Friday, December 30, 2005

Final Notice

Ten people and circumstances that dominated the politics of 2005.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2005 at 4:00 AM

In Memphis and Shelby County, the cycles are so arranged that one year out of every four is election-free. The year just past, 2005, should have provided such a hiatus, but its political circumstances were so momentous as to keep politics -- and politicians -- in everybody's face all year long even though there was no full-scale balloting.

Ah, but late in 2005 there was one local political race of consequence -- a state Senate special election race in District 29 that managed to echo the year's biggest, most overarching political event, the so-called Tennessee Waltz scandal alleging wholesale corruption in both state and local government.

And it was, after all, the eve of 2006, a year which will boast the largest ballot in local history, including races for everything of consequence but the White House. Multitudes of politicians were launching plans for political campaigns, and several score of them had their races under way.

By way of farewell to this eventful "off"-year, here is a Top 10 list of highlights from 2005. Apologies to David Letterman and, for that matter, to readers who would just as soon forget that some or all of this actually happened:

10) The incredible shrinking treasury: Actually, make that "treasuries," since both city and county government experienced grievous shortfalls during the year. Both governments were forced to bite the bullet -- closing useful programs and even shutting down long-running boondoggles. High side: The county commission imposed a moratorium on new development. Low side: The city terminated recreation programs, including (sigh!) summer softball.

9) The incredible shrinking mayor: Or maybe this erstwhile mayor-for-life is just laying back. In any case, there were frequent occasions, several of them high-protocol, when Memphis chief executive Willie Herenton was nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, rumors of every known kind -- some flattering, most not -- continued to swirl about him.

8) The incredible un-shrinking violet: Councilwoman Carol Chumney continued her high-profile undeclared campaign for mayor in 2007, jousting with both Herenton and councilmates at every opportunity and working up a legitimate following in the process.

7) MLGW: So many controversies revolved around the city's mammoth utility, ranging from rate questions to leadership squabbles to a ruined dialogue with the City Council to recurring rumors of potential future sell-offs that even the lingering TVA pre-purchase scandal was made to seem dull normal.

6) TennCare: Now you see it, now you don't. Governor Phil Bredesen said he had no choice, for budgetary reasons, but to drastically cut the rolls of the state-run health-insurance system. Various critics, ranging from aggrieved activist groups to state senator Steve Cohen, a potential gubernatorial entry, kept insisting he did.

5) A C: Shelby County mayor Wharton finally moved beyond merely looking good to provide solid leadership in the areas of urban sprawl and alternative revenue sources. A C-D.C.? No, no congressional race, but some were touting him as the next city mayor. Meanwhile, his reelection is a shoo-in.

4) Harold Ford Jr. and friends: Though progressive Democrats simmered over what they saw as his Blue-Dog equivocations, the 9th District congressman's campaign was inevitably the centerpiece of national media attention to a U.S. Senate race in Tennessee that also included Democratic state senator Rosalind Kurita and three name Republicans: ex-Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker and former congressmen Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary.

3) John Ford: A one-man Titanic saga (or should that be Sink the Bismarck!), the once-and-futureless state senator would have gone down in the Tennessee Waltz anyhow, but he'd already sprung a thousand leaks from the investigations of his wheeling and dealing that resulted from the financial info in this frequent father's petitions for child-support relief.

2) Roland v. Ford et al.: or however the messy post-District 29-election challenge comes to be known to history. Live state senators and not dead voters will take a shot at resolving it in January.

1) The Tennessee Waltz: The FBI's "e-Cycle" sting made for bad music in its allegations of extortion and bribery on a massive scale (involving, among others, the aforesaid John Ford and various other local pols), but it served as a rousing overture to the New Year's special legislative session on ethics reform. I mean, let's think positive, right?

