Tuesday, January 31, 2006

POLITICS: Sorting Things Out

As 9th District candidates begin to make their move, a judge and various contenders mull the future.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2006 at 4:00 AM

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Even as reports, circulated by intimates of Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton, grew that Bolton was highly likely to enter the race, the crowded field of already declared District 9 congressional candidates redoubled their efforts to gain an advantage.

           

Several of these candidates were capsuled in this space last week, on the eve of their appearance at a Tuesday night cattle-call forum sponsored by Democracy for America at the IBEW union hall. One who wasn’t – but clearly should have been – was Tyson Pratcher, currently an aide to U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York.

           

In word-of-mouth discussions after the forum and on the local blogosphere circuits, Pratcher received high marks indeed for his spirited and detailed answers to questions. As I suggested in online coverage after the event: “…Pratcher [made] full use of his presumed expertise and connections (“Senator Clinton and I did some work on this issue….”) but persuasively rather than presumptuously so, going on in most cases to spell out exactly what he meant. As in the case of specific labor legislation when faced with ...[a]question about union rights….”         

           

Others dominating post-forum discussions as having done well were Joseph Kyles, a prominent member of the Rainbow/Push organization; University of Memphis law professor Lee Harris; and lawyer Ed Stanton, Jr. Reaction to three others – consultant Rod Redwing, pastor Ralph White, and lawyer/activist Bill Whitman, a fresh entry – was more subdued.

           

White, especially, raised eyebrows by expressing surprise at being asked about the Iraq war and by giving an extended lament about union corruption when asked about measures he might pursue regarding organized labor.

           

Though Redwing had seemed relatively laid-back and non-committal at the forum, he was anything but that at a well-attended rally in his honor on Saturday at April House on the old Defense Depot grounds. Running down a litany of issues ranging from the war to “living-wage” legislation, Redwing galvanized his crowd and offered thereby a reminder that his early start last year had allowed him to develop a bona fide grass-roots organization.

           

Last week’s leading gainer, however, may have been Stanton, who not only impressed attendees at the forum but was a runaway winner in a $50-a-head straw poll/fundraiser sponsored by the Shelby County Democratic Party at the Rendezvous restaurant. Stanton’s 56 votes put him ahead of the absent Pratcher, with 19, and Redwing, who got five votes despite referring to the event as requiring a “poll tax” and asking his supporters not to participate. Other vote-getters were Kyles and Harris, with two votes each.

           

Another straw poll, conducted by radio station WLOK, would see Redwing the victor, with state Senator Steve Cohen second.

Absent from both the forum and the SCDP straw poll were lawyer Nikki Tinker, who has gathered significant name recognition but has not yet figured on the public stump, and Cohen, whose entry is now regarded as all but certain.

“If Julian gets in, this thing will come down to Bolton vs. Cohen,” predicted Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone last week.

           

Meanwhile, this week saw a new entry – businessman Marvell Mitchell, whose credentials include appointment by Governor Phil Bredesen to the state Lottery Board, membership on the Chamber of Commerce board, and service as chairman of the Black Business Association.

 

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Among the topics of discussion among the Republican state senators who, en masse, attended last week’s hearing on the Distinct 29 election dispute in U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald’s court was the GOP’s quandary in finding a suitable opponent to run against Democratic incumbent governor Phil Bredesen.

           

Two name Republicans – former state Representative Jim Henry of Kingston and state Representative Beth Harwell of Nashville, a recent party chairman – have opted out of a gubernatorial race in recent weeks.

           

One of the Republican senators in Memphis for the hearing, Jim Bryson of Franklin, gave a shrug and acknowledged the likelihood when asked if   a GOP member of the legislature might be drafted by the state party to run as a quasi-official candidate.

           

Even as Bryson spoke, meanwhile, an unofficial but highly visible and declared Republican candidate, Carl “Two Feathers” Whitaker -- a leader of the Minuteman movement, which attaches high priority to stopping illegal immigration -- was preparing to address a rally in Nashville, outside the office of U.S. Senate majority leader Bill Frist.

 

The rally, which took place on Friday, drew “a thousand” people to hear his discussion of “this issue of illegals,” Whitaker later reported.

 

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Judge Donald’s ruling on the District 29 matter was promised for this Wednesday. At issue were at least three aspects of the dispute – her own jurisdiction over the issue; continuation of an injunction prohibiting further action by the state Senate to void the election; and the prospect of further judicial review of Democrat Ophelia Ford’s allegations of due-process violations.
           

Should Donald allow the Senate to vote, it is expected to ratify (probably this week) a previous vote nullifying last year’s special election, in which Ford was the provisional 13-vote winner over Republican Terry Roland, who has alleged various frauds and irregularities in the voting.

           

If the Senate ends up completing action this week, the burden will then be on the Shelby County Commission, to choose between Ford, Roland, or a third party as an interim senator, pending this fall’s general election.

 

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David Pickler, the perennial chairman of the Shelby County School Board, this week became the first board member to announce his candidacy for reelection, advising that, if reelected to a four-year term, it would be his last.

           

There could be a change of plans, however. Pickler remains a possible candidate for the District 31 state Senate seat (East Memphis, Germantown) held for decades by Curtis Person, if Person should decide not to run for reelection. Other prospective candidates for an open District 31 seat would be state Rep. Paul Stanley and former state Representative Larry Scroggs.

 

Person’s name has been mentioned frequently of late as a possible candidate for Juvenile Court Judge, and his candidacy for that job, if he goes on to consider it, would also be conditional – dependent on the reelection plans, so far unannounced, of longtime incumbent judge Kenneth Turner, whom Person serves as a part-time aide.

 

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In other developing races:

 

Juvenile Court Clerk: A showdown is brewing in the Democratic primary between Memphis school board member Wanda Halbert and former clerk Shep Wilbun. Halbert has already filed for the position, while Wilbun, who has been making frequent media appearances to stoke a return to public life, hasn’t as of yet. He has, however, pulled a petition from the Election Commission.

