Friday, September 27, 2002

DAVID AND ROBERTA KUSTOFF

DAVID AND ROBERTA KUSTOFF

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2002 at 4:00 AM

One of local politics’ most eligible (and idiosyncratic) bachelors is single no more. Two weeks ago David Kustoff-- he of the 3:30 a.m. early risings and the one-meal-a-day regimen-- eloped to Gatlinsburg with the former Roberta Nevil, a lawyer like himself.

After a brief honeymoon in the East Tennessee resort town, Kustoff (the male version) went right back to work as campaign manager for the U.S. Senate campaign of Lamar Alexander (due for a Memphis fundraiser Thursday, with Vice President Dick Cheney as the guest of honor).

A former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party and director of the succeessful Bush presidential effort in Tennessee in 2000, David Kustoff finished second behind Nashville’s Marsha Blackburn in the just-concluded six-candidate Republican primary for Congress in the 7th District.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Turning It On

Gubernatorial candidate Hilleary defies conventional wisdom to become a contender.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2002 at 4:00 AM

For some time, the gubernatorial campaign of Republican nominee Van Hilleary was presumed to be on life support. In a way, it still is, but the support is coming from high places now, as the Bush administration itself, buoyed by new polls showing the 4th District congressman within striking distance of Phil Bredesen, is palpably lending its influence.

On Tuesday last week, the president made a visit to Nashville for a big-ticket fund-raiser in GOP senatorial candidate Lamar Alexander's honor (followed by a photo-op visit to a Nashville school that literally everybody -- Alexander, Hilleary, and Democratic senatorial candidate Bob Clement -- got in on).

Clement worked overtime to lobby the media, statewide and national, into reporting that he traveled back to Washington later Tuesday with Bush aboard Air Force One. Even Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bredesen connected to the event in absentia, noting in a press release that the school in question was one of those built on his watch as Nashville's mayor during most of the '90s.

But the point of the presidential visit was, of course, to boost the GOP's statewide candidates, and Hilleary got some special stroking the very next day in Memphis, where a Wednesday-morning fund-raising breakfast brought to the downtown Plaza Club no less an eminence than former President George H.W. Bush, who called himself "41" to distinguish himself from his son and successor by one remove, "43."

An amiable, ingratiating presence as ever, the senior Bush joked about planning another -- and final -- parachute jump for his 80th birthday (less than two years off) and charmed the crowd with details of his domestic life -- though he inadvertently echoed an embarrassing lapse of 1992, when, during his unsuccessful presidential-reelection campaign, he demonstrated unfamiliarity with a grocery store scanner. In Memphis, he boasted of overseeing the Bush-family TV set but couldn't remember what to call a remote control, referring to it as "that thing you change the channels with -- the push-button."

Even so, Hilleary was glad for the boost. And the lofty stature of the occasion was lost on neither him nor his wife Meredith Hilleary, a schoolteacher, who had her own moment to remember when, during the automobile ride taking the former president from the airport to the Plaza Club, Bush turned to her and explained that his tie was askew, and, since "Bar" was not around to fix it, would she mind doing the honors? The surprised Meredith complied, adding later, "I couldn't keep my hand from shaking."

On Monday of this week, White House political director Ken Mehlman came to Nashville with other administration biggies to oversee a fund-raising dinner for both Hilleary and Alexander. And on Tuesday, Mehlman met with the Capitol Hill press corps at Vanderbilt-Loew's Plaza and hooked up with various other Tennessee scribes via conference phone. His message: Hilleary's campaign is a key one on the GOP's national radar.

As Mehlman spelled that out, the urgency of a Hilleary victory -- which everyone acknowledges would have to be of the come-from-behind variety -- had to do with support of the president's program. Hilleary, said Mehlman, was one of the 13 conferees who wrote the president's vaunted "No Child Left Behind" education bill. The congressman was touted also for his work on welfare and fiscal issues.

Hilleary has "a very impressive record as a reformer," said Mehlman, who insisted, "This isn't about the presidential election. It's not about us. It's about education reform, about the president having a partner at the state level."

No one, of course, was totally taken in by that. For a president whose disputed election in 2000 depended on his capture of Tennessee's 11 electoral votes, being able to rely on the personnel and machinery of a friendly state government here in 2004 is, to say the least, a desideratum -- especially since it looks more and more as though President Bush's Democratic challenger may be his neck-and-neck opponent of two years ago, former Vice President Al Gore.

Gore, who was one of the rare Democratic senators in 1991 to give the senior President Bush full support for his then-pending war on Iraq, surprised many observers on Monday when, instead of offering the current President Bush his unqualified support, essentially called for severe restraints upon the president's intended actions against Saddam Hussein.

Simultaneously with his aggressive stance toward Bush, Gore has been continuing the "fence-mending" effort in Tennessee he promised after the embarrassing -- and crucial -- loss in his native state in 2000. Not only have he and wife Tipper Gore purchased a new home in the Nashville area, he continues to teach part-time at Fisk University, and he has made conspicuous and regular appearances elsewhere in Tennessee -- including two highly visible ones so far in Memphis during the current campaign year.

From President Bush's point of view, it has become important that Hilleary hold his end up. Mehlman dismissed out of hand a somewhat obsolete question Tuesday from a Nashville reporter who wondered if the administration had "written off" the GOP's gubernatorial candidate; Mehlman's very presence in Nashville belied the premise, of course, as had former President Bush's journey to Memphis last week.

How well is Hilleary holding up his end? Astonishingly well, considering that, for most of the two years he has in effect been running, he has faced both widespread media ridicule as a lightweight and less than abundant enthusiasm from his own party's establishment. The 4th District congressman's estrangement from Governor Don Sundquist is notorious, and though rumors abounded last year that Hilleary had visited the governor in vain search of an endorsement, the congressman has denied them, and he certainly seems to be doing all right without the lame-duck governor's support.

Indeed, when, during the Republican primary season, Sundquist, burdened among his partymates by his dogged and futile support of a state income tax, let it be known that he favored Hilleary's opponent, former state Representative Jim Henry, it was Hilleary's campaign that trumpeted the headline "SUNDQUIST SEEKS THIRD TERM!" in one of its press releases.

And, in talking off the cuff last week about the second of two debates he has had so far with Bredesen, Hilleary made an interesting Freudian slip. "Sundquist didn't waste any time! He came right out of his corner slugging!" said the GOP hopeful before correcting himself: "Oh, I meant Bredesen did."

Conventional wisdom has it that Hilleary has held his own in the two debates so far, and there has now arisen between the two gubernatorial campaigns a debate over debates -- Bredesen insisting that the two men keep to a schedule proposed quite early, which would include high-profile debates in the state's major urban centers, and Hilleary countering with a proposal for a multitude of "flatbed" debates out in the state's more rural locales.

Hilleary, who can adopt a shucksy manner more readily than Bredesen, has won repeated elections in the formerly Democratic-dominated 4th District, which snakes through Tennessee's boondocks from east to west without encountering a major media market along the way. And the Republican's TV commercials differ from the more didactic Bredesen's in stressing his military past (as a Gulf War pilot) and using NASCAR-like images to suggest he would get Tennessee's slumping economy fired up again.

For whatever reason, a race that conventional wisdom once virtually conceded to Bredesen has become ultra-competitive. A Mason-Dixon poll last week showed Bredesen with only a two-point lead, 44-42, with 14 undecided or leaning to fringe candidates. That wasn't radically different from Hilleary's own poll, which has the numbers 39-39, with 23 percent undecided or leaning to independent challengers Ed Sanders and John Jay Hooker (yes, that John Jay Hooker, who, as the Democratic nominee in 1998, ran a single-issue race based on campaign-finance reform and lost badly to Sundquist).

Hilleary is handicapped as a campaigner in that his basic Republican theme of financial retrenchment doesn't necessarily jibe well with his emphasis on being an "education governor," but in recent appearances before friendly audiences (like last month's luncheon of the Shelby County Republican Women), he has summoned a good deal of passionate and sincere-sounding outrage about the low status of Tennessee education.