Next: 2006, which will be busier and, just possibly, better.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Acting Commissioners

Two jailers' advocates played a part in killing off prison privatization -- and maybe more.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2005 at 4:00 AM

p> Though the public at large has been largely unaware of their impact, two spokesmen for Shelby County jailers, Jeffrey Woodard and Warren Cole, played a major role in the resolution of the ongoing prison-privatization controversy -- reached, at least temporarily, last week when both Shelby County mayor A C Wharton and Sheriff Mark Luttrell distanced themselves from the proposal.

Visitors to the Shelby County Commission's bi-weekly public meetings had, over the last two years, become used to the presence of Woodard and Cole, who would come to the commission dock at the end of each meeting with strenuous and (usually) reasoned protests against the pending proposal to privatize the administration of both the county's Corrections Center and the downtown county jail.

So familiar had the two become that when Woodard appeared on cue at a recent meeting, commission chairman Tom Moss referred to him jokingly as "the 14th commissioner." And when neither Woodard nor Cole were in the audience at last week's committee hearing of the privatization issue, featuring testimony by both county financial officer Jim Huntzicker and sheriff's aide Harvey Kennedy, commissioners agreed both to notify the two jailers' advocates of the discussion and to postpone any recommendation on the issue until Monday's meeting.

In the interval between the two meetings, Luttrell doomed the privatization proposal by taking a definitive stand against it -- to the consternation of proponent Bruce Thompson, who saw election-year politics as the sheriff's motivation. That was on top of Huntzicker's conclusion, announced at last week's committee hearing, that a changeover to a private system would not be cost-effective, at least for the Corrections Center.

Politics may well have played a part in the resolution of the issue, but so did the unrelenting opposition of Woodard and Cole, who kept the commission's attention focused on the issue and on potential jailers' grievances. More than that, however, the two became versed in a variety of other issues before the commission -- ranging from school construction to budgetary problems in general -- and began addressing those matters as well.

The influence of the pair grew correspondingly -- among commissioners in both parties and on both sides of the privatization issue. In announcing her reluctance to approve add-on charges submitted Monday by a private company that provides medical services to inmates, Republican commissioner Marilyn Loeffel cited research on the matter done by Woodard and Cole.

Though the company's services will continue for the time being and the charges will be paid, the company was put on notice by the commission that the future of its contract is in doubt.

If so, that's another one that can be chalked up to the 14th and 15th commissioners. The annual round of politically tinged Christmas parties -- er, make that "holiday gatherings" -- crested Monday night with a party hosted by 9th District representative Harold Ford Jr. at Felicia Suzanne's restaurant downtown.

Ford's event followed a series of other seasonal gatherings by prominent politicians, and it coincided with a fresh burst of national media publicity -- this time from The New Republic, which, in its latest edition, touted Ford's Senate prospects and simultaneously wrote off the presidential ambitions of retiring Senate majority leader Bill Frist, the Republican whose seat Ford hopes to win next year.

Ford has run into one fund-raising snafu of late and one fund-raising bonanza. On balance, he's come out ahead.

The setback came late last month when a major fund-raising event scheduled for San Francisco had to be canceled because of the discovery by Mayor Gavin Newsom, a co-sponsor, of Ford's vote last year for a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexuals.

Ford's vote was a red flag to gay activists in San Francisco and a potential embarrassment to Newsom because of constituent concerns by the mayor, who personally conducted a number of gay marriages last year before court rulings foreclosed that option.

Last week, however, the Memphis congressman had some high-profile help on the other coast. Former President Bill Clinton was the headliner in a fund-raising event for Ford in New York, raising $300,000 for Ford's Senate campaign.

Ford's penchant for out-of-state fund-raisers became a campaign issue recently when one of three Republican contenders for the Senate, former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, attacked the congressman for obtaining what Corker said was too high a percentage of his campaign funds from non-Tennessee sources.

(Coincidentally or not, Corker leads all contenders in funds on hand, including Ford, fellow Democrat Rosalind Kurita, a state senator from Clarksville, and two other Republicans, former congressmen Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary.)