 

Probate Court Clerk:  The on-again, off-again struggle between incumbent Republican Chris Thomas and employee Sondra Becton, a Democrat, may be on again. Becton last week drew a petition to run again for the job, which she has sought before. Some years back, she also filed charges of harassment (non-sexual) and discrimination against Thomas, which were settled out of court.

Criminal Court Clerk: Kevin Gallagher, formerly an aide to Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, has company in his Democratic primary race. Gallagher, who had a well-attended announcement party late last year, will be opposed by veteran activist Vernon Johnson, Sr. Republican incumbent Bill Key is seeking reelection.

Shelby County Commission, District 3, Position 2: “It would be a shame if the people of this district should lose so effective a spokesman”: That ringing endorsement of the incumbent, Cleo Kirk, comes from a prospective candidate for his seat, businessman Bob Hatton, who is, in fact, something of a protégé of Kirk. Hatton, who is also considering a run for two other commission seats, will not run for Position 2 if Kirk’s appeal of the county’s current term-limits provisions is upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Another declared candidate for the District 3, Position 2 seat is former Teamster leader and interim state Senator Sidney Chism, who may also choose another seat to run for if Kirk’s appeal is sustained. [Update: Chism informs the Flyer that he will run for the District 3, Position 2 seat regardless of what the lineup turns out to be.] 

Friday, January 27, 2006

First Showing

As the filing deadline nears, the field of early 9th District hopefuls appears en masse.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2006 at 4:00 AM

New Page 1

On Tuesday night, the first 9th District cattle call (don’t blame us, folks: That’s the term of art among pols -- the Beltway sort, especially) went on as scheduled, featuring seven would-be Democratic successors to current Congressman Harold Ford Jr., now a U.S. Senate candidate.

           

The event (a “forum,” as it was actually called) was held at the IBEW headquarters building on Madison, under the sponsorship of Democracy for Memphis, one of the new activist groups that surfaced last year and became a force in the  party’s biennial reorganization.

           

Here’s a brief take on the candidates, including a capsule intro prepared before the event, coupled with follow-up notes on how each was perceived to have done Tuesday night:

 

Previous note: The prospects of one candidate, NIKKI TINKER, were dealt with at some length in this space two weeks ago. Suffice it to say here that Tinker has impressed many with her high-level support and early-bird activity. Growing some bona fide grass roots remains a challenge for this Alabama/D.C. import.

 

Tuesday night: Tinker was a no-show at the forum. A friend read a statement on her behalf and said later she was “working;” her mother said she had a “prior commitment.” Whatever the case, it was hard to imagine what other circumstance could have been so all-important as to keep Tinker away. “She doesn’t know the issues,” theorized one acquaintance. “She wants to set herself off from the pack,” guessed another.  To judge from the reaction of many attendees Tuesday night, the still little-known Tinker would have been well advised to have been there. She remains an Unknown Quantity, and her best way of “setting herself off” would have been to show well in the give-and-take

 


Previous note: Also discussed in detail was the likelihood of a go-for-broke candidacy on the part of state Senator STEVE COHEN, a major figure on the local and statewide scenes.

 

Tuesday night: Cohen stayed away from Tuesday night’s proceedings, too, but nobody begrudged him that. He’s well-established enough to get away with being absent. Besides, he hasn’t formally declared yet.

 


Previous note: Lawyer ED STANTON, JR.,  son of a well-known local governmental figure, has been making something of an impression himself, running a low-key, under-the-radar campaign that is reportedly fueled by a hefty – and growing – war chest. Stanton is likely to be in for the long haul.

 

Tuesday night: In almost everybody’s estimation, Stanton did well, sounding crisp and even somewhat original in his call for such staples as education and economic development. “Live well, then learn well,” is how he accounted for the primacy of the latter issue.

 

RON REDWING, now a free-lance consultant and formerly an aide to Mayor Willie Herenton, has been running hard and for even longer than Tinker. He has built an organization, it would seem, and, to judge by the turnout at some of his fundraisers, something of a following. He, too, will go to the End Game.

 

Tuesday night: Though Redwing got some early response from the crowd by addressing it directly with a hearty greeting, he seemed to lose ground by repeatedly declining to offer either any specifics or any particularly inspiring rhetoric.

 

RALPH WHITE, a minister, musician, and former star athlete, is a bona fide renaissance man – superbly talented in most of what he does but so far unlucky in politics, a field whose pros and junkies and facilitators have largely made a point of looking the other way from nice guy Ralph over the years. Too bad. White is deserving, though he has contributed to his own loneliness in Democratic ranks by backing some wrong horses in the past (Republican Rod DeBerry vs. then congressman Harold Ford Sr. in 1994!) Money may be a long-term problem, but White intends to stick around.

 

Tuesday night: In the judgment of almost everybody who offered an opinion, White didn’t measure up, offering preacherly platitudes and avoiding anything concrete in his answers. He seemed surprised at being asked about Iraq and had no prepared answer. More astonishingly, considering that the venue was a union hall, he began an answer about his attitude toward organized labor by grousing at length about corrupt unions. (Helpful hint: Ralph, Ralph!, any voter who would respond to that kind of answer is going to be voting Republican on primary day.)

 

 

JOSEPH KYLES, who in recent years has been a mainstay of the Rainbow/Push coalition locally, belongs to a famous local family and has connections to spare at the grassroots level. A former football player at UT/Martin, Kyles has the requisite young-man-on-the-way-up look and an appropriately serious demeanor to go with it.

 

Tuesday night: Though not everybody agreed,  Kyles impressed many by speaking in his slow, stately way of specific abuses in the existing social power structure, firing salvoes at “corporate welfare,” for example,  and taking particular exception to what he perceived as chicanery on the part of MLGW. On a personal level, his story of suffering temporary paralysis after a violent football hit on Fourth-and-One resonated with the audience.

 

 

LEE HARRIS, an assistant professor of law at the University of Memphis,  is a fairly new face in local politics, but he’s rapidly acquiring exposure, most recently alongside some of the major players in statewide ethics reform as emcee at a Cooper/Young forum on that issue.