For all the closeness of the polls just now, Bredesen is still favored. He has put away the curiously on-again, off-again emotional manner of his losing 1994 campaign against Sundquist and has become a dependably benign and attentive figure on the stump. Moreover, his achievements as mayor of Nashville -- the Titans, the Predators, a new library, new schools and parks -- reinforce his image as a dependable executive who can, in his phrase, "manage" Tennessee back into solvency.

But Hilleary, having shown himself to be something other than a doofus, is a clear winner in the expectations game. And, though Bredesen matched him point-for-point as an income-tax opponent when that issue was before the legislature, Hilleary has cast doubt on his opponent's long-term attitude on taxes and may have gained some traction.

* Hilleary isn't, by the way, the only gainer against the odds board. Democratic senatorial candidate Clement, made to look hopelessly out of it by a recent poll showing him 18 percent behind Alexander, has now climbed to a perch of only eight points back, according to the latest Zogby poll.

The Clement camp cites a poll of its own, which shows that when both senatorial candidates have the same degree of name recognition, they run even. The irony of this one is that the name "Clement," back in the '50s/'60s heyday of the Nashville congressman's father, the late Governor Frank Clement, had no peer as far as name recognition went.

Clement remains optimistic, though his best chances of winning lie in making charges of corporate hanky-panky stick against the amiable and (as of the end of the GOP primary) moderate-seeming Alexander, whose former business arrangements have often been under attack but never so much as to weaken his electoral efforts.

* Former Shelby County Democratic chairman Sidney Chism believes he was mischaracterized by state Representative Kathryn Bowers, who in this space recently charged that Chism has handpicked and backed primary candidates against herself and other Democratic legislators. Bowers sought to expand the county Democratic coordinating committee on the grounds that its membership is remote from voters' concerns. Chism notes that he received 22,389 votes as a candidate for the state Democratic committee this year, more than the 4,071 votes Bowers got in her successful legislative-district primary race.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

POLITICS

Gubernatorial candidate Hilleary defies conventional wisdom to become a contender.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2002 at 4:00 AM

TURNING IT ON For some time, the gubernatorial campaign of Republican nominee Van Hilleary was presumed to be on life support. In a way it still is, but the support is coming from high places now, as the Bush administration itself, buoyed by new polls showing the 4th District congressman within striking distance of Bredesen, is palpably lending its influence. On Tuesday of last week the president made a visit to Nashville for a big-ticket fundraiser in GOP Senatorial candidate Lamar Alexander’s honor (followed by a photo-op visit to a Nashville school which literally everybody -- Alexander, Hilleary, and Democratic Senatorial candidate Bob Clement -- got in on. Clement worked overtime to lobby the media, statewide and national, into reporting that he traveled back to Washington later Tuesday with Bush aboard Air Force One. Even Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen connected to the event in absentia, noting in a press release that the school in question was one of those built on his watch as Nashville’s mayor during most of the ‘90s. But the point of the presidential visit was, of course, to boost the GOP’s statewide candidates, and Hilleary got some special stroking the very next day in Memphis, where a Wednesday morning fundraising breakfast brought to the downtown Plaza Club no less an eminence than George H.W. Bush, the former president who called himself “43” to distinguish himself from his son and successor by one remove, “41.” An amiable, ingratiating presence as ever, the senior Bush joked about planning another -- and final -- parachute jump for his 80th birthday (something less than two years off) and charmed the crowd with details of his domestic life -- though he inadvertently echoed an embarrassing lapse of 1992, when, during his unsuccessful presidential-reelection campaign, he demonstrated unfamiliarity with a grocery store scanner. In Memphis, he boasted of overseeing the Bush-family TV set but couldn’t remember what to call a remote, referring to it as “that thing you change the channels with --the push-button.” Even so, Hilleary was glad for the boost. And the lofty stature of the occasion was lost on neither him nor his wife Meredith, a schoolteacher, who had her own personal moment to remember when, during the automobile ride taking the former president from the airport to the Plaza Club, Bush turned to her and explained that his tie was askew and since “‘Bar” was not around to fix it, would she mind doing the honors? The surprised Meredith Hilleary complied, adding later, “I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking.” On Monday of this week, White House political director Ken Mehlman came to Nashville with other administration biggies to oversee a fundraising dinner for both Hilleary and Alexander. And on Tuesday Mehlman met with the Capitol Hill press corps at Vanderbilt-Loew’s Plaza and hooked up with various other Tennessee scribes via conference phone. His message: Hilleary’s campaign is a key one on the GOP’s national political radar. As Mehlman spelled that out, the urgency of a Hilleary victory -- which everyone acknowledges would have to be of the come-from-behind variety -- had to do with support of the president’s program. Hilleary, said Mehlman, was one of the 13 conferees who wrote the president’s vaunted “No child Left Behind” education bill. The congressman was touted also for his work on welfare and fiscal issues. Hilleary has “a very impressive record as a reformer,” said Mehlman, who insisted, “This isn’t about the presidential election. It’s not about us. It’s about education reform, about the president having a partner at the state level.” No one, of course, was totally taken in by that. For a president whose disputed election in 2000 depended on his capture of Tennessee’s 11 electoral votes, being able to rely on the personnel and machinery of a friendly state government here in 2004 is, to say the least, a desideratum -- especially since it looks more and more as though President Bush’s Democratic challenger may be his neck-and-neck opponent of two years ago, former vice president Al Gore. Gore, who was one of the rare Democratic senators in 1991 to give the senior President Bush full support for his then-pending “Desert Storm” war on Iraq, surprised many observers on Monday when, instead of offering the current President Bush his unqualified support, essentially called for severe restraints upon the president’s intended actions against Saddam Hussein. Simultaneously with his aggressive stance toward Bush, Gore has been continuing the “fence-mending:” effort in Tennessee which he promised after the embarrassing -- and crucial -- loss in his native state in 2000. Not only have he and wife Tipper Gore purchased a new home in the Nashville area, but he continues to teach part-time at Fisk University, and he has made conspicuous and regular appearances elsewhere in Tennessee -- including two highly visible ones so far in Memphis during the current campaign year. From President Bush’s point of view, it has become important that Hilleary hold his end up. Mehlman dismissed out of hand a somewhat obsolete question Tuesday from a Nashville reporter who wondered if the administration had “written off” the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate; Mehlmann’s very presence in Nashville belied the premise, of course, as had former president Bush’s journey to Memphis last week. How well is Hilleary holding up his end? Astonishingly well, considering that, for most of the two years he has in effect been running, he has faced both widespread media ridicule as a lightweight and less than abundant enthusiasm from his own party’s establishment. The 4th District congressman’s estrangement from Governor Don Sundquist is notorious, and though rumors abounded last year that Hilleary had visited the governor in vain search of an endorsement, the congressman has denied them, and he certainly seems to be doing all right without the lame duck governor’s support. Indeed, when during the Republican primary season Sundquist, burdened among his partymates by his dogged and futile support of a state income tax, let it be known that he favored Hilleary’s opponent, former state representative Jim Henry, it was Hilleary’s campaign that trumpeted the news, not Henry’s. “SUNDQUIST SEEKS THIRD TERM!” began the candidate’s press release. And, in talking off the cuff last week about the second of two debates he has had so far with Bredesen, Hilleary got off an interesting Freudian slip. “Sundquist didn’t waste any time! He came right out of his corner slugging! “ said the GOP hopeful, then correcting himself: “Oh, I meant Bredesen did.” Conventional wisdom has it had Hilleary has held his own in the two debates so far, and there has now arisen between the two gubernatorial campaigns a debate over debates -- Bredesen insisting that the two men keep to a schedule proposed quite early that would include high-profile debates in the state’s major urban center and Hilleary countering with a proposal for a multitude of “flatbed” debates out in the state’s more rural locales. Hilleary, who can adopt a shucksy manner more readily than Bredesen, has won repeated elections in the formerly Democratic-dominated 4th District, which snakes through Tennessee’s boondocks from east to west without encountering a major media market along the way. And the Republican’s TV commercials differ from the more didactic Bredesen’s in stressing his military past (as a Gulf War pilot) and using NASCAR-like images to suggest he would get Tennessee’s slumping economy fired up again. For whatever reason, a race that conventional wisdom once virtually conceded to Bredesen has become ultra-competitive. A Mason-Dixon poll last week showed Bredesen with only a two-point lead, 44-42, with 14 undecided or leaning to fringe candidates. That wasn’t radically different from Hilleary’s own poll, which has the numbers 39-39, with 23 percent undecided or learning to independent challengers Ed Sanders and John Jay Hooker (yes, that John Jay Hooker, who, as the Democratic nominee in 1998, ran a single-issue race based on campaign-finance reform and lost badly to Sundquist.) Hilleary is handicapped as a campaigner in that his basic Republican theme of financial retrenchment doesn’t necessarily jibe well with his emphasis on being an “education governor,” but in recent appearances before friendly audiences (like last month’s luncheon of the Shelby County Republican Women) he can summon a good deal of passionate and sincere-sounding outrage about the low status of Tennessee education. For all the closeness of the polls just now, Bredesen is still favored. He has put away the curiously on-again, off-again emotional manner of his losing 1994 campaign against Sundquist and, working hard at meet-and-greets, has become a dependably benign and attentive figure on the stump. Moreover, his achievements as mayor of Nashville -- the Titans, the Predators, a new library, new schools and parks -- reinforce his image as a dependable executive who can, in his phrase, “manage” Tennessee back into solvency. But Hilleary, having shown himself to be something other than a doofus, is a clear winner in the expectations game and is being taken seriously by the audiences who now encounter him. And, though Bredesen matched him point-by-point as an income-tax opponent when that issue was before the legislature, Hilleary has cast doubt on his opponent’s long-term attitude on taxes and may have gained some traction thereby. In any case, this race won’t be over until it’s over.
  • Hilleary isn’t, by the way, the only gainer against the oddsboard. Democratic senatorial candidate Clement, made to look hopelessly out of it by a recent poll showing him 18 percent behind Alexander, has now climbed to a perch of only eight points back, according to the latest Zogby poll. The Clement camp cites a poll of its own, which shows that when both Senatorial candidates have the same degree of name-recognition, they run even-steven. The irony of this one is that the name “Clement,” back in the’50s/’60s heyday of the Nashville congressman’s father, the late governor Frank Clement, had no peer as far as name-recognition went. Clement remains optimistic, though his best chances of winning lie in making charges of corporate hanky-panky stick against the amiable and (as of the end of the GOP primary) moderate-seeming Alexander, whose former business arrangements have often been under attack but never so much as to weaken his electoral efforts.
  • Former Shelby County Democratic chairman Sidney Chism believes he was mischaracterized by State Representative Kathryn Bowers, who in this space recently charged that Chism has handpicked and backed primary candidates against herself and other Democratic legislators -- something which Chism denies -- and who sought to expand the current county Democratic coordinating committee on the ground that its membership -- limited to Chism and others who have served as party chairs -- is remote from voters’ concerns. Chism notes, among other things, that he received 22,389 votes as a candidate for the state Democratic committee this years, more than the 4,071 votes Bowers got in her successful legislative-district primary race.