Ford also made one other piece of significant news of his own -- as distinguished from news made by other family members, including his aunt Ophelia Ford, whose election to state Senate District 29 to succeed his uncle John Ford is now under serious contest by her former Republican opponent, Terry Roland. (The congressman's father and predecessor, Harold Ford Sr., now a resident of Florida, also was heard from last week, via a still perplexing charge that Republicans, not Democrats, might somehow be at fault in the discovery of fraudulent voting in a District 29 precinct.)

The congressman's other major contribution to the political news week was the revelation, unaccompanied by explanation, that he had switched campaign consultants, from Global Strategy Group's Harrison Hickman and Penczner Media to Pete Brodnitz and Jim Margolis of Benenson Strategy Group. In a sideshow of sorts to Ford's New York event, one of the congressman's would-be successors for the 9th District seat, Tyson Pratcher, got some serendipitous ink in the New York Post, which noted his attendance at the Ford fund-raiser in a separate headline, reading "Young and Restless."

The Post story noted that Pratcher is now a deputy state director for New York senator Hillary Clinton, the former president's spouse and a presidential aspirant in her own right. Pratcher, a native of Memphis, will apparently take leave of his duties with Senator Clinton to campaign for the congressional seat.

Pratcher's boost in a Big Apple news outlet mirrors the launch some months back of the campaign of one of his competitors, former Ford aide Nikki Tinker, whose congressional campaign began to all intents and purposes with an item boosting her in the Washington, D.C., insider publication The Hill. Meanwhile, lawyer Ed Stanton formally announced his candidacy for the 9th District seat, joining previously declared entries Ron Redwing and Ralph White. Other candidates are expected to materialize after the New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

POLITICS: Acting Commissioners

Two jailers’ advocates played a part in killing off prison privatization – and maybe more.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2005 at 4:00 AM

New Page 1

Though the public at large has been largely unaware of their impact, two spokesmen for Shelby County jailers, Jeffrey Woodard and Warren Cole, played a major role in the resolution of the ongoing prison-privatization controversy – reached, at least temporarily, last week when both Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton and Sheriff Mark Luttrell distanced themselves from the proposal.

Visitors to the Shelby County Commission’s bi-weekly public meetings had, over the last two years, become used to the presence of Woodard and Cole, who would come to the commission dock at the end of each meeting with strenuous and (usually) reasoned protests against the pending proposal to privatize the administration of both the county’s Corrections Center and the downtown county jail.

So familiar had the two become that when Woodard appeared on cue at a recent meeting, Commission chairman Tom Moss referred to him jokingly as “the 14th commissioner.” And when neither Woodard nor Cole were in the audience at last week’s committee hearing of the privatization issue, featuring testimony by both county financial officer Jim Huntzicker and sheriff’s aide Harvey Kennedy, commissioners agreed both to notify the two jailers’ advocates of the discussion and to postpone any recommendation on the issue until Monday’s meeting.

In the interval between the two meetings, Luttrell doomed the privatization proposal by taking a definitive stand against it -- to the consternation of commission proponent Bruce Thompson, who saw election-year politics as the sheriff’s motivation. That was on top of Huntzicker’s conclusion, announced at last week’s committee hearing, that a changeover to a private system would not be cost-effective – at least for the Corrections Center.

Politics may well have played a part in the resolution of the issue, but so did the unrelenting opposition of Woodard and Cole, who kept the commission’s attention focused on the issue and on potential jailers’ grievances. More than that, however, the two became versed in a variety of other issues before the commission – ranging from school construction to budgetary problems in general – and began addressing those matters as well.

The influence of the pair grew correspondingly – among commissioners in both parties and on both sides of the privatization issue. In announcing her reluctance to approve add-on charges submitted Monday by a private company that provides medical services to inmates, Republican commissioner Marilyn Loeffel cited research on the matter done by Woodard and Cole.

Though the company’s services will continue for the time being and the charges will be paid, the company was put on notice by the commission that the future of its contract is in doubt.

If so, that’s another one that can be chalked up to the 14th and 15th commissioners.

The annual round of politically tinged Christmas parties – er, make that “holiday gatherings” – crested Monday night with a party hosted by 9th District U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. at Felicia Suzanne’s restaurant on Monroe.

