astronaut; state chairman Farmer; local Democrats; and assorted veterans at the Memphis Belle on Mud Island. Reason for the tableau was to underscore Clement's former Army service as a response to criticism of the 5th District Nashville congressman's military-preparedness stands by Alexander, who -- as Clement wasted no time pointing out -- had never performed military service.

    Styling himself "a liberator, not a liberal," Clement took out after greedy corporate CEOs and promised to safeguard "security" for Tennesseans: "Social Security, Homeland Security, and health security." He promised to hit "all the Ed Bryant corners" of Tennessee and to capitalize on whatever discontent with Alexander still lingered with the 7th District congressman's supporters.

    The same, perhaps overly wishful note had been struck by Bredesen, who had begun his own crisscross across the state on Friday from Henry's home town of Kingston in East Tennessee, where he solicited support from supporters of the defeated Republican moderate.

    Meeting with fellow Democrats and the media at the Plaza Club in Memphis Saturday afternoon, Bredesen, the ex-mayor of Nashville, blew verbal kisses at Memphis, which he described as "a vigorous bigger, more brawling" city than his own, and spoke of ongoing negotiations between himself and Hilleary on the format for an extended series of debates.

    One issue he and Hilleary had agreed on during their respective primaries was the matter of a state income tax, which both opposed. After making his prepared remarks Saturday, Bredesen noted the defeat of several pro-income-tax incumbents in legislative contests and said that fact, plus the opting out of reelection races by other pro-income-tax legislators and the defeat of income-tax legislation by the General Assembly in July, amounted to a "referendum by stages" against the income tax.

    · Last week's local Shelby County election was a roller-coaster ride, with the expectations of all sides rising and falling through the day and most of the evening. When the ride finally ended late Thursday night, the ones bearing the grins were the ones who had been expected to way back before early voting had started.

    Democrat A C Wharton's victory over Republican George Flinn, with 62 percent of the vote, was what many observers had anticipated from the beginning of the post-primary campaign in May, as was a sweep of contested countywide offices by Republican candidates.

    First totals, which seemed to come mainly from inner-city Memphis, had made it appear that Wharton might head a ticket sweep by the Democrats, most of whose candidates took an early lead that was consistent with a measurably stronger Democratic showing during the two weeks of early voting.

    During the heady early evening period for Democrats, when the disproportionate reporting of inner-city votes put all of them ahead of their GOP opponents, victory seemed more than possible for Shep Wilbun, the Juvenile Court clerk whose campaign had seemed to bog down amid an investigation of office irregularities by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    "That's a relief," confided county commission clerk Calvin Williams at mid-evening, when Wilbun looked to be a winner. Williams had partly brokered the deal whereby Wilbun, then a commissioner, was appointed clerk in late 2000, with Williams pal Darrell Catron, a fellow black Republican activist whose alleged misdeeds as an aide to Wilbun account for much of the current trouble, coming along as a throw-in.

    Republican Steve Stamson, the former deputy clerk who was aced out in that deal, won vindication over Wilbun when all the votes were counted, and the other GOP candidates for countywide office defeated their Democratic opponents as well.

    · To no one's surprise except, perhaps, that of the principals themselves, the three major Shelby County candidates canceled each other out in the Republicans' 7th District congressional primary -- giving state Senator Marsha Blackburn of suburban Nashville a 17,000-vote margin over her nearest competitor, Memphis lawyer David Kustoff.

    Kustoff, Memphis city councilman Brent Taylor, and state Senator Mark Norris of Collierville, had engaged in acrimonious disputes with each other, often over issues which seemed to observers to be so much hairsplitting. An examination of the vote totals indicates that if even one of the Shelby Countians had not been a candidate, the race might have been competitive. In any case, it was clear that all three underestimated the districtwide popularity of anti-tax activist Blackburn.

    Some observers also detected a disproportionately lower Republican turnout in the 7th District portions of Shelby County -- one which might be attributable to the negative campaigning and could, at least marginally, have affected Bryant adversely in his race against Alexander.

    Since legislative reapportionment last year, the 7th District, already regarded as staunchly Republican, saw the estimated GOP component of the total district vote rise to the level of 60 percent, and for this reason the Democratic primary attracted neither name-brand candidates nor much media interest. But Democratic primary winner Tim Barron of Collierville vows to raise $250,000 and wage an energetic campaign against Blackburn, who, however, will be heavily favored. ·


    Sign Of the Times

    Make of this one -- which appeared mysteriously Monday on the south side of Stage Road, just west of Covington Pike -- what you will. It went up four days after the Shelby County mayor's race ended, three months after the mayoral primaries, and five months after Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, at the time a leading candidate, withdrew from the mayor's race.