    Friday, September 20, 2002

    POLITICS: Parsers' Holiday

    POLITICS

    Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    PARSERS' HOLIDAY If ever there is a tournament for the parsing championship of the Western World, members of the two local parties will surely have to be considered as candidates for top honors. Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, Republican Senate candidate Lamar Alexander, Circuit Court Judge George Brown, and other participants at Monday night’s “Young Professionals” reception for Alexander and Herenton at The Plaza Club did their best to avoid direct mention of political “endorsement.” Brown, who ended up introducing former governor Alexander, who once appointed him to the state Supreme Court, noted for the record that as a sitting judge he could not participate in an “endorsement.” It called to mind former president Bill Clinton’s quibbles, during the Monica Lewinsky flap, about what “the meaning of ‘is’ is.” What the affair Monday night was, was an endorsement, even if the speakers, Herenton included, preferred to use the word “coalition” to describe the co-billing and active involvement of Memphis’ African-American Democratic mayor in an event arranged, subsidized, catered, etc., etc., by the Alexander campaign and designed explicitly to promote the former governor’s campaign. Almost as interesting, from the standpoint of special protocol, was an event of the previous day -- the formal opening of Democratic headquarters at Poplar Plaza on Sunday. Normally these rallies feature a panoply of local party leaders, all of whom recite, with proper hosannas, the full roster of party candidates. Bob Corney, the state Democratic coordinator, arrived on the scene with the intent of overseeing some such format, but local Democrats quickly informed him that another structure, already prepared, would have to be observed. This one mandated that single speakers confine their remarks of appreciation to the particiular candidates they were introducing. Thus, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton introduced Nashville congressman. Bob Clement, the Democratic Senate nominee, and omitted mention of anyone else. Clement was followed on the dais by Herenton, who similarly restricted his remarks to the subject of gubernatorial nominee Phil Bredesen, whom he introduced and whom, unlike Clement, the mayor is actually prepared to support. Herenton conspicuously huddled with both former 9th district congressman Harold Ford Sr. and current congressman Harold Ford Jr., to an effort to present the appearance of unity. State Rep. Kathryn Bowers, who has an open quarrel with local party chairperson Gale Jones Carson and other members of the Herenton camp, observed privately that “a big shovel” might be needed to clear the crowded, stifling room of “B.S.” Not to be outspun, incidentally, was Clement, who, in the face of Herenton’s cozying up to Lamar and of polls showing him as much as 18 percent behind Alexander, successfully lobbied local and national media to report that, while President George W. Bush was coming to Nashville Tuesday on Alexander’s behalf (to be followed by his father, former president George H.W. Bush, due in Memphis on Wednesday), he, Clement, would be flying back to Washington with President Bush aboard Air Force One. And Democrat Bredesen noted in a press release that he, as Nashville’s mayor, had presided over the school which the president planned to visit on Tuesday.

    Thursday, September 19, 2002

    Parsers' Holiday

    Local members of both parties do some artful dancing around difficult issues.

    Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    If ever there is a tournament for the parsing championship of the Western world, members of the two local parties will surely have to be considered as candidates for top honors.

    Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, Republican Senate candidate Lamar Alexander, Circuit Court Judge George Brown, and other participants at Monday night's "Young Professionals" reception for Alexander and Herenton at the Plaza Club did their best to avoid direct mention of political "endorsement." Brown, who ended up introducing former Governor Alexander, who once appointed him to the state Supreme Court, noted for the record that as a sitting judge he could not participate in an "endorsement."

    It called to mind former President Bill Clinton's quibbles, during the Monica Lewinsky flap, about what "the meaning of 'is' is." What the affair Monday night was was an endorsement, even if the speakers, Herenton included, preferred to use the word "coalition" to describe the co-billing and active involvement of Memphis' African-American Democratic mayor in an event arranged, subsidized, catered, etc., etc. by the Alexander campaign and designed explicitly to promote the former governor's campaign.

    Almost as interesting, from the standpoint of special protocol, was an event of the previous day -- the formal opening of Democratic headquarters at Poplar Plaza on Sunday. Normally, these rallies feature a panoply of local party leaders, all of whom recite, with proper hosannas, the full roster of party candidates.

    Bob Corney, the state Democratic coordinator, arrived on the scene with the intent of overseeing some such format, but local Democrats quickly informed him that another structure, already prepared, would have to be observed. This one mandated that single speakers confine their remarks of appreciation to the particular candidates they were introducing.