Ford’s event followed a series of other seasonal gatherings by prominent politicians, and it coincided with a fresh burst of national media publicity – this time from The New Republic, which, in its latest edition, touted Ford’s Senate prospects and simultaneously wrote off the presidential ambitions of retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Republican whose seat Ford hopes to win next year.

Rep. Ford has run into one fund-raising snafu of late and one fund-raising bonanza. On balance, he’s come out ahead.

The setback came late last month when a major fund-raising event scheduled for San Francisco had to be canceled because of the discovery by Mayor Gavin Newsom, a co-sponsor, of Ford’s vote last year for a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexuals.

Ford’s vote was a red flag to gay activists in San Francisco and a potential embarrassment to Newsom because of constituent concerns by the mayor, who personally conducted a number of gay marriages last year before court rulings foreclosed that option.

Last week, however, the Memphis congressman had some high-profile help on the other coast. Former president Bill Clinton was the headliner in a fund-raising event for Ford in New York, raising $300,000 for Ford’s Senate campaign.

Ford’s penchant for out-of-state fund-raisers became a campaign issue last week when one of three Republican contenders for the Senate, former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, attacked the congressman for obtaining what Corker said was too high a percentage of his campaign funds from non-Tennessee sources.

(Coincidentally or not, Corker leads all contenders in funds on hand, including Ford, fellow Democrat Rosalind Kurita, a state senator from Clarksville; and two other Republicans, former congressmen Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary.)

Ford also made one other piece of significant news of his own – as distinguished from news made by other family members, including aunt Ophelia Ford, whose election to state Senate District 29 to succeed uncle John Ford is now under serious contest by her former Republican opponent, Terry Roland. (The congressman’s father and predecessor, Harold Ford Sr., now a resident of Florida, also was heard from last week, via a still perplexing charge that Republicans, not Democrats, might somehow be at fault in the discovery of fraudulent voting in a District 29 precinct.)

The congressman’s other major contribution to the political news week was the revelation, unaccompanied by explanation, that he had switched campaign consultants, from Global Strategy Group’s Harrison Hickman and Penczner Media to Pete Brodnitz and Jim Margolis of Benenson Strategy Group
In a sideshow of sorts to Ford’s New York event, one of the congressman’s would-be successors for the 9th District seat, one Tyson Pratcher, got some serendipitous ink in the New York Post, which noted his attendance at the Ford fundraiser in a separate headline, reading “Young and Restless.”

The Post story noted that Pratcher is now a deputy state director for New York Senator Hillary Clinton, the former president’s spouse and currently a presidential aspirant in her own right. Pratcher, a native of Memphis, will apparently take leave of his duties with Senator Clinton to campaign for the congressional seat.

Pratcher’s boost in a Big Apple news outlet mirrors the launch some months back of the campaign of one of his competitors, former Ford aide Nikki Tinker, whose congressional campaign began to all intents and purposes with a item boosting her in the Washington, D.C., insider publication The Hill.

Meanwhile, lawyer Ed Stanton formally announced his candidacy for the 9th District seat, joining previously declared entries Ron Redwing and Ralph White. Other candidates are expected to materialize after the New Year.


 

Want to respond? Send us an email here.

Want to respond? Send us an email here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

A Legend Passes

Terry Keeter, an original in the worlds of politics, media, and local cabaret, shifts his venue.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 16, 2005 at 4:00 AM

One morning about a month ago my home phone rang, and I picked it up to hear a familiar rasping voice begin: "It's Keeter." That much was intelligible, but the rest of the message was muffled and broken up by the regular aspirating sounds of the ventilator to which, as I knew, Terry Keeter, a victim of pulmonary disease, had to attach in order to stay alive. I was able to make out that he had a hot news tip that he wanted to impart, so we agreed finally that I would drop by his Midtown address to say hello.