    Quote Of the Week

    "I lost $16,000 in Enron stock. I'd have been better off if I could have purchased 16,000 lottery tickets. The return would have been higher." -- State Senator Steve Cohen, principal sponsor of the lottery referendum on the November state ballot.

    Wednesday, August 7, 2002

    POLITICS: Flying High

    POLITICS

    Posted By on Wed, Aug 7, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    FLYING HIGH It is is a familiar ritual. Candidates who have vilified each other nonstop for months and led everyone else to believe that their opponents are unfit for public service suddenly appear on the stump in the immediate aftermath of an election to bestow beatitudes and blessings on each other. So it hath been with the state’s Democrats and Republicans during the last several days.

    .

    Lamar Alexander’s metaphor for the phenomenon, as he expressed it in Memphis at the end of a six-stop state flyaround of GOP winners and losers Monday , had to do with friendly football rivalries, but a boxing match, during which the brawlers do their best to kill each other but after which they embrace, might be a better description of what happened between former governor Alexander, the winner, and 7th District U.S. Representative Ed Bryant, the loser, in the state Republicans’ U.S. Senate primary that ended last Thursday.

    “I am solidly behind Lamar Alexander,” said Bryant at the Signature Air Terminal gathering Monday afternoon. The sentence was a n ironic echo of a campaign in which Bryant contasted the “solid” nature of his take-no-prisoners conservatism with what he suggested was the moderate “plaid” variety represented by Alexander, whose characteristic plaid shit was a symbol of his 1978 gubernatorial campaign and of his two presidential campaigns in 1995/1996 and 1999.

    For his part, Alexander complimented the “great” congressman who had, just a few days before, been his “mean-spirited” opponent, and promised Bryant his support for any future political venture. (“I don’t know what I[m going to do,” joked Bryant,who will leave office at the end of the year, “but one thing I’m not going to do, I’m not going to grow a beard!”)

    Similar obsequies were exchanged between 4th District congressman Van Hilleary, the winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary, and his erstwhile foe, former state Representative Jim Henry of Kingston. This race, too, had been bitterly contested, but Henry dismissed what he called “this little family argument” and said of the man whose credentials he had so recently and so publicly doubted, “Van Hilleary is going to be a great governor of this state.” Responded Hilleary, “This is sincere, folks.” The GOP gubernatorial nominee went on to decry the state’s educational deficiencies and promised to remedy them -- without, however the kind of “cradle-to-grave” governmental activism favored by the Democrats.

    The occasion was also a farewell appearance of sorts for retiring Senator Fred Thompson, whose announcement of non-candidacy in March set up the Alexander-Bryant race. (Various observers had theorized that Thompson’s belated announcement left the relatively unknown Bryant insufficient time to establish a statewide identity to compete with the well-known Alexander. But the congressman himself confided last week, on the eve of the election, that he disagreed. “I doubt that I could have kept this up for much longer than four months,” Bryant said of the grueling campaign ordeal.)

    Thompson heaped praise on all the combatants, referring to “four really good men, two really good races.” And making the expected declaration that the future of the state and the nation depended on their election. He was less forthcoming about his own future, though the erstwhile movie actor had earlier mused privately, “ I may have time now to go looking for a good Western todo.”

    Conspicuously missing from the flyaround, both in Memphis and in the other five venues (the tour had begun in the Tri-Cities area of northeast Tennessee) had been Governor Don Sundquist, a circumstance which had led state Democratic chairman Bill Farmer to issue a press release charging the Republicans with an “out and out snub-fest.” Said Farmer: “How on Earth the Republicans can claim they’re unified in Tennessee is beyond me.”

  • Democrats, too, were on the move. After a well-attended party unity rally in Nashville on Friday morning (presided over by 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis) the party’s two main nominees, Senatorial candidate Bob Clement and gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen launched their own independent forays into Tennessee’s nooks and corners.