    Thus, Shelby County mayor A C Wharton introduced Nashville congressman Bob Clement, the Democratic Senate nominee, and omitted mention of anyone else. Clement was followed on the dais by Herenton, who similarly restricted his remarks to the subject of gubernatorial nominee Phil Bredesen, whom he introduced and whom, unlike Clement, the mayor is actually prepared to support.

    Herenton conspicuously huddled with both former 9th District congressman Harold Ford Sr. and current congressman Harold Ford Jr., in an effort to present the appearance of unity.

    State Rep. Kathryn Bowers, who has an open quarrel with local party chairperson Gale Jones Carson and other members of the Herenton camp, observed privately that "a big shovel" might be needed to clear the crowded, stifling room of "B.S."

    Not to be outspun, incidentally, was Clement, who, in the face of Herenton's cozying up to Lamar and of polls showing him as much as 18 percent behind Alexander, successfully lobbied local and national media to report that, while President George W. Bush was coming to Nashville Tuesday on Alexander's behalf (to be followed by his father, former President George H. W. Bush, due in Memphis on Wednesday), he, Clement, would be flying back to Washington with President Bush aboard Air Force One.

    And Democrat Bredesen noted in a press release that he, as Nashville's mayor, had presided over the school which the president planned to visit on Tuesday.

    * Whether by coincidence or through some pattern or synchronicity, the destinies of former Shelby County mayor Jim Rout and his son, beleaguered Young Republican chairman Rick Rout, seemed uncannily intertwined as each encountered a milestone of sorts last week.

    First, as the Flyer first reported last Thursday, the senior Rout was named by Jack Morris, the founder and owner of Jack Morris Auto Glass Company, to head his company as president starting this week.

    Then, on Thursday night, the younger Rout was given something less than a vote of confidence as his colleagues on the Shelby County Republican steering committee voted by an 18 to 8 margin to ask him to resign from the committee -- the reason being a series of indiscreet e-mails by YR president Rout, all of which had to do with Rout's reluctance (shared with his father but made more public) to support the candidacy of the GOP's county mayor nominee in the August 1st election, George Flinn.

    The first e-mail, written shortly before the election to the 11 YR board members, seemed to stress Rout's commitment to elect "95 percent" of the GOP ticket and contained his promise to solicit the appearance at the next YR meeting of the presumed (and, as it turned out, actual) winner of the mayoral race, Democrat Wharton.

    Although Rick Rout has since attempted to explain that e-mail as a "joke" based on a poll showing Wharton to have a commanding lead, his remarks at the time, both to the Flyer in an interview and to the YR board member suspected of leaking his first e-mail, emphasized his belief that Flinn, a radiologist/businessman and political novice, was "unfit" to serve as mayor, at least partly because of alleged insults during the campaign to Rout's father, the then mayor. (Some observers, notably including Flinn, who tried in vain to cozy up to the senior Rout, the titular head of Shelby County Republicans -- see the insults as more apparent than real, to say the least.)

    Clearly, a majority of the steering-committee members disbelieved young Rout's explanation for his statements and declined to accept his somewhat hedged apology for the errant e-mails. As the discussion on motion to seek his resignation ensued, a game Rick Rout, standing in the back of the meeting area at the GOP's Victory 2002 headquarters, pointedly looked at his watch and said, "I'm missing Big Brother." That, of course, is the "reality" TV show on which a contestant is periodically voted out of a group house, and, no, Rout wasn't missing it. He was just living another version of it.

    The bringer of the motion at Thursday night's steering-committee meeting was newly installed county commissioner John Willingham, one of several hardcore conservative populists to have achieved party prominence in the last year or two.

    The intraparty revolt symbolized by Willingham's advent is in part a reaction to what the conservatives believe is the Rout administration's lack of party purity and willingness to back public spending projects -- notably, the new NBA arena -- without properly sounding public opinion.

    Ironically enough, another young Republican and steering-committee member, businessman Kemp Conrad, who was considered by the conservative insurgents to be a kindred spirit on the Rick Rout issue and, indeed, has been one of young Rout's rivals for the coming party chairmanship election, has fallen under suspicion himself among the more purist of Republicans.

    Conrad's sin? Having a prominent role in the snaring of Memphis mayor Herenton as a participant in Monday night's "Young Professionals" reception and as a de facto collaborator in Alexander's Senate campaign.

    That Herenton is an African American may or may not be germane to the critics; that he is a Democrat is a red flag to them.

    Luckily for Conrad -- and perhaps for his party -- most Republicans understand that his outreach efforts tend in the direction of party-building, not of disloyalty.

    Perhaps the Routs, father and son, should be similarly pardoned, but right now the family sun seems to be setting, as far as many of the faithful are concerned, in the same direction as that of lame-duck Governor Don Sundquist, another misunderstood (or misguided, as the more critical see it) deviant from the party line, and it is another part of the synchronicity -- or coincidence -- that Jack Morris, he of the auto glass company, was finance chairman of the mayoral effort of A C Wharton.

    It is rumored in some circles that Jim Rout shot for higher than he got to begin the post-mayoral part of his life, and Rick Rout's chances of being elected party chairman, arguably possible six months ago, are remote now and wholly subordinate to the simple task of hanging on as a card-carrying Republican, amenable to the party rank and file.

    The Routs of Shelby County are an attractive extended family with a great deal of grace and public spirit and an admirable sense of loyalty to each other. But their days of hegemony -- nay, prominence; nay, acceptance -- among Shelby County Republicans may have passed away cleanly with the calendar date of the last countywide election.

    This may or may not be fair, but, as students of love and war -- and politics -- have long understood, fairness may not be the point of it all.

    In any case, Jim Rout seems at peace with himself and with what he is doing, and the same can be said of son Rick, who, for the record, had this to say of the GOP steering committee's request that he resign: "Thanks, but no thanks."

    Monday, September 16, 2002

    SAFETY FIRST

    SAFETY FIRST

    Posted By on Mon, Sep 16, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Memphis police recorded another sexual assault in the Winchester-Millbranch area of South Memphis last week, bringing the total to 10 incidents in the six area apartment complexes since January. While no suspects have been caught and the perpetrators have not been labeled serial offenders, apartment managers have increased security to ensure their residents' safety. Annette Taylor, who works for the 460-unit Winbranch Apartments, has been holding resident meetings and inspecting the grounds for unwanted visitors. Four of the incidents have occurred in her complex. "Our complex holds police meetings with our residents the second Tuesday of every month," she says. "We also make sure that none of our vacant apartments is left open and warn residents about sleeping with their doors and windows open. When last week's incident occurred, one of the [television] news stations filmed our complex as the site of the incident, and that was wrong. It was the complex across the street, and that has hurt us." Inspector Ray Schwill of the Memphis Police Department's South Precinct says there is not a serial rapist at large. "We don't think one person is doing this. This is the work of maybe several different suspects," he says. "[We have] increased patrols in the complexes and the area, talked with the apartment managers, and met with residents."< Department statistics show this: From January 1st through August 31st, the entire South Precinct, which covers 70 square miles and contains roughly 89,000 residents, reported 10 rapes. Five took place in the apartment complexes. "We don't have that many leads," says Inspector Matt McCann. "The victims have had trouble identifying the suspects because the incidents have happened in the dark, the assailtants have worn a mask, or the victims were told not to look at the suspect."

    Lanell Wilder, manager of the Millbranch Park Apartments where two of the incidents occurred, says she has not had a lot of questions from her residents. "Since the police first told us about what was happening, we have had no further conversations," she says. "But we are working on adding more lighting around the premises and have already added more security." In last week's incident at the Winchester Park complex, the assailant forced his way through a door at 2:45 a.m. The victim was awakened by a man holding a knife, who then attacked her. The suspect is described as a black male 17 to 20 years old.

    Sunday, September 15, 2002

    POLITICS (WEEKEND EDITION): Whither the Routs?