Once I got there and was admitted by one of his attentive nurses, the "news tip" turned out to be, as I had suspected, the same old, same old gossip about one politician doing another politician wrong that Keeter and I had discussed two or three times already -- once via sentences he would chalk and underline on a portable blackboard, tapping the words he considered most urgent.

On that same occasion, I had asked Keeter his opinion of the work of several of his successors reporting political news at The Commercial Appeal, his home base for several decades, during most of which he was a local legend. He scratched out his answers, and, when he came to a certain female reporter (probably not the one you're thinking about), he bore down hard and energetically with the chalk.

I looked to see. "Nice ass!" he'd written, underlining it twice. That was Keeter. When I told this to the reporter in question, who has since moved on to other work in another town, she was delighted. Keeter was old school and unregenerate, and people somehow cut him extra slack. He drank too much, smoked too much, cussed too much, and caroused too much, and there was no wonder that he'd developed a serious case of emphysema that already had him somewhat hobbled by late 1997.

That was when he contracted the pneumonia that almost killed him and left him permanently disabled, largely confined to his bedside or a wheelchair.

On this day a month ago, he was holding a ventilator cord up to a hole in his throat periodically to draw enough breath to make his next statement. The arrangement took a little getting used to, but after a while, Keeter and I were gabbing in earnest about old times and the past and present foibles of political folks in the news.

As I said in the obituary note I posted on the Flyer Web site last Friday: "Until he was sidelined by illness, Keeter, 66 at the time of his death, was a well-connected, well-informed reporter ... who knew everyone in politics there was to know, as well as everything they did worth knowing, both public and private."

I had learned of Keeter's passing early Friday from Sylvia Holder, the elegant and delightful former jazz chanteuse who is the mother of state Supreme Court justice Janice Holder, Keeter's friend and companion during his last good years and his steadfast rock of support during his declining ones. These are the kinds of associates, top-drawer by any estimate, who vouched for Keeter by example.

As the impresario of the annual Gridiron shows, which raised scholarship money for local journalism students, scathing satirist Keeter showed no mercy to members of the local political community -- a habit that carried over to his private relationships.

Once he and I were sitting around in a poolside group at the tag end of one of the annual Republican women's picnics, which drew a host of well-known local politicians. One of them, who later held a high elective office indeed (and whose identity I withhold here out of simple mercy) came over to bloviate. Keeter listened to a little of this and finally exploded: "You're not full of shit, are you, ______?!!"

It has to be said that the politician in question was always dealt with fairly in print by Keeter. Maybe even generously.

The story I like to tell that best expresses what Terry Keeter was all about -- sourpussed, salty, bawdy, agile-witted, and often hilarious -- concerns another time when he and I were sitting around a table with a group of political women gathered at the home of the late Democratic eminence Bill Farris.

A minor earthquake had just occurred, and people were giving their matter-of-fact reminiscences of it when Keeter interrupted: "Hell, I was up at my cabin masturbating, and I was just about to get off when it started, and I looked up and said ... " -- Keeter turned his eyes heavenward and fairly shouted the next words -- "Was it good for You, too!'"

Only Keeter would have told such a story, only he could have got away with it, and, for damn sure, only he would have presumed to link himself in such a way to a cosmic circumstance.

I will not presume to speak for the Almighty, but, as for his tenure among us mere mortals, I can safely say, yes, Terry, it was good for us, too.

Meanwhile, important things are brewing on the political scene. Here are some of them in capsule:

At least one local insider contends that a petition drive to force a recall election for beleaguered Memphis mayor Willie Herenton could go mainstream. The effort is so far being advocated mainly by local bloggers such as Mike Hollihan and Thaddeus Matthews.

Herenton raised eyebrows by being absent from last week's Chamber of Commerce luncheon and from a subsequent gubernatorial joint announcement with local government officials by Governor Phil Bredesen. But Hizzoner was in good form at his own annual Christmas party later in the week at the Convention Center, where he reasserted his intention to seek another term. A potential opponent, Councilwoman Carol Chumney, had a party the same night.

Between the two of them, they had one attendee from the council -- Scott McCormick, at the mayor's bash.