    Clement arrived bright and early on a steam Saturday morning for a photo-op with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fl), a former astronaut; state chairman Farmer; local Democrats; and assorted veterans at the Memphis Belle on Mud Island. Reason for the tableau was to underscore Clement’s former Army service as a response to criticism of the 5th District Nashville congressman’s military-preparedness stands by Alexander, who -- as Clement wasted no time pointing out -- had never performed military service.

    Styling himself “a liberator, not a liberal,” Clement took out after greedy corporate CEOs and promised to safeguard “security” for Tennesseans: “Social Security, Homeland Security, and health security.” He promised to hit “all the Ed Bryant corners” of Tennessee and to capitalize on whatever discontent with Alexander still lingered with the 7th District congressman’s supporters.

    The same, perhaps overly wishful note had been struck by Bredesen, who had begun his own criss-cross across the state on Friday from Henry’s home town of Kingston in East Tennessee, where he solicited support from supporters of the defeated Republican moderate.

    Meeting with fellow Democrats and the media at the Plaza Club in Memphis Saturday afternoon, Bredesen, the ex-mayor of Nashville, blew verbal kisses at Memphis, which he described as “ a vigorousÉbigger, more brawling” city than this own, and spoke of ongoing negotiations between himself and Hilleary on the format for an extended series of debates.

    One issue on which he and Hilleary had agreed on during their respective primaries was the matter of a state income tax, which both opposed. After making his prepared remarks Saturday, Bredesen noted the defeat of several pro-income-tax incumbents in legislative contests and said that fact, plus the opting out of reelection races by other pro-income-tax legislators, and the defeat of income-tax legislation by the General Assembly in July , amounted to a “referendum by stages” against the income tax.

    Bob Clement and friends

    Beth Harwell and friends

    Photos by Debbie Johnson and Jackson Baker

    Saturday, August 3, 2002

    WHARTON WINS BIG; GOP PREVAILS IN OTHER RACES

    WHARTON WINS BIG; GOP PREVAILS IN OTHER RACES

    Posted By on Sat, Aug 3, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    CHANGE OF JOBS

    Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, who carried the Democratic banner but had bipartisan support, was elected Shelby County Mayor Thursday with an almost 2-to-1 majority over Dr. George Flinn, his Republican opponent.

    TuesdayÕs local Shelby County election was a roller-coaster ride, with the expectations of all sides rising and falling through the day and most of the evening,, but when the ride finally ended late Thursday night, the ones bearing the grins were the ones who had been expected to way back before early voting had started.

    Democrat A C Wharton, the polished and affable Shelby County Public Defender, won the county mayorÕs job with 62 percent of the vote over Republican George Flinn, and Wharton was characteristically modest from the podium of his victory celebration at the new Holiday Inn on Central Avenue , thanking virtually all of the wide array of movers and shakers who had persuaded him to run.

    Wharton joked about the conflicting advice he receiving from his wife Ruby ,who stoutly resisted the idea of her husband making the race at first, and from state Senator Steve Cohen, who insisted that he do so They had Òcertain personality traits in common,Ó he said to laughter from the happy overflow crowd of a thousand or more.

    Wharton also cited, among others, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton (Òanother person who has some personality traits quite similar to myw ife and Senator CohenÓ); state Senator Jim Kyle, his erstwhile mayoral rival;, state Senator John Ford (who easily withstood his own election challenge from attorney Richard Fields);U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, whom he once mentored but who Ònow comes to counsel me;Ó and Òa fellow named Bill Morris,Ó the former county mayor who first involved him in public life by naming him Public /Defender.

    While WhartonÕs victory party was still in progress, Flinn played the role of gracious opponent, arriving to offer his personal congratulations and setting to rest some of the rancor that had developed in WhartonÕs camp concerning alleged negative campaigning by Flinn, a wealthy radiologist/broadcaster making his first political race.

    First totals, which seemed to come mainly from inner-city Memphis, had made it appear that Wharton might head a ticket sweep by the Democrats, most of whose candidates took an early lead that was consistent with a measurably stronger Democratic showing during the two weeks of early voting.

    Democrat Randy Wade teetered on the edge of victory most of the night in his race for sheriff against Republican nominee Mark Luttrell, who finally was able to claim a win, with sme 53 percent of the vote, just before 11 o'clock.

