Don't look now (all right, look
now!), but the elusive and unpredictable George Flinn, the radiologist/radio magnate who parlayed his considerable private resources into a semi-successful run for public office in 2002, has finally tipped his hand as to his intentions for 2003.
Flinn has picked up (okay, okay, has had
picked up!) not one but two petitions for a place on this year's Memphis city-election ballot. One petition is for the District 5 city council seat now held by the retiring John Vergos, the other is for -- would you guess it? -- mayor.
Something in Flinn plainly lusts for the gold ring on the merry-go-round ride. The Memphis native and former Central High School ham-radio operator, who succeeded in the seemingly disparate fields of medicine (as holder of several ultra-sound patents and as the proprietor of a multi-office local practice) and broadcasting (as the owner of a string of local radio stations), likes the idea of holding the top job.
Though many -- including the powers-that-be in the Shelby County Republican Party -- were skeptical when Flinn began coveting the GOP nomination for county mayor in late 2001, he won it, in an upset over the establishment favorite, then State Rep. Larry Scroggs. Though nominally the head of the Republican ticket, Flinn was deserted by a considerable number of Republicans, some of whom charged outright that his tactics against Scroggs had been unfair. Flinn and his supporters countered that the dissidents were part of a Good Old Boy network lining up behind A C Wharton, the smooth and highly credentialed Democratic nominee who would end up winning easily.
Whatever explains Flinn's distant second-place finish in 2002, he at least had a theoretical chance of winning a mayor's race in Shelby County, which in 2002 had an electorate divided almost evenly between whites and blacks and between Republicans and Democrats (dichotomies whose local overlap is considerable). He has in the judgment of most analysts no chance at all to win against entrenched three-term mayor Willie Herenton, an African-American and a Democrat, in a city whose vote is overwhelmingly black and Democratic.
Still he may try. Or he may, in the judgment of Joe Cooper, a fellow member of his old Central High ham-radio club and a veteran pol in his own right, do the smart thing and run for the Vergos seat. "He'll start as the favorite there," Cooper declared. The wealthy Flinn will certainly have the means to make a stout race.
Others intending to run for the 5th District seat or floating the idea of a race are Memphis lawyer Jim Strickland, Democratic activist David Upton, and political newcomer Mary Wilder.
Oh, and as for those rumors of a run for the Vergos seat by Cooper himself, who rarely forgoes finding a place for himself on an election ballot, fahgidaboutit! Cooper confirmed Wednesday that he is more likely to enter the anticipated free-for-all in Super-District 9, Position 1, where incumbent Pat VanderSchaaf is expected to have a multitude of challengers and where a plurality will win the seat.