A consensus is developing in political circles that enough doubt has been raised about local voter rolls -- at a hearing here Monday and elsewhere -- to make the state Senate's decision in January about the contested state Senate District 29 special election a tossup. Republican Terry Roland is challenging the seating of Democrat Ophelia Ford, whose election-night margin was 13 votes.

Two possibilities, which overlap: The Senate (which has a one-vote Republican majority) might void the election, calling for a new one, and the Shelby County Commission might be asked to name an interim appointee.

Asked last month about the possible incidence of deceased voters' names remaining on the rolls, Election Commission chairman Greg Duckett conceded to the Flyer: "If somebody died outside Shelby County, it's entirely possible they're still being carried."

The holidays are a lull before an expected storm of candidate announcements for the 2006 election season. A likely one: two-term Memphis school board member Wanda Halbert, for Juvenile Court clerk.

On the eve of a decision to be made by the Election Commission and county commission about purchasing new voting machines, sentiment in Democratic ranks may lie with contender E, S & S; that among Republicans with Diebold. (See Q&A with Chairman Duckett, page 6.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

POLITICS: A Legend Passes

Terry Keeter, an original in the worlds of politics, media, and local cabaret, shifts his venue.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2005 at 4:00 AM

One morning about a month ago my home phone rang, and I picked it up to hear a familiar rasping voice begin: “It’s Keeter.”

That much was intelligible, but the rest of the message was muffled and broken up by the regular aspirating sounds of the ventilator to which, as I knew, Terry Keeter, a victim of pulmonary disease, had to attach in order to stay alive. I was able to make out that he had a hot news tip that he wanted to impart, so we agreed finally that I would drop by his Midtown address to say hello.

Once I got there and was admitted by one of his attentive nurses, the “news tip” turned out to be, as I had suspected, the same old, same old gossip about one politician doing another politician wrong that Keeter and I had discussed two or three times already — once via sentences he would chalk and underline on a portable blackboard, tapping the words he considered most urgent.

On that same occasion, I had asked Keeter his opinion of the work of several of his successors reporting political news at The Commercial Appeal, his home base for several decades, during most of which he was a local legend. He scratched out his answers, and, when he came to a certain female reporter (probably not the one you’re thinking about), he bore down hard and energetically with the chalk.

I looked to see. “Nice ass!” he’d written, underlining it twice. That was Keeter. When I told this to the reporter in question, who has since moved on to other work in another town, she was delighted. Keeter was old school and unregenerate, and people somehow cut him extra slack. He drank too much, smoked too much, cussed too much, and caroused too much, and there was no wonder that he’d developed a serious case of emphysema that already had him somewhat hobbled by late 1997.

That was when he contracted the pneumonia that almost killed him and left him permanently disabled, largely confined to his bedside or a wheelchair.

On this day a month ago, he was holding a ventilator cord up to a hole in his throat periodically to draw enough breath to make his next statement. The arrangement took a little getting used to, but after a while, Keeter and I were gabbing in earnest about old times and the past and present foibles of political folks in the news.

As I said in the obituary note I posted on the Flyer Web site last Friday: “Until he was sidelined by illness, Keeter, 66 at the time of his death, was a well-connected, well-informed reporter … who knew everyone in politics there was to know, as well as everything they did worth knowing, both public and private.”

I had learned of Keeter’s passing early Friday from Sylvia Holder, the elegant and delightful former jazz chanteuse who is the mother of state Supreme Court justice Janice Holder, Keeter’s friend and companion during his last good years and his steadfast rock of support during his declining ones. These are the kinds of associates, top-drawer by any estimate, who vouched for Keeter by example.

As the impresario of the annual Gridiron shows, which raised scholarship money for local journalism students, scathing satirist Keeter showed no mercy to members of the local political community — a habit that carried over to his private relationships.