    During the heady early-evening period for Democrats, victory seemed possible even for Shep Wilbun, the Juvenile Court clerk whose campaign had seemed to bog down amid an investigation of office irregularities by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    ÓThatÕs a relief,Ó confided county commission clerk Calvin Williams at mid-evening, when Wilbun looked to be a winner; Williams had partly brokered the deal whereby Wilbun, then a commissioner, was appointed clerk in late 2000, with Williams pal Darrell Catron, whose alleged misdeeds as an aide to Wilbun account for much of the current trouble, coming along as a throw-in.

    Republican Steve Stamson, the former deputy clerk who was aced out in that deal, won vindication over Wilbun when all the votes were counted, and the other GOP candidates for countywide office defeated their Democratic opponents as well.

    Criminal Court clerk Bill Key beat Ralph White; incumbent Probate clerk Chris Thomas turned back Sondra Becton; register Tom Leatherwood beat Otis Jackson; Circourt Court clerk Jimmy Moore routed Del Gill; County Trustee Bob Patterson turned back E.C. Jones, and County Clerk Jayne Creson beat Janis Fullilove

    Incumbents (or those who beat them in party primaries prevailed in all county commission races, too.

    In an open-seat commission race which had generated considerable interest Ð both because it determined which party would have the dominant seven seats on the 13-member commission and because it involved the controversial Shelby Farms issue Ð Republican Bruce Thompson won comfortably over Democrat Joe Cooper, a political veteran.

    Cooper, an advocate of partially developing Shelby Farms, was a rarity this year in that he engaged in no negative campaigning whatsoever, and stayed gallant with a congratulatory phone call to Thompson when it became obvious that the engaging newcomer would prevail.

    In two judgeship races involving interim appointees, General Sessions (criminal) Judge Jim Robinson was victimized by a split in his three-way race, losing to attorney Gwen Rooks, while General Sessions (civil) Judge Phyllis Gardner, was the beneficiary of a split in her race, turning away main challenger Derek Renfroe.

    PHOTO GALLERY

    Bernie Kustoff, father and law partner of GOP 7th district congressional candidate David Kustoff, was optimistic early in the evening,but state Senator Marsha Blackburn of suburban Nashville ultimately prevailed in the multi-candidate race.

    7th District candidate Brent Taylor, with family, conceded early to Blackburn, promising to "respect the majesty of the system."

    Not until late Thursday night was a worried GOP sheriff nominee Mark Luttrell able to claim victory over Democrat Randy Wade, with 53 percent of the total vote.

    GOP 5th District county commission candidate Bruce Thompson and friend Jeni Stephens celebrate win over Democrat Joe Cooper, whose trademark shades-and-cellphone look they adopt for the occasion.

    Thursday, August 1, 2002

    At the Crossroads

    Republicans found themselves having to make defining choices in this week's voting.

    Posted By on Thu, Aug 1, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    As the penultimate -- and perhaps most meaningful -- election day of 2002 neared, two statewide candidates who have received shorter shrift of late than the lofty office they seek would justify came to Memphis for final pitches.

    And both Van Hilleary and Jim Henry, the major Republican candidates for governor on the statewide primary ballot, were dissembling just a little. Hilleary, in proposing a debate invitation to putative Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen, was pretending he was not in a primary contest. Jim Henry, in vowing to overcome against Hilleary, was pretending he was in one.

    Henry had fresh polls -- one from a Knoxville TV station that actually showed him with a lead and another, from workhorse local pollster Steve Ethridge, showed him only 10 points behind Hilleary, with half the electorate still undecided. The TV poll, which processed electronic tallies of respondents at-large, was one of those best described by the euphemism "unscientific," and, while Ethridge's poll gave the genial ex-state legislator from Kingston a shot, 10 points is still 10 points.

    Not that, win or lose, Henry won't have something to show for his year-long effort to catch up with the front-running Hilleary. As Memphis businessman Bob Schroeder bustled about him at his East Memphis headquarters, planning precinct-by-precinct efforts for this last week of electioneering, Henry took a break from a round of telephone calls. "I've had a heck of a time," he said. Noting that virtually every major state newspaper has endorsed his candidacy, Henry smiled and said wanly, "If nothing else, I can make a collage out of all those nice editorials."

    By his own choice, Henry is socked in for the duration. Not until late Wednesday, when he returns to his East Tennessee home to wait for returns, will he leave Shelby County, which he sees as key to the outcome and to hopes which have to be rated the upset variety.