    POLITICS (WEEKEND EDITION)

    Posted By on Sun, Sep 15, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    WHITHER THE ROUTS? Whether by coincidence or through some pattern or synchronicity, the destinies of former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout and his son, beleaguered Young Republican chairman Rick Rout, seemed uncannily intertwined as each encountered a milestone of sorts this week.

    First, as the Flyer first reported Thursday, the senior Rout was named by Jack Morris, the founder and owner of Jack Morris Auto Glass Company, to head his company as president starting Monday.

    Then, on Thursday night, the younger Rout was given something less than a vote of confidence as his colleagues on the Shelby County Republican steering committee voted by an 18 to 8 margin to ask him to resign from the committee -- the reason being a series of indiscreet emails by YR president Rout, all of which had to do with Rout’s reluctance (shared with his father but made more public) to support the candidacy of the GOP’s county mayor nominee in the August 1st election, George Flinn.

    The first email, written shortly before the election to the 11 YR board members, seemed to stress Rout’s commitment to elect “95 percent” of the GOP ticket and contained his promise to solicit the appearance at the next YR meeting of the presumed (and, as it turned out, actual) winner of the mayoral race, Democrat A C Wharton.

    Although Rick Rout has since attempted to explain that email as a “joke” based on a poll showing Wharton to have a commanding lead, his remarks at the time, both to the Flyer in an interview and to the YR board member suspected of leaking his first email, emphasized his belief that Flinn, a radiologist/businessman and political novice, was “unfit” to serve as mayor, at least partly because of alleged insults during the campaign to Rout’s father, the then mayor. (Some observers --notably including Flinn, who tried in vain to cozy up to the senior Rout, the titular head of Shelby County Republicans -- see the insults as more apparent than real, to say the least.)

    Clearly, a majority of the steering committee members disbelieved young Rout’s explanation for his statements and declined to accept his somewhat hedged apology for the errant emails. As the discussion on motion to seek his resignation ensued, a game Rick Rout, standing in the back of the meeting area at the GOP’s Victory 2002 headquarters pointedly looked at his watch and said, “I’m missing Big Brother.” That, of course, was the “reality” TV show on which a contestant is voted out of a group house each week, and, no, Rout wasn’t missing it, he was just living another version of it.

    .The bringer of the motion at Thursday night’s steering committee meeting was newly installed county commissioner John Willingham, one of several hard-core conservative populists to have achieved party prominence in the last year or two.

    The intra-party revolt symbolized by Willingham’s advent is in part a reaction to what the conservatives believe is the Rout administration’s lack of party purity and willingness to back public spending projects -- notably the new NBA arena -- without properly sounding public opinion.

    Ironically enough, another young Republican and steering committee member, businessman Kemp Conrad, who was considered by the conservative insurgents to be a kindred spirit on the Rick Rout issue and, indeed, has been one of young Rout’s rivals for the coming party chairmanship election, has fallen under suspicion himself among the more purist of Republicans.

    Conrad’s sin? Snaring Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton as a collaborator of sorts in the Senate campaign of Republican Lamar Alexander. To the private consternation of Democrats, who are heroically attempting to look the other way, the mayor will share the dais with the former governor Monday night at an official campaign youth event arranged by Conrad.

    That Herenton is an African American may or may not be germane to the critics; that he is a Democrat is a red flag to them.

    Luckily for Conrad -- and perhaps for his party -- most Republicans understand that his outreach efforts tend in the direction of party-building, not of disloyalty.

    Perhaps the Routs, father and son, should be similarly pardoned, but right now the family sun seems to be setting, as far as many of the faithful are concerned, in the same direction as that of lame-duck Governor Don Sundquist, another misunderstood (or misguided, as the more critical see it) deviant from the party line, and it is another part of the synchronicity -- or coincidence -- that Jack Morris, he of the auto glass company, was finance chairman of the mayoral effort of A C Wharton.

    It is rumored in some circles that Jim Rout shot for higher than he got to begin the post-mayoral part of his life, and Rick Rout’s chances of being elected party chairman, arguably possible six months ago, are remote now and wholly subordinate to the simple task of hanging on as a card-carrying Republican, amenable to the party rank and file.

    The Routs of Shelby County are an attractive extended family with a great deal of grace and public spirit and an admirable sense of loyalty to each other. But their days of hegemony -- nay prominence, nay acceptance -- among Shelby County Republicans may have passed away cleanly with the calendar date of the last countywide election.

    This may or may not be fair, but, as students of love and war -- and politics -- have long understood, fairness may not be the point of it all.

    In any case, Jim Rout seems at peace with himself and with what he is doing, and the same can be said of son Rick, who, for the record, had this to say of the GOP steering committee's request that he resign: "Thanks, but no thanks." (Wonder if that works on Big Brother?)

    SAFETY FIRST

    SAFETY FIRST

    Posted By on Sun, Sep 15, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Memphis police recorded another sexual assault in the Winchester-Millbranch area of South Memphis last week, bringing the total to 10 incidents in the six area apartment complexes since January. While no suspects have been caught and the perpetrators have not been labeled serial offenders, apartment managers have increased security to ensure their residents' safety. Annette Taylor, who works for the 460-unit Winbranch Apartments, has been holding resident meetings and inspecting the grounds for unwanted visitors. Four of the incidents have occurred in her complex. "Our complex holds police meetings with our residents the second Tuesday of every month," she says. "We also make sure that none of our vacant apartments is left open and warn residents about sleeping with their doors and windows open. When last week's incident occurred, one of the [television] news stations filmed our complex as the site of the incident, and that was wrong. It was the complex across the street, and that has hurt us." Inspector Ray Schwill of the Memphis Police Department's South Precinct says there is not a serial rapist at large. "We don't think one person is doing this. This is the work of maybe several different suspects," he says. "[We have] increased patrols in the complexes and the area, talked with the apartment managers, and met with residents."< Department statistics show this: From January 1st through August 31st, the entire South Precinct, which covers 70 square miles and contains roughly 89,000 residents, reported 10 rapes. Five took place in the apartment complexes. "We don't have that many leads," says Inspector Matt McCann. "The victims have had trouble identifying the suspects because the incidents have happened in the dark, the assailtants have worn a mask, or the victims were told not to look at the suspect."

    Lanell Wilder, manager of the Millbranch Park Apartments where two of the incidents occurred, says she has not had a lot of questions from her residents. "Since the police first told us about what was happening, we have had no further conversations," she says. "But we are working on adding more lighting around the premises and have already added more security." In last week's incident at the Winchester Park complex, the assailant forced his way through a door at 2:45 a.m. The victim was awakened by a man holding a knife, who then attacked her. The suspect is described as a black male 17 to 20 years old.

    POLITICS (WEEKEND EDITION)

    POLITICS (WEEKEND EDITION)

    Posted By on Sun, Sep 15, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    WHITHER THE ROUTS? Whether by coincidence or through some pattern or synchronicity, the destinies of former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout and his son, beleaguered Young Republican chairman Rick Rout, seemed uncannily intertwined as each encountered a milestone of sorts this week.

    First, as the Flyer first reported Thursday, the senior Rout was named by Jack Morris, the founder and owner of Jack Morris Auto Glass Company, to head his company as president starting Monday.

    Then, on Thursday night, the younger Rout was given something less than a vote of confidence as his colleagues on the Shelby County Republican steering committee voted by an 18 to 8 margin to ask him to resign from the committee Ð the reason being a series of indiscreet emails by YR president Rout, all of which had to do with RoutÕs reluctance (shared with his father but made more public) to support the candidacy of the GOPÕs county mayor nominee in the August 1st election, George Flinn.

    The first email, written shortly before the election to the 11 YR board members, seemed to stress RoutÕs commitment to elect Ò95 percentÓ of the GOP ticket and contained his promise to solicit the appearance at the next YR meeting of the presumed (and, as it turned out, actual) winner of the mayoral race, Democrat A C Wharton.

    Although Rick Rout has since attempted to explain that email as a ÒjokeÓ based on a poll showing Wharton to have a commanding lead, his remarks at the time, both to the Flyer in an interview and to the YR board member suspected of leaking his first email, emphasized his belief that Flinn, a radiologist/businessman and political novice, was ÒunfitÓ to serve as mayor, at least partly because of alleged insults during the campaign to RoutÕs father, the then mayor. (Some observers Ðnotably including Flinn, who tried in vain to cozy up to the senior Rout, the titular head of Shelby County Republicans Ð see the insults as more apparent than real, to say the least.)

    Clearly, a majority of the steering committee members disbelieved young RoutÕs explanation for his statements and declined to accept his somewhat hedged apology for the errant emails. As the discussion on motion to seek his resignation ensued, a game Rick Rout, standing in the back of the meeting area at the GOPÕs Victory 2002 headquarters pointedly looked at his watch and said, ÒIÕm missing Big Brother.Ó That, of course, was the ÒrealityÓ TV show on which a contestant is voted out of a group house each week, and, no, Rout wasnÕt missing it, he was just living another version of it.

    .The bringer of the motion at Thursday nightÕs steering committee meeting was newly installed county commissioner John Willingham, one of several hard-core conservative populists to have achieved party prominence in the last year or two.

    The intra-party revolt symbolized by WillinghamÕs advent is in part a reaction to what the conservatives believe is the Rout administrationÕs lack of party purity and willingness to back public spending projects Ð notably the new NBA arena Ð without properly sounding public opinion.

    Ironically enough, another young Republican and steering committee member, businessman Kemp Conrad, who was considered by the conservative insurgents to be a kindred spirit on the Rick Rout issue and, indeed, has been one of young RoutÕs rivals for the coming party chairmanship election, has fallen under suspicion himself among the more purist of Republicans.

    ConradÕs sin? Snaring Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton as a collaborator of sorts in the Senate campaign of Republican Lamar Alexander. To the private consternation of Democrats, who are heroically attempting to look the other way, the mayor will share the dais with the former governor Monday night at an official campaign youth event arranged by Conrad.

    That Herenton is an African American may or may not be germane to the critics; that he is a Democrat is a red flag to them.

    Luckily for Conrad Ð and perhaps for his party Ð most Republicans understand that his outreach efforts tend in the direction of party-building, not of disloyalty.

    Perhaps the Routs, father and son, should be similarly pardoned, but right now the family sun seems to be setting, as far as many of the faithful are concerned, in the same direction as that of lame-duck Governor Don Sundquist, another misunderstood (or misguided, as the more critical see it) deviant from the party line, and it is another part of the synchronicity Ð or coincidence Ð that Jack Morris, he of the auto glass company, was finance chairman of the mayoral effort of A C Wharton.

    It is rumored in some circles that Jim Rout shot for higher than he got to begin the post-mayoral part of his life, and Rick RoutÕs chances of being elected party chairman, arguably possible six months ago, are remote now and wholly subordinate to the simple task of hanging on as a card-carrying Republican, amenable to the party rank and file.

    The Routs of Shelby County are an attractive extended family with a great deal of grace and public spirit and an admirable sense of loyalty to each other. But their days of hegemony -- nay prominence, nay acceptance -- among Shelby County Republicans may have passed away cleanly with the calendar date of the last countywide election.

    This may or may not be fair, but, as students of love and war -- and politics -- have long understood, fairness may not be the point of it all.

    In any case, Jim Rout seems at peace with himself and with what he is doing, and the same can be said of son Rick, who, for the record, had this to say of the GOP steering committee's request that he resign: "Thanks, but no thanks." (Wonder if that works on Big Brother?)

    Friday, September 13, 2002

    JIM ROUT'S NEW JOB & RICK ROUT'S NEW PROBLEM

    JIM ROUT'S NEW JOB & RICK ROUT'S NEW PROBLEM

    Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    The Flyer has learned that former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout will take on the duties next week of president of Jack Morris Auto Glass Company.

    Morris, the founder, owner, and namesake of the company, was finance chairman in the successful campaign of new Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton and confided the change of leadership privately Thursday night after a fund-raiser at the Racquet Club for Mayor Wharton.

    Simultaneously Shelby County Republicans were holding the party's monthly steering committee meeting at the GOP's Victory 2002 headquarters at Park Place Mall, and voted 18-8 for a motion introduced by new county commissioner John Willingham that asked Rick Rout, the Young Republican chairman and the former mayor's son, to resign from the committee for what several Republicans considered questionable emails and statements during the mayor's race.

    The statements were critical of GOP mayoral nominee George Flinn.

    Details to Follow.

    WWH For Lamar?

    The old Ford-vs.-Herenton rivalry is reprised in the battle for the U.S. Senate.

    Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    A large number of politically and socially active Shelby Countians got invitations in the mail over the weekend from a group calling itself "Shelby County Young Professionals." Recipients were invited to a reception next Monday night at the Plaza Club, to be highlighted by two "special guests": Memphis mayor Willie W. Herenton, a Democrat, and former Governor Lamar Alexander, now the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.

    Consider that the RSVP number on the invitation connects directly to Alexander's campaign headquarters, that most of the names on the host list are those of well-known local Republicans (one of whom frankly described the group as an ad hoc support group for the Alexander campaign), and that Alexander has an active Democratic opponent for the Senate, 5th District Democratic congressman Bob Clement of Nashville.

    All of that should add up to an inadvertent involvement and an embarrassment for Mayor Herenton, who, along with several members of his inner circle, is from time to time quite active in Democratic ranks. Right?

    Wrong. Apprised of the close -- indeed, seamless -- connections between Monday night's event and the Alexander campaign, Herenton, who was active on behalf of the 2000 presidential candidacy of Al Gore and calls himself the "point man" in Shelby County this year for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen, said he had no intention of reconsidering his participation alongside Alexander, whom he called "a very good friend, one I've known for 20 years, and who supported educational reform when I was superintendent [of Memphis schools]."

    On Monday, Gale Jones Carson, the mayoral press secretary who doubles as Shelby County Democratic chairperson, commented that the invitation had surprised her, in that she had thought the group sponsoring the reception was Mpact, a nonpartisan group with a diverse membership, ethnically and politically, and one which, she said, encourages participation in public affairs by young people. The host members listed on the invitation would seem to be members of both Mpact and Shelby County Young Professionals, an organization described by one of its principals as "designed to promote Lamar to as many different people as possible."

    David Upton, a local Democratic activist, was one of several Democrats who got the invitation and said it appeared evident to him that the ad hoc GOP group used Mpact's normal mailing list.

    Herenton himself was untroubled by the nature of the sponsorship. "I never did think it was an Mpact event," he said, noting that his son, Rodney Herenton, was an Mpact member. The younger Herenton is also listed prominently, with his wife Andrea, as a member of the host group for Shelby County Young Professionals.

    During the recent Shelby County mayoral contest, when it was strongly rumored that then-county mayor Jim Rout, a Republican, was supporting Democrat A C Wharton, the ultimate winner, and not GOP nominee George Flinn, Rout availed himself of the circumlocution that he was a Republican and supported "the ticket." Democrat Herenton declined to express himself in analogous terms and, while he denied that he would formally "endorse" Alexander, he would not disavow the word "support."

    "As the mayor of Memphis, I hold a nonpartisan position," Herenton noted, and he recalled that prominent Democrats, like members of the politically influential Farris family, had, in 1991, supported his mayoral opponent, then-incumbent Dick Hackett, who was presumed to be a Republican. "And you have the fact that the local Democratic Party has always been controlled by the Ford family," said Herenton, thereby invoking the once-intense rivalry between himself and the local political organization led by former 9th District congressman Harold Ford Sr.

    As it happens, the former congressman, who was succeeded in Congress by his son, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., was in Memphis this week to host a Wednesday-night event on behalf of the campaigns of both Clement and Bredesen. At some point, the involvement of the senior and junior Fords in the 2002 campaign, coupled with Herenton's tacit support of Alexander, may well reignite a political feud that has been smoldering quietly since Herenton's overwhelming defeat of the then-city councilman. Herenton acknowledged that "several state Democrats" had complained to him of his involvement with Alexander, and several local Democrats seem discontented by Herenton's position in the Senate race, especially when he is simultaneously attempting to exercise a local leadership role on behalf of the gubernatorial campaign of Bredesen, a former mayor of Nashville. Ironically, Herenton withheld support from Bredesen's 1994 gubernatorial race, giving tacit support to then-Congressman Don Sundquist, a Republican. Herenton noted Tuesday that a majority of his financial support has traditionally been Republican.

    "We're glad to get crossover support for Bredesen," cracked lawyer David Cocke, a former Democratic county chairman and Ford ally who has often been at odds with the mayor's party surrogates -- notably Carson and erstwhile party chairman and former Teamster leader Sidney Chism. Both Carson and Chism are key members of the local Democratic coordinating committee, whose membership is currently under challenge from several local elected officials.

    Meanwhile, Carol Andrews, a spokesperson for the Clement campaign in Nashville, declined Tuesday to be critical of Mayor Herenton, saying only that she expected the Democratic nominee to be supported "by a broad array of people in Shelby County" and that the Clement campaign would "welcome with open arms" anybody who was keeping a distance right now but might come aboard later on.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2002

    POLITICS: Herenton for Lamar Alexander?

    A bitter Democratic rivalry could be reprised in the battle for the U.S. Senate.

    Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    HERENTON FOR LAMAR ALEXANDER?

    Carson, Ford Sr., and Chism at Tuesday Night Dem Rally

    A large number of politically and socially active Shelby Countians got invitations in the mail over the weekend from a group calling itself "Shelby County Young Professionals.” Recipients were invited to a reception next Monday night at the Plaza Club, to be highlighted by two “special guests”: Memphis Mayor Willie W. Herenton, a Democrat, and former Governor Lamar Alexander, now the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.

    Consider that the R.S.V.P. number indicated on the invitation connects directly to Alexander’s campaign headquarters, that most of the names on the host list are those of well-known local Republicans (one of whom frankly described the group as an ad hoc support group for the Alexander campaign), and that Alexander has an active Democratic opponent for the Senate, 5th District Democratic congressman Bob Clement of Nashville.

    All of that should add up to an inadvertent involvement and an embarrassment for Mayor Herenton, who, along with several members of his inner circle, is from time to time quite active in Democratic ranks. Right?

    Wrong. Apprised of the close -- indeed, seamless -- connections between Monday night’s event and the Alexander campaign, Herenton, who was active on behalf of the 2000 presidential candidacy of Al Gore and calls himself the “point man” in Shelby County this year for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen, said he had no intention of reconsidering his participation alongside Alexander, whom he called “ a very good friend, one I’ve known for 20 years, and who supported educational reform when I was superintendent [of Memphis schools].”

    On Monday, Gale Jones Carson, the mayoral press secretary who doubles as Shelby County Democratic chairperson, commented that the invitation had surprised her, in that she had thought the group sponsoring the reception was Mpact, a non-partisan group with a diverse membership, ethnically and politically, and one which, she said, encourages participation in public affairs by young people. The host members listed on the invitation would seem to be members of both Mpact and Shelby County Young Professionals, an organization described by one of its principals as “designed to promote Lamar to as many different people as possible.”

    David Upton, a local Democratic activist, was one of several Democrats who got the invitation and said it appeared evident to him that the ad hoc GOP group used Mpact’s normal mailing list.

    Herenton himself was untroubled by the nature of the sponsorship. “I never did think it was an Mpact event,” he said, noting that his son Rodney Herenton was an Mpact member. The younger Herenton is also listed prominently, with his wife Andrea, as a member of the host group for Shelby County Young Professionals.

    During the recent Shelby County mayoral contest, when it was strongly rumored that then county mayor Jim Rout, a Republican, was supporting Democrat A C Wharton, the ultimate winner, and not GOP nominee George Flinn, Rout availed himself of the circumlocution that he was a Republican and supported “the ticket.” Democrat Herenton declined to express himself in analagous terms and, while he denied that he would formally “endorse” Alexander, he would not disavow the word “support.”

    “As the mayor of Memphis, I hold a non-partisan position,” Herenton noted, and he recalled that prominent Democrats, like members of the politically influential Farris family, had in 1991 supported his mayoral opponent, then incumbent Dick Hackett, who was presumed to be a Republican. “And you have the fact that the local Democratic Party has always been controlled by the Ford family,” said Herenton, thereby invoking the once intense rivalry between himself and the local political organization led by former 9th District congressman Harold Ford Sr.

    As it happens, the former congressman, who was succeeded in Congress by his son, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., was in Memphis this week to host a Tuesday night event on behalf of the campaigns of both Clement and Bredesen. At some point, the involvement of the senior and junior Fords in the 2002 campaign, coupled with Herenton’s tacit support of Alexander, may well reignite a political feud which has been smoldering quietly since Herenton’s overwhelming defeat of then city councilman (now county commissioner) Joe Ford in the 1999 city mayor’s race.

    Herenton acknowledges that “several state Democrats” have complained about his cozienss with Alexander, and several local Democrats seem discontented by the mayor’s position in the Senate race, especially when he is simultaneously attempting to exercise a local leadership role on behalf of the gubernatorial campaign of Bredesen, a former mayor of Nashville. For the record, notes Herenton, a majority of his campaign money has always come from “Republican businessmen," and, ironically, the Memphis mayor's current distance from Clement and dalliance with Alexander closely resembles his stance in 1994, when he kept Bredesen at arm's length during the Nashville mayor's first gubernatorial run and lent tangible --if tacit -- support to fellow Memphian Don Sundquist, a Republican and the ultimate winner.

    “We’re glad to get crossover support for Bredesen,” cracked lawyer David Cocke, a former Democratic county chairman and Ford ally who has often been at odds with the mayor’s party surrogates -- notably Carson and erstwhile party chairman and former Teamster leader Sidney Chism. Both Carson and Chism are key members of the local Democratic coordinating committee, whose membership is currently under challenge from several local elected officials.

    Meanwhile, Carol Andrews, a spokesperson for the Clement campaign in Nashville, declined Tuesday to be critical of Mayor Herenton, saying only that she expected the Democratic nominee to be supported “by a broad array of people in Shelby County” and that the Clement campaign would “welcome with open arms” anybody who was keeping a distance right now but might come aboard later on.

    Harold Ford Sr., mellowed by his absence from the local political wars (he's a consultant living mainly in Florida) and perhaps mindful, too, of the relatively bipartisan needs of his own situation these days, was careful to stress “unity” at the Democratic conclave at Cal’s Restaurant in east Memphis Tuesday night, and he would speak no evil of Herenton, his erstwhile nemesis, insisting that “the mayor’s going to be all right.”

    That, of course, depends on the political angle one views the situation from, and, from the standpoint of Ford and other Democrats, it remains to be seen.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2002

    BROTHER ACT

    BROTHER ACT

    Posted By on Tue, Sep 10, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Sworn in as new chairman of the Shelby County Commission Monday was Walter Bailey, here taking the oath from Circuit Court Judge D'Army Bailey, a proud sibling who -- berobed and all -- said he "just happened to be walking by." Also sworn in was commission vice chair Marilyn Loeffel.

    Friday, September 6, 2002

    POLITICS: Raucus Party

    POLITICS

    Posted By on Fri, Sep 6, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    RAUCUS PARTY In keeping with a venerable tradition, local Democrats have their disagreements. Shelby County Democrats continue to conform to the hoary old characterization of the party coined by the late Will Rogers, whose stand-up act often included the line, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” Some think that local party members continue to justify such a description; even their attempts at organization can often lead to greater confusion. Take recent efforts to form a Shelby County coordinating committee to collaborate with the state Democratic coordinating committee, the Nashville-based organization that will oversee the statewide campaigns of Phil Bredesen and Bob Clement, Democratic nominees for governor and the U.S. Senate, respectively. At one point, Reginald French, a veteran associate of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton’s, was tapped by the state organization to head up the local coordinating committee. But the state committee, directed by veteran Democratic operative Bob Corney, could never agree on terms with French, who divided his time during the last year between the campaigns of Bredesen and A C Wharton, the newly inaugurated Shelby County mayor, Corney and company then settled on the expedient of asking five recent chairpersons of the Shelby County Democratic Party to serve as co-chairs of the local committee. These were Gale Jones Carson, the current chair, and four of her predecessors: John Farris, Jim Strickland, Sidney Chism, and David Cocke. That, in turn, didn’t sit well with several elected officials -- especially members of the state legislative delegation, several of whom found themselves opposed in the recent state Democratic primary by candidates allegedly hand-picked or supported by Chism, a power broker in his own right. On Monday night of last week, Corney met in Memphis with the five members of the proposed local coordinating committee. Later the same night Democratic members of the legislative delegatoin met with Bredesen, and several expressed dissatisfaction with the committee’s makeup. (This was one week after various local legislators and other officials had met with Clement in Memphis to express their concerns.) State Rep. Kathryn Bowers, one of the aggrieved legislators, recalls the group’s perspective this way: “We didn’t want the same thing happening with Bredesen and Clement that happened two years ago with Al Gore.” The Democrats’ presidential candidate in 2000 carried Shelby County by a margin of some 50,000 -- but only, maintained Bowers, after the late involvement locally of former congressman Harold Ford Sr., now a consultant living mainly in Florida. “We just felt there wasn’t enough input from elected officials on the coordinating committee, and we felt there were people on the committee that didn’t hold office and might be too remote from actual voting Democrats and their concerns,” said Bowers, who acknowledged that she and several other legislators were not exactly enamored of Chism’s election efforts. Accordingly, she said, the legislative group proposed to Bredesen that she, state Senator Roscoe Dixon, and state Rep. Ulysses Jones, be added to the local coordinating committee. And Bredesen, the former Nashville mayor who, as gubernatorial committee, has clout second to none with the state committee, endorsed the idea, according to Bowers. Carson, who doubles as Mayor Herenton’s press secretary, said she had not been apprised of such a change and doubted its value. “None of these people have approached me,” she said. “And what good would it do to appoint three members of the delegation to the committee and leave the others off?” As of early this week, no final resolution had been made of the issue. One member of the current committee, asking not to be identified by name, characterized the disagreement as “a lot of B.S., essentially, a lot of fuss over nothing,” pointing out that Corney and the state organization, in close tandem with the campaigns of Clement and Bredesen, would decide most matters. In part, of course, the dustup is a patronage matter, since the local committee with select participants in GOTV (get-out-the-vote) efforts, and several of these will be handsomely compensated for their efforts. In part, too, it reflects continuing factionalism within the party, coinciding in some ways with the not altogether healed Herenton/Ford schism of recent years as well as newer divides in the evolving local party. In any case, Will Rogers wouldn’t have any trouble understanding it. Carson, incidentally, did her best to put to rest a rumor that Herenton might support Clement opponent Lamar Alexander, the Republican Senate nominee with hwom the mayor has shared one or two corporate board memberships in the past. “That’s somebody attempting to make mischief,” she said, acknowledging that she had been asked about the rumor by party officials in Nashville. “I can say categorically that the mayor will not support Alexander.” She said Herenton will be active in Bredesen’s campaign and has not yet determined the extent of his involvement in Clement’s.

    Raucous Party

    In keeping with a venerable tradition, local Democrats have their disagreements.

    Posted By on Fri, Sep 6, 2002 at 4:00 AM

    Shelby County Democrats continue to conform to the hoary characterization of the party coined by the late Will Rogers, whose standup act sometimes often included the line "I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

    Some think that local party members continue to justify such a description; even their attempts at organization can often lead to greater confusion. Take recent efforts to form a Shelby County coordinating committee to collaborate with the state Democratic coordinating committee, the Nashville-based organization that will oversee the statewide campaigns of Phil Bredesen and Bob Clement, Democratic nominees for governor and the U.S. Senate, respectively.

    At one point, Reginald French, a veteran associate of Memphis mayor Willie Herenton's, was tapped by the state organization to head up the local coordinating committee. But the state committee, directed by veteran Democratic operative Bob Corney, could never agree on terms with French, who divided his time during the past year between the campaigns of Bredesen and A C Wharton, the newly inaugurated Shelby County mayor.

    Corney and company then settled on the expedient of asking five recent chairpersons of the Shelby County Democratic Party to serve as co-chairs of the local committee. These were Gale Jones Carson, the current chair, and four of her predecessors: John Farris, Jim Strickland, Sidney Chism, and David Cocke.

    That, in turn, didn't sit well with several elected officials -- especially members of the state legislative delegation, several of whom found themselves opposed in the recent state Democratic primary by candidates allegedly handpicked or supported by Chism, a power broker in his own right.

    On Monday night of last week, Corney met in Memphis with the five members of the proposed local coordinating committee. Later the same night, Democratic members of the legislative delegation met with Bredesen, and several expressed dissatisfaction with the committee's makeup. (This was one week after various local legislators and other officials had met with Clement in Memphis to express their concerns.)

    State Rep. Kathryn Bowers, one of the aggrieved legislators, recalls the group's perspective this way: "We didn't want the same thing happening with Bredesen and Clement that happened two years ago with Al Gore." The Democrats' presidential candidate in 2000 carried Shelby County by a margin of some 50,000 -- but only, maintained Bowers, after the late involvement locally of former Congressman Harold Ford Sr., now a consultant living mainly in Florida.

    "We just felt there wasn't enough input from elected officials on the coordinating committee, and we felt there were people on the committee that didn't hold office and might be too remote from actual voting Democrats and their concerns," said Bowers, who acknowledged that she and several other legislators were not exactly enamored of Chism's election efforts.

    Accordingly, she said, the legislative group proposed to Bredesen that she, state Sen. Roscoe Dixon, and state Rep. Ulysses Jones be added to the local coordinating committee. And Bredesen, the former Nashville mayor who, as gubernatorial nominee, has clout second to none with the state committee, endorsed the idea, according to Bowers.

    Carson, who doubles as Mayor Herenton's press secretary, said she had not been apprised of such a change and doubted its value. "None of these people has approached me," she said. "And what good would it do to appoint three members of the delegation to the committee and leave the others off?"

    As of early this week, no final resolution had been made of the issue. One member of the current committee, asking not to be identified by name, characterized the disagreement as "a lot of B.S., essentially, a lot of fuss over nothing," pointing out that Corney and the state organization, in close tandem with the campaigns of Clement and Bredesen, would decide most matters.

    In part, of course, the dustup is a patronage matter, since the local committee will select participants in GOTV (get-out-the-vote) efforts, and several of these will be handsomely compensated for their efforts. In part, too, it reflects continuing factionalism within the party, coinciding in some ways with the not-altogether healed Herenton/Ford schism of recent years as well as newer divides in the evolving local party.

    In any case, Will Rogers wouldn't have any trouble understanding it.

    Carson, incidentally, did her best to put to rest a rumor that Herenton might support Clement opponent Lamar Alexander, the Republican Senate nominee with whom the mayor has shared one or two corporate board memberships in the past. "That's somebody attempting to make mischief," she said. "I can say categorically that the mayor will not support Alexander."

    Air War: Like his Democratic opponent Bob Clement previously, GOP Senate candidate Lamar Alexander visited the Mud Island site of the Memphis Belle, where he proposed on Tuesday federal action to reemphasize the teaching of civics.

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