Once he and I were sitting around in a poolside group at the tag end of one of the annual Republican women’s picnics, which drew a host of well-known local politicians. One of them, who later held a high elective office indeed (and whose identity I withhold here out of simple mercy) came over to bloviate. Keeter listened to a little of this and finally exploded: “You’re not full of shit, are you, ______?!!”

It has to be said that the politician in question was always dealt with fairly in print by Keeter. Maybe even generously.

The story I like to tell that best expresses what Terry Keeter was all about — sourpussed, salty, bawdy, agile-witted, and often hilarious — concerns another time when he and I were sitting around a table with a group of political women gathered at the home of the late Democratic eminence Bill Farris.

A minor earthquake had just occurred, and people were giving their matter-of-fact reminiscences of it when Keeter interrupted: “Hell, I was up at my cabin masturbating, and I was just about to get off when it started, and I looked up and said … ” — Keeter turned his eyes heavenward and fairly shouted the next words — “Was it good for You, too!’”

Only Keeter would have told such a story, only he could have got away with it, and, for damn sure, only he would have presumed to link himself in such a way to a cosmic circumstance.

I will not presume to speak for the Almighty, but, as for his tenure among us mere mortals, I can safely say, yes, Terry, it was good for us, too.

[i  Meanwhile, important things are brewing on the political scene. Here are some of them in capsule:

At least one local insider contends that a petition drive to force a recall election for beleaguered Memphis mayor Willie Herenton could go mainstream. The effort is so far being advocated mainly by local bloggers such as Mike Hollihan and Thaddeus Matthews.

Herenton raised eyebrows by being absent from last week’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon and from a subsequent gubernatorial joint announcement with local government officials by Governor Phil Bredesen. But Hizzoner was in good form at his own annual Christmas party later in the week at the Convention Center, where he reasserted his intention to seek another term. A potential opponent, Councilwoman Carol Chumney, had a party the same night.

Between the two of them, they had one attendee from the council — Scott McCormick, at the mayor’s bash.

A consensus is developing in political circles that enough doubt has been raised about local voter rolls — at a hearing here Monday and elsewhere — to make the state Senate’s decision in January about the contested state Senate District 29 special election a tossup. Republican Terry Roland is challenging the seating of Democrat Ophelia Ford, whose election-night margin was 13 votes.

Two possibilities, which overlap: The Senate (which has a one-vote Republican majority) might void the election, calling for a new one, and the Shelby County Commission might be asked to name an interim appointee.

Asked last month about the possible incidence of deceased voters’ names remaining on the rolls, Election Commission chairman Greg Duckett conceded to the Flyer: “If somebody died outside Shelby County, it’s entirely possible they’re still being carried.”

The holidays are a lull before an expected storm of candidate announcements for the 2006 election season. A likely one: two-term Memphis school board member Wanda Halbert, for Juvenile Court clerk.

On the eve of a decision to be made by the Election Commission and county commission about purchasing new voting machines, sentiment in Democratic ranks may lie with contender E, S & S; that among Republicans with Diebold.  

Want to respond? Send us an email here.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

POLITICS: Party Time

Posted on Thu, Dec 8, 2005 at 4:00 AM

This is the time of year when people in the political world both kick back and kick in. Thursday night, December 8, was a typical holiday-season evening.

Mayor Willie Herenton had his annual Christmas party at the Cannon Center. Here, with Paula Jett and Kyle Rice.
  • Mayor Willie Herenton had his annual Christmas party at the Cannon Center. Here, with Paula Jett and Kyle Rice.

Probate Judge Bob Benham greeted a sizeable group of supporters/revelers at the Regions Bank headquarters on Poplar.
  • Probate Judge Bob Benham greeted a sizeable group of supporters/revelers at the Regions Bank headquarters on Poplar.

City councilwoman Carol Chumney partied at the Fox and Hound on Sanderlin. Here with campaign guru John Bakke.
  • City councilwoman Carol Chumney partied at the Fox and Hound on Sanderlin. Here with campaign guru John Bakke.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Uncertain Terms

An appeals court's ruling confuses the outlook for next year's elections.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Clearly, the political waters have been roiled by last week's state Appeals Court decision invalidating the two-term limits provision voted for by 81 percent of participating Shelby County voters in a 1994 referendum. The two-to-one decision by the three-member court, in response to a suit by three affected members of the Shelby County Commission, will alter the course of next year's elections.