 

Tuesday night: Harris is another who was well received, making frequent common-sense connections, such as his response to a question about how to deal with illegal immigration:  “We don’t need to police the Mexicans; we need to police the businesses.”

 

All things considered, though, the most impressive responses Tuesday night came from a candidate whom I had postponed dealing with for this article, planning to write about him next week, along with such other candidates who in the meantime might come out of the woodwork  (As I originally put it: “This list is only partial. Stay tuned; more candidates – both Democrats and Repubicans -- will be featured in weeks to come, especially as the number of potential filees seems to be proliferating.”)

 

Anyhow, the best showing Tuesday night might have been that of  TYSON PRATCHER, a Memphis native who has been serving as a state director in New York for Senator Hillary Clinton and who, much in the manner of Nikki Tinker, is faced with the task of establishing grass-root connections from the top down.

At the forum, Pratcher gave a good demonstration of how to do that, making full use of his presumed expertise and connections (“Senator Clinton and I did some work on this issue….”) but persuasively rather than presumptuously so, going on in most cases to spell out exactly what he meant. As in the case of specific labor legislation when faced with the same question about union rights that appeared to buffalo Rev. White. Pratcher, too, would seem to be in for the long haul.

 

One other unadvertised special: a newly announced candidate named BILL WHITMAN, a young white Memphis native graduate of Notre Dame and veteran of several public-issue causes. In his on-line statement, Whitman had given special attention to  health care, a subject that didn’t get much attention from anybody Tuesday night. Whitman came off as engaging and well-intentioned but not enough so to overcome the probability that, as a white unknown, his chances in the race are extremely limited.

 

 

To continue from the Previous note: [A]lready  something is obvious from this early-sample hard core. There are good chances for a split favoring Cohen in the Democratic primary. Partly this is based on demographics, with most of the other candidates being African-American and likely to carve up that part of the electorate, a majority in the 9th. But the Midtown state senator, who has represented a sprawling slice of the district for more than a quarter-century in the legislature, has a huge name-recognition factor working in his favor, as well.

 

Suppose Cohen should win and then defeat his Republican opponent in the general election. The likelihood is that, in a re-election race two years later, he’d face only one or two challengers in a primary. His victory would be anything but certain. But he’d have another option.

 

Assuming that a Congressman Cohen would attract more than the usual amount of attention for a first-termer – a fairly safe bet for this articulate and highly un-bashful and issue-conscious politician – he might be sorely tempted to leverage his enhanced profile into a statewide race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Lamar Alexander and up for grabs again in 2008. 

 

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. There’s going to be a crowded race for 9th District congressman meanwhile, and it’s impossible to handicap the outcome at this point. Watch this space.

 

For those Democrats who want to participate, by the way, there’s a “straw vote” polling opportunity at the downtown Rendezvous restaurant from 5 to 7 p.m. this Thursday.

 

There has been much speculation in political circles about the possible effect of Ford-family troubles (the state-senate District 29 wrangle; the upcoming Tennessee Waltz trials, etc.) on the U.S. Senate candidacy of Rep. Ford.

 

Two cautions for those who see all that becoming an obstacle for Ford: (1) While everyone seems to believe there’s a sizeable population of people who might vote against the congressman either on family grounds or because of his race, no one has yet unearthed a real live member of that species; (2) To offset any such backlash, there’s the so-far overlooked factor of the national media.

 

Fact: There has never been a statewide race in Tennessee commanding the amount of national attention the 2006 Senate race will get, and Ford is the largest single reason for that. Here’s the national-media storyline, which you can expect to see invoked three of four times every week during the heat of the campaign on this or that network or cable show or in this or that major print medium: “Can a bright, charismatic young African-American politician overcome racial bias and his family history to win election to the Senate in the border state of Tennessee?”

 

Count on it: That storyline – which, from the media’s standpoint, has a directed-verdict ending – will outweigh any of the other potential issues involving Ford, including his hewing to a blandly centrist line that unsettles many traditional Democrats.

 

Not to be overlooked, by the way, is Ford’s still active Democratic primary opponent, state Senator Rosalind Kurita of Clarksville, who spent a couple of days in Memphis last week and is making a point of addressing some of the domestic and foreign-policy reforms some of the hard-core Democrats want to see addressed.

 

Many of those selfsame Democrats were on hand Tuesday of last week for a brief stop at the Hunt-Phelan Home by National Democratic chairman Howard Dean, following through on his pledge to make frequent outreach visits in the so-called “red” states that favored President Bush in the 2004 election.

 

Dean exhorted the party faithful to help him restore Democratic prestige in Tennessee. The former presidential candidate also proved a ready man with a quip. When one of the local cadres told him about such-and-such a woman who had “worked the streets for you,” Dean responded, “Well, I appreciate that, but I hope she didn't go that far...."

 

When the cadre tried to backtrack and amend his phraseology, Dean, no doubt remembering “The Scream” from the 2004 primary season,  laughed and said, “Trust me, I know from experience. Once you’ve done something stupid, you just can’t take it back.”
 

 

 

 

DATES TO REMEMBER

 

Deadline for filing, countywide primary races: February 16.

Deadline for filing, state and federal primary races and for independents in countywide races: April 6.
Countywide primaries: May 2.

State and federal primaries and countywide general election: August 3.

Deadline for filing as independent in state and federal races: August 17.

General election, state and federal races: November 7.

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

POLITICS: First Showing

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2006 at 4:00 AM

New Page 1

On Tuesday night, the first 9th District cattle call (don’t blame us, folks: That’s the term of art among pols -- the Beltway sort, especially) went on as scheduled, featuring seven would-be Democratic successors to current Congressman Harold Ford Jr., now a U.S. Senate candidate.

           

The event (a “forum,” as it was actually called) was held at the IBEW headquarters building on Madison, under the sponsorship of Democracy for Memphis, one of the new activist groups that surfaced last year and became a force in the  party’s biennial reorganization.

           

Here’s a brief take on the candidates, including a capsule intro prepared for this week’s Flyer print edition, coupled with follow-up notes on how each was perceived to have done Tuesday night:

 

Print edition: The prospects of one candidate, NIKKI TINKER, were dealt with at some length in this space two weeks ago. Suffice it to say here that Tinker has impressed many with her high-level support and early-bird activity. Growing some bona fide grass roots remains a challenge for this Alabama/D.C. import.

 

Tuesday night: Tinker was a no-show at the forum. A friend read a statement on her behalf and said later she was “working;” her mother said she had a “prior commitment.” Whatever the case, it was hard to imagine what other circumstance could have been so all-important as to keep Tinker away. “She doesn’t know the issues,” theorized one acquaintance. “She wants to set herself off from the pack,” guessed another.  To judge from the reaction of many attendees Tuesday night, the still little-known Tinker would have been well advised to have been there. She remains an Unknown Quantity, and her best way of “setting herself off” would have been to show well in the give-and-take

 


Print edition: Also discussed in detail was the likelihood of a go-for-broke candidacy on the part of state Senator STEVE COHEN, a major figure on the local and statewide scenes.

 

Tuesday night: Cohen stayed away from Tuesday night’s proceedings, too, but nobody begrudged him that. He’s well-established enough to get away with being absent. Besides, he hasn’t formally declared yet.

 


Print edition: Lawyer ED STANTON, JR.,  son of a well-known local governmental figure, has been making something of an impression himself, running a low-key, under-the-radar campaign that is reportedly fueled by a hefty – and growing – war chest. Stanton is likely to be in for the long haul.

 

Tuesday night: In almost everybody’s estimation, Stanton did well, sounding crisp and even somewhat original in his call for such staples as education and economic development. “Live well, then learn well,” is how he accounted for the primacy of the latter issue.

 

RON REDWING, now a free-lance consultant and formerly an aide to Mayor Willie Herenton, has been running hard and for even longer than Tinker. He has built an organization, it would seem, and, to judge by the turnout at some of his fundraisers, something of a following. He, too, will go to the End Game.

 

Tuesday night: Though Redwing got some early response from the crowd by addressing it directly with a hearty greeting, he seemed to lose ground by repeatedly declining to offer either any specifics or any particularly inspiring rhetoric.

 

RALPH WHITE, a minister, musician, and former star athlete, is a bona fide renaissance man – superbly talented in most of what he does but so far unlucky in politics, a field whose pros and junkies and facilitators have largely made a point of looking the other way from nice guy Ralph over the years. Too bad. White is deserving, though he has contributed to his own loneliness in Democratic ranks by backing some wrong horses in the past (Republican Rod DeBerry vs. then congressman Harold Ford Sr. in 1994!) Money may be a long-term problem, but White intends to stick around.

 

Tuesday night: In the judgment of almost everybody who offered an opinion, White didn’t measure up, offering preacherly platitudes and avoiding anything concrete in his answers. He seemed surprised at being asked about Iraq and had no prepared answer. More astonishingly, considering that the venue was a union hall, he began an answer about his attitude toward organized labor by grousing at length about corrupt unions. (Helpful hint: Ralph, Ralph!, any voter who would respond to that kind of answer is going to be voting Republican on primary day.)

 

 

JOSEPH KYLES, who in recent years has been a mainstay of the Rainbow/Push coalition locally, belongs to a famous local family and has connections to spare at the grassroots level. A former football player at UT/Martin, Kyles has the requisite young-man-on-the-way-up look and an appropriately serious demeanor to go with it.

 

Tuesday night: Though not everybody agreed,  Kyles impressed many by speaking in his slow, stately way of specific abuses in the existing social power structure, firing salvoes at “corporate welfare,” for example,  and taking particular exception to what he perceived as chicanery on the part of MLGW. On a personal level, his story of suffering temporary paralysis after a violent football hit on Fourth-and-One resonated with the audience.

 

 

LEE HARRIS, an assistant professor of law at the University of Memphis,  is a fairly new face in local politics, but he’s rapidly acquiring exposure, most recently alongside some of the major players in statewide ethics reform as emcee at a Cooper/Young forum on that issue.

 

Tuesday night: Harris is another who was well received, making frequent common-sense connections, such as his response to a question about how to deal with illegal immigration:  “We don’t need to police the Mexicans; we need to police the businesses.”

 

All things considered, though, the most impressive responses Tuesday night came from a candidate whom I had postponed dealing with in this week’s print column, planning to write about him next week, along with such other candidates who in the meantime might come out of the woodwork  (As I put in in print: “This list is only partial. Stay tuned; more candidates – both Democrats and Repubicans -- will be featured in weeks to come, especially as the number of potential filees seems to be proliferating.”)

 

Anyhow, the best showing Tuesday night might have been that of  TYSON PRATCHER, a Memphis native who has been serving as a state director in New York for Senator Hillary Clinton and who, much in the manner of Nikki Tinker, is faced with the task of establishing grass-root connections from the top down.

At the forum, Pratcher gave a good demonstration of how to do that, making full use of his presumed expertise and connections (“Senator Clinton and I did some work on this issue….”) but persuasively rather than presumptuously so, going on in most cases to spell out exactly what he meant. As in the case of specific labor legislation when faced with the same question about union rights that appeared to buffalo Rev. White. Pratcher, too, would seem to be in for the long haul.

 

One other unadvertised special: a newly announced candidate named BILL WHITMAN, a young white Memphis native graduate of Notre Dame and veteran of several public-issue causes. In his on-line statement, Whitman had given special attention to  health care, a subject that didn’t get much attention from anybody Tuesday night. Whitman came off as engaging and well-intentioned but not enough so to overcome the probability that, as a white unknown, his chances in the race are extremely limited.

 

 

To continue from the print edition: [A]lready  something is obvious from this early-sample hard core. There are good chances for a split favoring Cohen in the Democratic primary. Partly this is based on demographics, with most of the other candidates being African-American and likely to carve up that part of the electorate, a majority in the 9th. But the Midtown state senator, who has represented a sprawling slice of the district for more than a quarter-century in the legislature, has a huge name-recognition factor working in his favor, as well.

 

Suppose Cohen should win and then defeat his Republican opponent in the general election. The likelihood is that, in a re-election race two years later, he’d face only one or two challengers in a primary. His victory would be anything but certain. But he’d have another option.

 

Assuming that a Congressman Cohen would attract more than the usual amount of attention for a first-termer – a fairly safe bet for this articulate and highly un-bashful and issue-conscious politician – he might be sorely tempted to leverage his enhanced profile into a statewide race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Lamar Alexander and up for grabs again in 2008. 

 

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. There’s going to be a crowded race for 9th District congressman meanwhile, and it’s impossible to handicap the outcome at this point. Watch this space.

 

For those Democrats who want to participate, by the way, there’s a “straw vote” polling opportunity at the downtown Rendezvous restaurant from 5 to 7 p.m. this Thursday.

 

There has been much speculation in political circles about the possible effect of Ford-family troubles (the state-senate District 29 wrangle; the upcoming Tennessee Waltz trials, etc.) on the U.S. Senate candidacy of Rep. Ford.

 

Two cautions for those who see all that becoming an obstacle for Ford: (1) While everyone seems to believe there’s a sizeable population of people who might vote against the congressman either on family grounds or because of his race, no one has yet unearthed a real live member of that species; (2) To offset any such backlash, there’s the so-far overlooked factor of the national media.

 

Fact: There has never been a statewide race in Tennessee commanding the amount of national attention the 2006 Senate race will get, and Ford is the largest single reason for that. Here’s the national-media storyline, which you can expect to see invoked three of four times every week during the heat of the campaign on this or that network or cable show or in this or that major print medium: “Can a bright, charismatic young African-American politician overcome racial bias and his family history to win election to the Senate in the border state of Tennessee?”

 

Count on it: That storyline – which, from the media’s standpoint, has a directed-verdict ending – will outweigh any of the other potential issues involving Ford, including his hewing to a blandly centrist line that unsettles many traditional Democrats.

 

Not to be overlooked, by the way, is Ford’s still active Democratic primary opponent, state Senator Rosalind Kurita of Clarksville, who spent a couple of days in Memphis last week and is making a point of addressing some of the domestic and foreign-policy reforms some of the hard-core Democrats want to see addressed.

 

Many of those selfsame Democrats were on hand Tuesday of last week for a brief stop at the Hunt-Phelan Home by National Democratic chairman Howard Dean, following through on his pledge to make frequent outreach visits in the so-called “red” states that favored President Bush in the 2004 election.

 

Dean exhorted the party faithful to help him restore Democratic prestige in Tennessee. The former presidential candeidate also proved a ready man with a quip. When one of the local cadres told him about such-and-such a woman who had “worked the streets for you,” Dean responded, “Well, I appreciate that, but I hope she didn't go that far...."

 

When the cadre tried to backtrack and amend his phraseology, Dean, no doubt remembering “The Scream” from the 2004 primary season,  laughed and said, “Trust me, I know from experience. Once you’ve done something stupid, you just can’t take it back.”
 

 

 

 

DATES TO REMEMBER

 

Deadline for filing, countywide primary races: February 16.

Deadline for filing, state and federal primary races and for independents in countywide races: April 6.
Countywide primaries: May 2.

State and federal primaries and countywide general election: August 3.

Deadline for filing as independent in state and federal races: August 17.

General election, state and federal races: November 7.

 

Friday, January 20, 2006

Getting Some Distance

GOP candidate Ed Bryant sees widening Abramoff scandal, opposes Bush on amnesty for aliens.

Posted on Fri, Jan 20, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Former 7th District congressman Ed Bryant, now a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, predicted Saturday that the current ethics scandal in Washington centering around disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff "is going to spread."

Speaking to attendees of the monthly Dutch Treat Luncheon at the Picadilly Restaurant in East Memphis, Bryant said, "I hear that as many as 20 members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, could be involved, as well as staffers." In an aside, Bryant took note of the current legislative special session on ethics in Tennessee and expressed astonishment that the state had "so few laws" governing ethics, "in contrast to how many we have at the federal level."

As he had in previous stump speeches, the former congressman expressed a desire to join the Senate Judiciary Committee if elected. He promised to "get on the television shows" and counter prominent Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden. He said he would also use his committee membership to "take on the anti-gun people lying in the weeds up there."

A U.S. attorney for Western Tennessee before entering Congress in 1995, Bryant heaped praise on current Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and said that, "after Alito, we [Republicans] will need one more to ensure long-term control of the Court."

Bryant praised proposals for a national sales tax and endorsed, with reservations, the idea of term limits on congressional service. But he declined, when pressed by members of the predominantly conservative Dutch Treat audience, to condemn the United Nations or to oppose continued "most favored nation" treatment for China.

"We'll get better progress with China on all fronts if we keep them as a member of the world community," Bryant said. "After all, we've got Amway in China!"

Pledging to stem the tide of illegal immigration, Bryant also took issue with President Bush's amnesty proposals for migrant workers. "The joke is that Republicans want them for their labor and Democrats want them for their votes," he said.

Bryant is opposed in the GOP Senate primary by former mayor Bob Corker of Chattanooga and former 7th District congressman Van Hilleary.

Among those supporters summoned to Nashville by Governor Phil Bredesen last weekend for a summit meeting on the governor's reelection plans was a sizable group of Memphians, including Shelby County mayor A C Wharton, Jim Strickland, Calvin Anderson, Greg Duckett, Sidney Chism, John Bratcher, and Bobby Lanier.

Shelby County commissioner John Willingham, who had flirted with the thought of running for county mayor, has rethought his strategy and reaffirmed his intention to run instead for reelection to his District 1, Position 3 commission seat. (He is opposed in the Republican primary by GOP consultant Mike Carpenter.)

A proponent of a payroll tax, Willingham says he now is hopeful that incumbent mayor Wharton might end up giving useful support for such a tax.

Willingham said further that his interpretation of state law is that only "municipalities" and not counties are enjoined from imposing such taxes without prior legislative approval. He called for renewed examination of the issue by county legal officers.

Who is this man and where will he point next? In February 2004, on the eve of that year's Tennessee preference primary, erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore spoke from the stage of the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville, where, alongside all his party's active presidential hopefuls, he famously thundered about President Bush, "He betrayed this country!" This somewhat out-of-focus shot chronicles the very moment when those provocative words -- aimed at the president's Iraq policy -- escaped the former vice president's lips. Gore is still being provocative, but his means of doing so has changed somewhat. See Viewpoint, page 13.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

POLITICS: Getting Some Distance

GOP candidate Ed Bryant sees widening Abramoff scandal, opposes Bush on amnesty for aliens.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Former 7th District congressman Ed Bryant, now a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, predicted Saturday that the current ethics scandal in Washington centering around disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff “is going to spread.”

Speaking to attendees of the monthly Dutch Treat Luncheon at the Picadilly Restaurant in East Memphis, Bryant said, “I hear that as many as 20 members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, could be involved, as well as staffers.” In an aside, Bryant took note of the current legislative special session on ethics in Tennessee and expressed astonishment that the state had “so few laws” governing ethics, “in contrast to how many we have at the federal level.”

As he had in previous stump speeches, the former congressman expressed a desire to join the Senate Judiciary Committee if elected. He promised to “get on the television shows” and counter prominent Democrats like senators Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden. He said he would also use his committee membership to “take on the anti-gun people lying in the weeds up there.”

A U.S. attorney for Western Tennessee before entering Congress in 1995, Bryant heaped praise on current Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and said that, “after Alito, we [Republicans] will need one more to ensure long-term control of the Court.”

Bryant praised proposals for a national sales tax and endorsed, with reservations, the idea of term limits on congressional service. But he declined, when pressed by members of the predominantly conservative Dutch Treat audience, to condemn the United Nations or to oppose continued “most favored nation” treatment for China.

“We’ll get better progress with China on all fronts if we keep them as a member of the world community,” Bryant said. “After all, we’ve got Amway in China!”

Pledging to stem the tide of illegal immigration, Bryant also took issue with President Bush’s amnesty proposals for migrant workers. “The joke is that Republicans want them for their labor and Democrats want them for their votes,” he said.

Bryant is opposed in the GOP Senate primary by former mayor Bob Corker of Chattanooga and former 7th District congressman Van Hilleary.

greenbullet2.gif

Among those supporters summoned to Nashville by Governor Phil Bredesen last weekend for a summit meeting on the governor’s reelection plans was a sizable group of Memphians, including Shelby County mayor A C Wharton, Jim Strickland, Calvin Anderson, Greg Duckett, Sidney Chism, John Bratcher, and Bobby Lanier.

greenbullet2.gif

Shelby County commissioner John Willingham, who had flirted with the thought of running for county mayor, has rethought his strategy and reaffirmed his intention to run instead for reelection to his District 1, Position 3 commission seat. (He is opposed in the Republican primary by GOP consultant Mike Carpenter.)

A proponent of a payroll tax, Willingham says he now is hopeful that incumbent mayor Wharton might end up giving useful support for such a tax

Willingham said further that his interpretation of state law is that only “municipalities” and not counties are enjoined from imposing such taxes without prior legislative approval. He called for renewed examination of the issue by county legal officers.

greenbullet2.gif

Who is this man and where will he point next? In February 2004, on the eve of that year’s Tennessee preference primary, erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore spoke from the stage of the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville, where, alongside all his party’s active presidential hopefuls, he famously thundered about President Bush, “He betrayed this country!” This somewhat out-of-focus shot chronicles the very moment when those provocative words — aimed at the president’s Iraq policy — escaped the former vice president’s lips. Gore is still being provocative, but his means of doing so has changed somewhat. See Viewpoint, "A New Al Gore".

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Cohen for Congress?

The longtime state senator becomes the first big name in the list of 9th District hopefuls.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Now that it's actually 2006, the list of candidates for major offices is getting longer -- and more interesting. Take the field for Congress in the 9th District.

This district -- majority-black and traditionally Democratic but containing also several new pockets of upscale development -- includes most of historic Memphis and would merit special attention on that score alone. Just now, it is notable also as the launching pad for the widely watched U.S. Senate candidacy of current incumbent Harold Ford Jr., who basically inherited the office from his namesake father but has since become something of a national media cynosure on his own. Up to the end of the year, the soon-to-be-vacant seat had attracted a mixed bag of promising newcomers and seasoned activists from the local political and governmental pools. But no big names -- at least partly due to lingering suspicion that Ford might change his mind and run for reelection. That's about to change -- especially as it becomes more and more obvious that Ford is in the Senate race to stay.

Enter state senator Steve Cohen, who first ran for the congressional office in 1996 as the younger Ford's first, last, and only serious opponent. For years the articulate and oft feisty Cohen, father of the state lottery and a tireless advocate for civil liberties and the arts, has been among the state's best-known and most respected legislators.

Cohen last week confirmed that he will probably run for the 9th District seat.

Though he launched a characteristically long-shot campaign on behalf of legalizing medical marijuana only last year and is more or less constantly at odds with his party's titular head, Governor Phil Bredesen, concerning a variety of Tennessee-specific issues, Cohen's vistas have always been as much national as statewide.

And, after a quarter-century in Nashville, he seems ready for another challenge. Given the facts that Cohen isn't up for reelection until 2008 and that he's accumulated a decent war chest over the years, he can afford to take a shot at something else this year.

Going into the holidays Cohen had four options: a late entry into the U.S. Senate race; a damn-the-torpedoes challenge to Bredesen; a run against district attorney general Bill Gibbons; and the congressional race. Only the last two prospects looked serious, and Cohen told friends at the end of the year that he'd made up his mind to make another run for Congress.

Though the civil-rights credentials of Cohen, a liberal's liberal, are in order, he'll still have demographics against him, as he did in 1996. But the potentially diverse field he confronts this year gives him better chances than his essentially one-on-one contest 10 years ago against Ford, who was after all a dynastic successor. (Rufus Jones, a state representative back then, also ran but became marginalized as the third man out.)

Still in the field for 2006, and uno yield, is corporate lawyer Nikki Tinker, a bright young African-American who has garnered serious support from the city's business and social elite and has attracted some national attention as well. Though Alabama transplant Tinker's somewhat top-heavy, trickle-down campaign has not yet sprouted real grass roots, she is personable enough to make an impact in the long run. And in the meantime, it surely doesn't hurt to have king-sized billboards and help from the likes of actor Morgan Freeman, who graced a major fund-raising event for Tinker last week at Isaac Hayes' club.

More problematic is whether Tinker, the titular head of one of Ford's unopposed campaigns, can convince Ford loyalists that she's the heir apparent -- given that the congressman, his eyes on the Senate prize, must be both officially and actually neutral. Some Ford intimates regard Tinker's efforts in that regard as a stretch.

Others very much in the game and expected to be heard from include, among Democrats: Tyson Pratcher, Ralph White, Ron Redwing, Ed Stanton, Lee Harris, William Whitman, and Joseph Kyles. Among Republicans: Mark White, Derek Bennett, and John Farmer.

All these have either picked up petitions for the office, have filed, or have otherwise expressed interest in running.

Meanwhile, at least two other well-established names have been talked about as likely entries: state representatives Joe Towns and Henri Brooks. Brooks finished a close second to Ophelia Ford last year in the special Democratic primary for state Senate District 29. And another perhaps momentous name has received a good deal of recent speculation: that of Circuit Court judge D'Army Bailey.

A debate last week between Mike Rude and Mike Ritz, opponents in the Republican primary for the District 1, Position 1, County Commission seat, produced some fireworks, notably when Rude, answering a question about his position on consolidation, went on to denounce Memphis mayor Willie Herenton as a proponent and then said this: "I'm a Republican, and I'm going to fight for Republicans, and my opponent is a financial contributor to the man that's wanting to consolidate, and he's supporting Ophelia Ford to beat Terry Roland, and I just -- to me, it just boggles my mind why we can't stand up and unite."

Ritz, who acknowledged having supported Herenton financially in the past, denied any involvement on Democrat Ford's behalf against the GOP's Roland in the recent special election for District 29 -- a fact confirmed by members of Ford's organization.

Rude later said he had meant only to say that Herenton had supported Ophelia Ford, not Ritz. For the record, even this is uncertain, since, while the mayor's press secretary, Gale Jones Carson, who is state Democratic Party secretary, supported Ford, Herenton, often a political foe of the Ford family, took no active part in the special election.

In other races: A possible contest is shaping up between former clerk Shep Wilbun and Memphis school board member Wanda Halbert in the Democratic primary for Juvenile Court clerk.

Shelby County commissioner Cleo Kirk, one of three litigants in a term-limits case currently under appeal, has pulled a petition for reelection, joining his protégé Bob Hatton, former interim state senator Sidney Chism, and Jeffrey Shields as Democratic primary candidates so far.

County commissioner Tom Moss, who successfully triangulated his reelection four years ago when Republican primary opponent Jim Bomprezzi ran afoul of his personal Lakeland nemesis, Mark Hartz, a spoiler entry, looks to have good odds again this year. Bomprezzi is back to challenge Moss, now commission chairman, but so are Wyatt Bunker and John Bogan.

Still being rumored as a candidate for Juvenile Court judge is state senator Curtis Person. And finally, lawyer and former City Council candidate Jim Strickland will apparently square off against longtime party activist David Upton in a contest for a Democratic state committee seat.

Thanks mainly to the support given to the Diebold Corporation by former Election Commission chairman and current member O.C. Pleasant, a Democrat, Diebold machines won out over models proposed by the rival ES & S Company in a 3 to 1 vote by the commission last week to determine the election machinery that will be used in this year's local elections.

Voting with Pleasant for Diebold were Republican members Nancye Hines and Rich Holden; voting against Hines' motion for Diebold was Democratic member Maura Black Sullivan, who was returning to action after a recent serious illness. Commission chairman Greg Duckett abstained.

The backstory was that Holden, who harbored serious doubts about Diebold as a company, had intended to vote for ES & S and that Duckett was regarded as a tiebreaker in that case for ES & S. But Holden said he found his hands tied when representatives of the county purchasing department and the commission staff announced endorsements of Diebold. At the rank-and-file level, local Democrats tended to favor ES & S, while Republicans on the whole supported Diebold.

Perhaps more meaningful in the long run was the commission's endorsement by a 3-2 party-line vote -- the Democrats prevailing -- for add-on "Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail" technology, which would provide a reliable paper trail to authenticate the results of local elections. VPAT must still be approved by the state for use in local elections.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

POLITICS: Cohen for Congress?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Now that it’s actually 2006, the list of candidates for major offices is getting longer – and more interesting. Take the field for Congress in the 9th District.
        

This district – majority-black and traditionally Democratic but containing also several new pockets of upscale development – includes most of historic Memphis and would merit special attention on that score alone. Just now, it is notable also as the launching pad for the widely watched U.S. Senate candidacy of current incumbent Harold Ford Jr., who basically inherited the office from his namesake father but has since become something of a national media cynosure altogether on his own.

Up to the end of the year the soon-to-be-vacant seat had attracted a mixed bag of promising newcomers and seasoned activists from the local political and governmental pools. But no big names – at least partly due to lingering suspicion that Rep. Ford might change his mind and run for reelection. That’s about to change – especially as it becomes more and more obvious that Ford is in the Senate race to stay.

Enter state Senator Steve Cohen, who first ran for the congressional office in 1996 as the younger Ford’s first, last, and only serious opponent. For years the articulate and oft feisty Cohen, father of the state lottery and a tireless advocate for civil liberties and the arts, has been among the state’s best-known and most respected legislators.

Cohen last week confirmed that he will probably run for the 9th District seat.
           

Though he launched a characteristically long-shot campaign on behalf of legalizing medical marijuana only last year and is more or less constantly at odds with his party’s titular head, Governor Phil Bredesen, concerning a variety of Tennessee-specific issues, Cohen’s vistas have always been as much national as statewide.

And, after a quarter-century in Nashville, he seems ready for another challenge. Given the facts that Cohen isn’t up for reelection until 2008 and that he’s accumulated a decent war chest over the years, he can afford to take a shot at something else this year.

Going into the holidays Cohen had four options: a late entry into the U.S. Senate race; a damn-the-torpedoes challenge to Bredesen; a run against District Attorney General Bill Gibbons; and the congressional race. Only the last two prospects looked serious, and Cohen told friends at the end of the year that he’d made up his mind to make another run for Congress.

Though the civil-rights credentials of Cohen, a liberal’s liberal, are in order, he’ll still have demographics against him, as he did in 1996. But the potentially diverse field he confronts this year gives him better chances than his essentially one-on-one contest ten years ago against Ford, who was after all a dynastic successor. (Rufus Jones, a state rep back then, also ran in 1996 but became marginalized as the third man out.)

Still in the field for 2006, and unlikely to yield, is corporate lawyer Nikki Tinker, a bright young African-American who has garnered serious support from the city’s business and social elite and has attracted some national attention as well. Though Alabama transplant Tinker’s somewhat top-heavy, trickle-down campaign has not yet sprouted real grass roots, she is personable enough to make an impact in the long run, and in the meantime it surely doesn’t hurt to have king-sized billboards and help from the likes of actor Morgan Freeman, who graced a major fundraising event for Tinker last week at Isaac Hayes’ Club.

More problematic is whether Tinker, the titular head of one of Rep. Ford’s unopposed campaigns, can convince Ford loyalists that she’s the heir apparent – given that the congressman, his eyes on the Senate prize, must be both officially and actually neutral. Some Ford intimates regard Tinker’s efforts in that regard as a stretch.

Others very much in the game and expected to be heard from include, among Democrats:  Joseph Kyles, Tyson Pratcher, Ralph White, Ron Redwing, Ed Stanton, Lee Harris, and William Whitman. Among Republicans: Mark White, Derek Bennett, and John Farmer.

All these have either picked up petitions for the office, have filed, or have otherwise expressed interest in running.

Meanwhile, at least two other well-established political names have been talked about as likely entries: state Representatives Joe Towns and Henri Brooks. Brooks finished a close second to Ophelia Ford last year in the special Democratic primary for state Senate District 29.

And another perhaps momentous name has received a good deal of recent speculation: that of Circuit Court Judge D’Army Bailey.

greenbullet2.gif

A debate last week between Mike Rude and Mike Ritz, opponents in the Republican primary for the District 1,Position 1 county commission seat, produced some fireworks, notably when Rude, answering a question about his position on consolidation, went on to denounce Memphis mayor Willie Herenton as a proponent and then said this:    

“I’m a Republican, and I’m going to fight for Republicans, and my opponent is a financial contributor to the man that’s wanting to consolidate, and he’s supporting Ophelia Ford to beat Terry Roland, and I just – to me, it just boggles my mind why we can’t stand up and unite.”

Ritz, who acknowledged having supported Herenton financially in the past, denied any involvement on Democrat Ford’s behalf against the GOP’s Roland in the recent special election for District 29 – a fact confirmed by members of Ford’s organization.

Rude later said he had meant only to say that Herenton had supported Ophelia Ford, not Ritz. For the record, even this is uncertain, since, while the mayor’s press secretary, Gale Jones Carson, who is state Democratic Party secretary, supported Ford, Herenton, often a political foe of the Ford family, took no active part in the special election.

        
  

greenbullet2.gif
In other races: A possible contest is shaping up between former clerk Shep Wilbun and Memphis school board member Wanda Halbert in the Democratic primary for Juvenile Court clerk….Shelby County Commissioner Cleo Kirk, one of three litigants in a term-limits case currently under appeal, has pulled a petition for reelection, joining his protégé Bob Hatton, former interim state senator Sidney Chism, and Jeffrey Shields as Democratic primary candidates so far….County commissioner Tom Moss, who successfully triangulated his reelection four years ago when Republican primary opponent Jim Bomprezzi ran afoul of his personal Lakeland nemesis, Mark Hartz, a spoiler entry, looks to have good odds again this year. Bomprezzi is back to challenge Moss, now commission chairman, but so are Wyatt Bunker and John Bogan….Still being rumored as a candidate for Juvenile Court judge is state senator Curtis Person…. lawyer and former city council candidate Jim Strickland will apparently square off against longtime party activist David Upton in a contest for a Democratic state committee seat.

 

greenbullet2.gif
Thanks mainly to the support given to the Diebold Corporation by former Election Commission chairman and current member O.C. Pleasant, a Democrat, Diebold machines won out over models proposed by the rival ES & S Company in 3-1 vote by the commission last week to determine the election machinery that will be used in this year’s local elections.

           

Voting with Pleasant for Diebold were Republican members Nancye Hines and Rich Holden; voting against Hines’ motion for Diebold was Democratic member Maura Black Sullivan, who was returning to action after a recent serious illness. Commission chairman Greg Duckett abstained.

           

The backstory was that Holden, who harbored serious doubts about Diebold as a company, had intended to vote for ES & S and that Duckett was regarded as a tiebreaker in that case for ES & S. But Holden said he found his hands tied when representatives of both the county purchasing department and the commission staff announced endorsements of Diebold.

 

At the rank-and-file level, local Democrats tended to favor E.S. & S, while Republicans on the whole supported Diebold.

 

Perhaps more meaningful in the long run was the commission’s endorsement by a 3-2 party-line vote -- the Democrats prevailing – for add-on “Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail” technology which would provide a reliable paper trail to authenticate the results of local elections. VPAT, as the technology is called for short, must still be approved by the state for use in local elections.

 

 

 

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