    Hilleary made one earlier visit Monday afternoon for a press conference at which, by way of responding to a debate proposal floated by Bredesen, he suggested his own proposal -- for 10 "flatbed truck debates" across the breadth of Tennessee. Oh, and he suggested a third debater, fringe candidate Edwin "Barefoot" Sanders, an independent. To say the least, the gesture seemed designed to dis Henry, whom Hilleary has otherwise attended to with increasingly acerbic remarks. In his television commercials, Henry is treated as some sort of appendage of Governor Don Sundquist, the lame-duck Republican incumbent.

    Sundquist's standing among fellow Republicans statewide can best be gauged by the fact that, when the governor last week admitted to reporters in Nashville his preferences for Henry over Hilleary and Senatorial candidate Lamar Alexander over 7th District congressman Ed Bryant, Hilleary and Bryant trumpeted the fact, not the two endorsees. A Hilleary press release, in fact, greeted the news with the classic headline: "Sundquist Seeks Third Term."

    It is no secret, of course, that Sundquist's presumed low repute among Republicans stems from the governor's openness to fundamental revisions of the state's tax structure -- a position that had him, ultimately, leading a futile three-year crusade on behalf of a state income tax. Opposition to an income tax -- or "IT," as it is sometimes referred to in editorial shorthand -- has been the major plank of late in Hilleary's gubernatorial campaign, in general, and in his TV commercials, in particular.

    Jim Henry is well aware of what public-opinion polls show about Sundquist's approval rating -- hovering now in the high 20s or low 30s, percentage-wise -- and, while he has made it clear that he will be open to any means of revenue-enhancement, he suggests a constitutional convention as the only viable way to reach a solution, and his own TV commercials make the case that he too has opposed the income tax in the past.

    The issue was not intended to figure in the forefront of Jim Henry's Shelby County campaign blitz, you may be sure.

    * Probably no candidate in recent Shelby County history has ever had as catastrophic a campaign period as has George Flinn, the Republican nominee for county mayor, over the last two weeks.

    It all began after Flinn, the wealthy radiologist/radio magnate who is largely financing his own campaign, ran a widely noticed TV ad attacking the arrangement for the county's publicly funded NBA arena, now under construction, as a "back-room deal."

    Whatever bounce Flinn hoped for was quickly dissipated by two consecutive polls, done by Ethridge for The Commercial Appeal, that showed Flinn losing badly (and with progressively worse showings) to Democratic nominee A C Wharton; by a barrage of criticism of Flinn's attack ads (the arena commercial and two others), which made frontal assaults on Wharton's purported public record; and by a legal action, undertaken by WHBQ-TV, Channel 13, to unseal the settlements in legal proceedings involving Flinn and two Memphis women with whom he had personal relationships during the past decade.

    Flinn fired back in vain, in statements and in a freshly cut commercial, that he was being victimized by his opponent, the county's "power elite," and the media. Nor did he get much traction for his counter-complaint that it was he, not Wharton, who was being targeted "personally" by negative campaigning.

    Not implausibly, Flinn suggested that persons in the Wharton campaign might have been instrumental in helping to publicize the two suits (although Wharton himself would strenuously deny having any knowledge of such activity).

    "What people really didn't like was the robo-call," said lawyer David Cocke, a Democrat heavily involved in Wharton's election effort. And what he meant was an anonymous telephone message which suggested to those who received it that, as Shelby County public defender, Wharton had engaged in various conflicts of interest.

    In a statement later on, Flinn acknowledged that the calls should have been identified as coming from his campaign but stood by the allegations, which he said primarily had to do with Wharton's defense of child-care entrepreneurs under challenge for violations of state codes. One of Wharton's primary opponents, state Representative Carol Chumney, had made the same charge but was denounced by Wharton's defenders, as Flinn has been, for not properly respecting an advocate's role in the American legal system.

    * In a kind of second front to the mayoral war, Rick Rout, son of incumbent Shelby County mayor Jim Rout and chairman of the county Young Republicans as well as a declared candidate for the local party chairmanship, became embroiled in controversy regarding an e-mail he sent last week to fellow YR board members.

    In the e-mail, Rout advised the board members that their July meeting was being canceled and wrote, "We all are going nuts trying to get 95 percent of the Republican ticket elected and should focus on that." He said further that his father, saying his farewells to the group as mayor, would be the speaker at the regular YR August meeting. He continued, "The September meeting, we will hopefully be able to get the new Shelby County mayor to come and speak to us. So I will give A C a call today and ask if he will do it."

    In an interview with the Flyer, Rout said it was only being realistic to assume that Wharton would be the mayor in September because of his current 23 percent lead in the CA's most recently published poll. "That's pretty impossible to overcome," Rout said, adding, "[T]he tactics that George Flinn is using right now are backfiring greatly. People just don't like negative campaigning. I, for one, am not endorsing anyone."

    Flinn, he said, was "using smear tactics." Citing the arena ad with its allegations of back-room politics and "deals," Rout said, "My dad is the most honest public servant anyone has ever seen, and I don't appreciate [the allegations]." (Mayor Rout, who has kept his distance publicly from the mayor's race, was a firm advocate of the publicly funded arena project.)

    Elaborating on his view of Flinn's candidacy, Rick Rout said, "To be honest with you, I feel that he doesn't know what he's talking about. As a member of the Republican Party, I'm actually embarrassed. I don't think Dr. Flinn knows anything about running county government. It's a shame we've got a nominee that won't make speaking engagements and won't make debates. I am really disheartened at the way this election has gone."

    To those YR members who had contacted him to express their disappointment with the invitation being extended to Wharton, Rout said, "That's a little narrow-minded. We have to work with public servants across party lines. And we've had Democrats like [Memphis] mayor Willie Herenton speak to us before."

    Rout said he had not known that his sister Sherry Rout, who was in the group accompanying Wharton to a mayoral debate at WHBQ-TV last Thursday night, was taking an active role in the Wharton campaign but said, "We disagree on many things, politics being one. But if you have to choose between two candidates, you've got to pick the candidate you think will do the better job." Most people look at "the man, not the party," Rout said.

    Flinn spokesperson Cary Rodgers denied that the arena commercial had impugned Mayor Rout's integrity or suggested he was dishonest. "The whole point is that anything the voters don't get to vote on is perceived as a back-room deal. Nothing more, nothing less." Rodgers said that "numerous calls" had been received at Flinn headquarters from "people who are outraged at Rick's approach." She said, "They disagree totally with his reasoning, his conclusions, and his future as chairman of the party."

    This last was a reference to Rick Rout's active campaign to become the next Shelby County Republican chairman, succeeding the outgoing Alan Crone. Other names have been mentioned as potential candidates -- including those of businessman Kemp Conrad, who Flinn said had been an active supporter, and county commission member Marilyn Loeffel. Only Rout, who has already printed up campaign material, is declared, however. He said last week he didn't think his campaign would suffer from the current controversy or from his position on the mayor's race.

    This week, however, GOP activist Denise Martin, one of those who objected to the e-mail's content last week, said she, too, may seek the chairmanship.

    This week, as one election day neared, and as his own loomed several months down the pike, when Crone will step down, Rout began to couch his e-mail in somewhat different terms. "Really, I was just using my sense of humor," he said of the "95 percent" reference. "The polls have made it pretty clear that Flinn's not a real possibility to win; that's mainly what I was saying." But then he repeated his earlier displeasure with the party nominee.

    There was no joke about one thing. The public estrangement between the Routs and Flinn was not an isolated affair; it highlighted a schism that had been foreshadowed by several prior circumstances, including the heated primary race which saw John Willingham unseat county commission chairman Morris Fair in May.

    As do the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, each in a somewhat different way, the Shelby County mayor's race has pointed up a serious division in the ranks of Republicans -- between those who, like Mayor Rout, operate comfortably within a bipartisan, nondogmatic structure of opinion and those who, like Flinn, Willingham, and others, represent the feelings of populist, anti-tax insurgents.

    Whatever the outcome of the current mayoral battle or of that over the chairmanship, this is a war that will go on for some time.

    FINAL REPORT ON TENNESSEE ELECTIONS

    FINAL REPORT ON TENNESSEE ELECTIONS

    Posted By on Thu, Aug 1, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    From The Evans-Novak Political Report, July 30: 2002

    Tennessee Governor:

    Term-limited Gov.Don Sundquist (R) wraps up a rocky tenure in which he fought his own party and has tried many times to institute a statewide income tax. Sundquist ‘s actions upset many Tennessee Republicans and gave early momentum to conservative Rep. Van Hilleary (R)in his quest to replace him. Hilleary is a popular lawmaker who came to Congress with Republican Tennessee Reps. Ed Bryant and Zach Wamp, as well as Sen. Bill Frist in the class of ‘94.

    Hilleary ‘s chief challenger is Jim Henry (R),a former State House Minority Leader and former state party Chairman. Henry has an ideological base among the moderate Republicans cut from the Lamar Alexander and Sundquist cloth, and a geographical base of central Tennessee. In fact, when Alexander announced his preference for Henry last week, it was Hilleary who went around touting the fact with a press release headlined “Sundquist Seeks Third Term!” Hilleary is confident enough in his lead that he refused to debate Henry

  • Likely Hilleary

    The income tax issue is also prevalent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Nashville ‘s former Mayor Phil Bredensen (D)is unique among the Democratic front-runners in that he has announced firm opposition to an income tax. Knox County District Attorney Randy Nichols (D)and former Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Smith (D)both express openness to the tax. Bredensen is popular in Nashville, which is a major Democratic base, and he ran a close race against Sundquist in 1994,giving him high name recogni- tion

  • Likely Bredensen

    Tennessee Senator

    The battle between Rep.Bryant and former Gov.Alexander has aroused resentment and anger in the Tennessee GOP, After the surprising announcement by Sen. Fred Thompson (R)that he would retire, Bryant entered as the underdog and the conservative alternative to Lamar.

    But Lamar ‘s name recognition and general good standing with the state ‘s voters made it tough for Bryant to control the entire conservative base. Also, many party leaders back Alexander because they think he has a better chance in November against Rep. Bob Clement (D).

    Bryant has made an impressive comeback, and a recent poll he commis- sioned showed him down 49 to 37 percent, much closer than earlier counts. His fundraising has been impressive,and his backers in Tennessee and Washington have been aggressive. Bryant, like Hilleary, happily publicized Sundquist ‘s backing of Alexander.

    Thompson ‘s late decision may have doomed Bryant, however. The four-month primary did not provide Bryant a chance to develop a big enough name outside of the district, while Lamar has universal name recognition in the state.

    Bryant ‘s best hope is for a very low turnout, but early voting is high, which favors Alexander. This race will be closer than earlier expected, but Bryant needed a few more weeks to overcome Alexander and his towering fame.

  • Leaning Alexander

    House of Representatives:Tennessee-4:

    A recent poll showed both parties have primaries that are well within the margin of error in this district left vacant by Hilleary ‘s run for governor.

    Tullahoma Alderman and former Hilleary aide Janice Bowling (R)is neck- and-neck with former Safety Department Commissioner Mike Greene (R).Neither has very high name recognition and most voters are undecided. This race, more than most, will come down to who has the best primary day ground team. Bowling has more grass-roots connections in the district and so has a very slight edge.

    Recent attacks by the laggard candidates on Greene for his Sundquist connections also boost Bowling.

  • Leaning Bowling

    . Whichever Republican wins will face an uphill climb against the winner of the Fran Marcum (D)v. Lincoln Davis (D)primary. Davis is a State Senator, a former state Rep. and ran for the House in ‘84 and ‘94.This gives him a small advantage over Marcum,a well-known businesswoman. Marcum ‘s TV spots have been stronger than Davis,which will make the race very tight.

  • Leaning Davis

    House of Representatives: Tennessee-5:

    Democrats are nearly certain to retain this seat, which Clement has held for 16 years. Former Congressman Jim Cooper, Davidson coun- ty Sheriff Gayle Ray and State House Assistant Majority Leader John Arriola lead a 6-candidate Democratic primary field.

    Ray has the backing of EMILY ‘s list and has actually called on the femi- nist organization to “ease up “on their attacks on Cooper. Negative cam- paigns do not draw out primary voters, and low interest in the up-ballot Democratic primaries could keep turnout low in this district on a rare Thursday primary.The low turnout will help Cooper,who has run an excellent media campaign.

  • Leaning Cooper

    House of Representatives: Tennessee-7:

    State Sens.Marsha Blackburn (R)and Mark Norris (R)together with GOP activist David Kustoff (R)lead the Republican pack for Ed Bryant ‘s seat, which probably will stay in Republican hands.

    While Norris has more cash, Blackburn is the only Nashville-area candi- date and the only woman in the race --two big advantages in a seven-way primary. The fiscally conservative Club for Growth is backing Blackburn, as are some other D.C.-based groups.

  • Leaning Blackburn

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