Within hours of the decision, local Republican chairman Bill Giannini was denouncing it to a meeting of the East Shelby Republican Club at the Pickering Center in Germantown. In his audience, however, was at least one loyal Republican who greeted the ruling, which overturned a previous Chancery Court decision, with satisfaction.

That was Juvenile Court clerk Steve Stamson, who privately pointed out the obvious: Two potential future opponents of his -- litigating commissioners Walter Bailey and Julian Bolton -- would most likely run for reelection instead.

Not only that: Commissioner Marilyn Loeffel, also affected by the decision but not an active litigant, might be brought to rethink her commitment to run against Stamson's wife Debbie in the GOP primary for the open Shelby County clerkship. Or so Stamson hoped.

Watch this space for an elaboration of some of the likely consequences of the ruling, currently under likely further appeal by county government -- a circumstance which makes it difficult for any number of political hopefuls to do their eeny-miney-moes. Senatorial hopeful Ed Bryant unveiled a campaign strategy Monday night that will lean heavily on West Tennessee, home base for current Jackson resident Bryant -- who served both as U.S. attorney for the state's Western district and as 7th District congressman. And Bryant left little doubt that Memphis would be the lynchpin of that strategy.

Stressing his "electability" at a fund-raiser hosted by supporter David Pickler in Collierville, Bryant noted that in his 1996 reelection bid against then Clarksville mayor Don Trotter, his Democratic opponent, he polled enough votes in Shelby County alone to beat Trotter in the 15-county district by more than 100 votes.

The former GOP congressman named John Ryder, John Bobango, and Steve West as de facto local coordinators.

Bryant said he expected current 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr. to be the Democratic nominee and said Ford would be a "formidable" and heavily funded opponent. Apparently discounting what some Republicans see as baggage the Memphis congressman might carry into a race, Bryant added, "I'd be running against him, not the Ford family." Two contenders for the 9th District congressional seat which Ford would vacate had formal coming-out affairs this week. One was Ralph White, pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church and a former Democratic candidate for several offices. Another was businessman/consultant Ron Redwing, a longtime former assistant to Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and a onetime candidate for county register.

In a field which so far boasts no heavyweight names from the pool of local officeholders, White and Redwing, both well-known members of the Memphis political community, have to be reckoned as serious entries. Last week another verse was sung in the ongoing duet between Memphis state senator Steve Cohen and Governor Phil Bredesen. The two issued overlapping and competitive press releases, both announcing the bestowal of more than $3.8 million in unclaimed lottery prize money on state after-school programs.

Cohen, who attributed the outcome to earlier legislative efforts by himself and former state representative Chris Newton (R-Cleveland), also said he was still considering a Democratic primary challenge to Bredesen. The state senator has also indicated he is looking at a race for district attorney general. In an e-mail this week, Carl "Two Feathers" Whitaker, a leader of the state's Minuteman movement, which makes a point of opposing illegal aliens, stressed the fact that so far he remains the only declared Republican candidate for governor. Former GOP legislator Jim Henry recently dropped out of the running, and current Nashville state representative Beth Harwell continues to hold back from announcing. But Ryder, a GOP strategist, said he thought that someone else would be "drafted" as a candidate. Ryder suggested Republican Senate leader Ron Ramsey of Blountville and state senator Mark Norris of Collierville.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • The Kustoff v. Flinn Backstory

      Though it was not so obvious publicly, with 13 candidates running, the two campaigns saw themselves engaged in a two-person race.
    • Candidates Pulling Out the Stops

      Some call on ex-presidential candidates for backup, amid charges of campaign skullduggery and one bona fide arrest.

Speaking of School Consolidation

ADVERTISEMENT

Most Commented On

Top Viewed Stories

ADVERTISEMENT

© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation