Thursday, July 30, 2009

Paul Stanley Says Goodbye to His Support Group

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 10:50 PM

6596/1249012787-paul_stanley_mug__new_.jpgPaul Stanley's letter of formal leavetaking to the state Senate was somewhat austere. He warmed up a bit — some might say a bit much — in his goodbye letter to his network of political supporters:

Dear Friends,

I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and gratitude for your support during my legislative tenure in the House and Senate over the past nine years. As a result of poor personal decisions I have made, my wife and I reached the decision to resign from the State Senate effective August 10, 2009.

First and foremost, I humbly ask your forgiveness for my indiscretion. The public criticism I have received thus far is well deserved. Even before these matters became public, I have been concentrating my efforts on rebuilding and repairing the damage I have done to my wife and two great children. They (and not me) are the victims in this situation, and I am to blame. I recognize that it is my actions that have brought this embarrassment on my family.

I humbly ask, not for my sake, but for theirs, to respect my wife and children’s privacy as they are truly innocent and should not suffer the humiliation or embarrassment for my wrong doing and indiscretion.

For my errors I am very sorry, and I will continue to make amends. Admitting failure is difficult but necessary if one expects to ever better themselves by allowing God to work His will in their life. Giving myself to Him and rebuilding my family relationships are now the focus of my life.

My future course is uncharted, and I will rely exclusively on prayer and the advice and input of my wife on which course I personally and professionally travel. Finally, many have critized me for violating pro-family stances I have taken on a number of issues. I firmly believe God’s standards are where they have always been. Just because I fell far short of those standards, does not negate the standard set by God.

All I simply ask for is your prayers for my family and their healing. Again, thank you for your support and friendship, and I hope our paths will cross again in the future.


Senator Paul Stanley

Guess Who's Getting Ready!: Here's a Look at Jim Kyle's Campaign Website

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 9:37 PM

Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis has indicated he'll make an announcement on August 11th. Here's an advance look at a website page that tells you everything you need to know about what it is he'll announce....

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Ramsey Highlights His Role in Showing Stanley the Door

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 9:37 AM

b583/1248965163-ron_ramsey_3x.jpgElimininating any doubt as to whether he had helped state Senator Paul Stanley make up his mind about resigning, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, the Blountville Republican who presides over that body and had secured Stanley’s resignation from his Commerce Committee chairmanship last week, said in Memphis Wednesday that he had communicated repeatedly with a reluctant Stanley on Monday and Tuesday, urging that the senator vacate his Senate seat altogether.

Ramsey said Stanley had offered some resistance to the idea. “He had a few reasons why he wanted to wait a day or two before he he resigned.” The Senate speaker said he had first asked Stanley to resign on Monday and urged that course on Stanley again on Tuesday. “I talked to him three times yesterday [Tuesday], just to kind of walk him through to where I thought he needed to be….He said he wanted to think about it.”

Ramsey was in Memphis at the Grove Restaurant in East Memphis for an Associated Builders and Contractors meet-and-greet affair, where he appeared along with two fellow gubernatorial candidates, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons of Memphis and Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam.

Answering questions after the ABC affair, Ramsey said that, after his initial verbal approaches, he had continued to insist that Stanley resign via text messages to the Germantown Republican, who has been mired for the last week in a sex-and-blackmail scandal stemming from his relationship with a former legislative intern. Stanley would eventually announce his resignation from the Senate late Tuesday afternoon.

Commenting on the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville had been among those publicly urging Stanley’s resignation, Ramsey said, “I’m not sure Mark Norris ever talked to him, from what I’ve heard, but I talked to him about three times.”

Ramsey said, “I am relieved that it’s over. I was very upset with Paul at the time over what he did. I didn’t condone what he did. As a matter of fact, I condemned what he did…. To be honest about it, I’m a human being, I felt sorry for other human beings. There’s no excuse for what he did, but we hope he’ll be able to move on and correct his life with his wife and kids.”

Meanwhile, said Ramsey, he was “looking forward” to the special election that will be held later this year to fill Stanley’s District 31 seat.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 8:42 AM

f651/1248875531-briankelsey2.jpgTennessee Republicans, who on Tuesday managed — via a degree of arm-twisting that can only be imagined — to divest themselves of one problem, State Senator Paul Stanley, may have another — and worse — one on the horizon.

Now that Stanley, crippled by an ever-mounting sex/blackmail scandal, has announced his resignation, the field of candidates to succeed him in a soon-to-be-conducted special election includes at least one prominent Republican member of the state House of Representatives, Brian Kelsey, and is likely to include more.

Should the special-election winner be Kelsey — or Steve McManus or Jim Coley, two other potential GOP House entries — then there would be a resultant vacancy in the state House, which as of now has a lineup of 50 Republicans and 49 Democrats. That would create a dead heat — 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats — with control of the House up for grabs going into the 2010 legislative session.

It is hard to imagine a more crucial turning-point issue. And who gets to name the replacement for Kelsey, who has already announced for Stanley’s seat, or some other House member? The Democratic-controlled Shelby County Commission, numbering as of now eight Democrats and five Republicans.

And the commission’s 8-5 split — a change from the previous lineup favoring Democrats 7-6 — exists because the body’s Democratic majority exercised its numerical edge to vote in Matt Kuhn, a Democrat, to succeed David Lillard, who had resigned to become state treasurer.

The Kuhn vote was the result of significant pressure from local Democrats. But the degree of pressure would magnify enormously when the issue becomes that of controlling the state House of Representatives.

Commission chair Deidre Malone, a Democrat, acknowledged that circumstance when asked Wednesday morning about her potential vote to fill a state House vacancy. “Wow!” said Malone, who had previously indicated she would support a Republican if the commission were asked to fill Stanley’s Senate seat in a body with a comfortable GOP majority. But the House vacancy was clearly another matter. “I’d have to listen to the advice and wishes of other Democrats. I’m a good Democratic soldier,” she said frankly.

Of course, if Kelsey or another Republican House member should win the special election for Stanley’s seat late this year, Governor Phil Bredesen (a Democrat, coincidentally, who took his lumps from the majority-GOP legislature in 2009) would then be asked to call another special election for the open House seat. Crucially, he would have up to 20 days to do so. After that, the Shelby County Election Commission could not schedule a special-election primary for another 55 days. Another 55 days would have to elapse before a general election cold be scheduled in the House district.

Altogether, that's 130 days — a little over four months, or the length of the average legislative session. Looking at that prospect, Republicans might come to wish they hadn’t arm-twisted the wounded Stanley into resigning. Meanwhile, Shelby County school board president David Pickler, another likely entry in the District 31 state Senate special election, would be sure to point the succession problem out to Republican voters as a factor weighing in his favor.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shelby GOP Chair Calls on Stanley to Resign (UPDATE: Stanley Bows Out!)

Posted By on Mon, Jul 27, 2009 at 3:07 PM

Contending that "the time has come for this spectacle to end," Shelby County Republican chairman Lang Wiseman has issued a press release calling for scandal-plagued state senator Paul Stanley to resign his seat, even if that opens the way to an immediate Democratic successor.

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County School Board's Pickler Eyeing Stanley's State Senate Seat

Posted By on Mon, Jul 27, 2009 at 1:01 AM

c57f/1248674970-pickler2.jpgIf this is the year that the mayor for life, Willie Herenton, finally retires, it may also be the year that the school board president for life, David Pickler, leaves office, too.

Always assuming that Herenton’s departure from City Hall takes place as scheduled on Thursday, we do know that the outgoing Memphis mayor intends to change his venue to Washington, D.C., inasmuch as he’s thrown down a challenge to incumbent 9th District congressman Steve Cohen.

Should Pickler (whose day job is that of investment counselor) decide against another term as president of the Shelby County School Board, he, too, may try to move on — in his case to Nashville as successor to Paul Stanley, the currently beleaguered state senator from District 31 (Germantown, Cordova).

Pickler has thought out loud before about running for the legislature — for this seat, in fact — but thought better of it. Now that Stanley is all too clearly a lame duck because of a lingering — nay, mushrooming — sex scandal involving his former legislative intern, various other Republicans from the eastern suburbs of Shelby County are coveting his seat.

Among those known or presumed to be interested in running are state Representatives Steve McManus and Brian Kelsey. McManus, who represents Stanley’s former state House District 96, is actively campaigning, while Kelsey, the high-profile state representative from District 83, is considered a likely candidate.

“Serving in the legislature is something I’ve always wanted to do, and this time I’m giving it very serious consideration,” said Pickler, whose opposition to school consolidation and his energetic pursuit of special school-district status for the Shelby County schools have marked his long tenure at the helm of the county board.

Pickler said he assumes that, while Stanley is clearly regarded just now as persona non grata by the state Republican establishment and rank and file alike, the incumbent will not be pushed into retirement before his term expires. “Republicans are afraid that the county commission’s Democratic majority would try to appoint an interim senator who’s one of their own,” he said.

UPDATE: Shelby Republican chairman Lang Wiseman has called on Stanley to resign immediately.

GADFLY: The Question is Race

Posted By on Mon, Jul 27, 2009 at 12:16 AM

e6e7/1248672154-gadfly.jpgWell, guess what? Racism (or at least accusations of it) is back in the news, both locally and nationally. Our mayor trotted out that old saw, for the Nth time, because he was pissed off at City Council for actually taking him at his word about “retiring” on July 30th, and passing a resolution declaring the office vacant as of July 31st. The gall of them! Obviously, there's no other explanation for that than racism. Oh, and he embellished the accusation, this time, by adding the charge that the Council's action was “perverted.” Who knew that part of the resolution declaring a vacancy in the office apparently was language praising child pornography?

On the national scene, there have been two prominent incidents: the first was the exclusion of a group of black children from an apparently “whites only” swim club in suburban Philadelphia, and the second was when our President entered the fray over the arrest of prominent African American scholar Henry Louis Gates by suggesting this was another example of racial profiling. Imagine—-an African American male suggesting that law enforcement officials occasionally target people of color for “special” treatment. How dare he! It couldn't possibly be because there's hardly a black person who's lived long enough who hasn't been harassed for the “crime” of being black, could it? But the corporate media, looking for a controversy about this president, when the only other thing on their radar screens was the “birther” goofiness, jumped on Obama's remarks as if he were channeling Jeremiah Wright.

I've been privileged to become friends with a number of African Americans in the last few years as a result of my membership in a predominantly (well, except for me, exclusively) black social organization made up of doctors, lawyers and other professionals. It's been an enlightening experience to have the shoe be on the other foot, as my black friends have (playfully, I think) referred to me as the “white boy,” or the “slave master,” among other things. Nonetheless, I've come to the realization from being around these guys that it is virtually impossible to be a black person in this country, regardless of status or stature, and not have experiences where the color of your skin has been criminalized by law enforcement authorities. “Driving while black,” has become almost a cliché, but, as with most clichés, it has a reality-based origin.

It's a sad fact that our Mayor's ubiquitous hurling of the racist accusation has had the effect of inuring us to instances where the charge may actually be meritorious, like the incident in Philadelphia, not unlike the way the villagers in the Aesop fable stopped believing the boy who kept crying “wolf.”

I am the last person to scoff at charges of bigotry or intolerance, being the child of Holocaust survivors, and having had personal experience with anti-Semitism. But, I also have enough life experience to know that just because you are a member of a group that has been historically discriminated against doesn't mean that everything bad that happens to you is the result of discrimination.

I also know that just because a black person cries “racism” every time something bad happens to them doesn't mean it isn't the result of discrimination. The saying is, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get you. Eventually, even the boy who cried wolf was right, even if, by that point, he couldn't get anyone to believe him.

There are lessons to be learned in these episodes. For Obama, it's that discussing issues of race may not always be accepted with open arms, even coming from him. Oh sure, everyone admired his confrontation of race in that memorable campaign speech in Philadelphia. But that was as much because it put distance between himself and someone many white folks saw as a virulent black racist as because it spoke to broader issues of race.

We “palefaces” liked that speech because it made us feel Obama had common cause with us in decrying the kind of racism we're not used to, the kind that threatens us. But identifying with a prominent black scholar because he may have been the victim of the kind of racism we would prefer to believe is mostly anecdotal? Unh-unh; that was a bridge too far. But the fact is, Obama's foray into racial profiling may end up having the salutary effect of making us (black and white) realize that we may not have made as much progress towards becoming “post-racial” as the pundits would have us believe.

The lessons in the Herenton episode are harder to glean, if only because his accusations of discrimination have become so indiscriminate. After all, our mayor has enjoyed a record-breaking tenure in his office in no small part because whites, as well as blacks, have repeatedly re-elected him, and because he has been the beneficiary of the white power structure's largesse.

Nonetheless, the lesson in Herenton's incessant invocation of the “race card,” especially in juxtaposition with the incident at the Philadelphia swim club, may be that racism is still alive and well in this country, even if the carriers of that message may see that wolf at the door all too often.

Friday, July 24, 2009

No Go for Strickland in Mayor's Race

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 1:18 PM

29fb/1248468139-strickland.jpgJim Strickland, the Memphis lawyer who developed a head of steam last month with his budget-cutting proposals as a city councilman and became the subject of a draft movement to run for mayor, has decided against running, the Flyer has learned.

Strickland's decision was communicated to friends and supporters at roughly noon on Friday — the first formal notice appearing on the "Draft Jim Strickland" Facebook page of Tom Guleff. There was no immediate explanation as to why Strickland opted not to run, but it is known that a poll was conducted under his auspices last week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Die Is Cast, the Deed is Done: The Election Commission Sets an Election Date

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 11:08 AM

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Stanley Resigns Chairmanship, Admits Taking "Explicit" Pictures

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 12:12 AM


The situation of Paul Stanley, the Shelby County state senator involved in a blackmail/sex scandal with his former legislative intern plumbed new depths Wednesday with the proliferation of new revelations damaging to his reputation and to his previous explanations.

First of all, Stanley’s self-description of himself as “victim” dissolved utterly with the widespread publication during the day of the initial summary by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on the incident, written last April. Though Tuesday’s initial reports had left some doubt as to the origin of the “explicit” photographs of Stanley’s young paramour, the TBI document leaves no doubt: Stanley himself was the culprit behind the camera.


Here’s the relevant section, from TBI agent Doug Long, relating Stanley’s original description of his predicament::

“…During an interview with Stanley, he advised [McKensie] Morrison was an intern in his legislative office. Stanley subsequently advised he had developed a sexual relationship with Morrison, during her internship. During the interview, Stanley acknowledged taking a photograph(s) of Morrison in Stanley's apartment….”

Long subsequently would arrest Joel Watts, the 27-year-old boy friend of Morrison and Stanley’s accused blackmailer after the legislator paid Watts $10,000 at a pre-arranged TBI sting location in Nashville, receiving a disc of photographs of Morrison in return.


And, to add insult to Paul Stanley’s injury, Watts or his legal advisor(s) released a videotaped statement Wednesday in which Watts, who had a charge of theft dismissed on Monday but still faces charges of extortion, actually addressed Stanley from a high horse of moral righteousness, calling Stanley "disgraced" and demanding that the legislator apologize to Wattts himself, to the Republican Party, and to "America." Indeed, said Watts in what has to be a new record for chutzpah, all he had ever wanted from Stanley was the aforesaid apology, thereby equating his mark's statement of contrition with a cool ten-grand payoff for Watts himself.

(To render null and void any possible doubt as to Watts' intentions regarding that payoff, the TBI also released a transcript of emails a greedily impatient Watts sent to Stanley as he waited for the legislator at the designated payoff point, just off an exit ramp on Interstate 24 north of Nashville.)
Also on Wednesday, Stanley resigned his chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Committee. The move came as something of an anticlimax as his troubles mounted and the likelihood rose that Stanley will be forced to resign from the legislature altogether.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bill Clinton to Address Tennessee Democrats

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 11:08 AM

d463/1248279142-billclintonpresident.jpgFormer president Bill Clinton will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, the annual banquet of the Tennessee Democratic Party, the Flyer has learned. The affair will take place in Nashville’s Renaissance Hotel on August 29.

Ironically, it was another Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, held in 1991, also in Nashville, at the Opryland Hotel, that played a significant role in what turned out to be the triumphant presidential campaign of then governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas.

The slated speaker for that event had been West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, and Clinton, as a Democratic luminary from an adjoining state, was merely one of those Democrats in attendance. While eating dinner, though, Rockefeller choked on a chicken bone and had to be taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Clinton was asked to speak in Rockefeller’s stead, made what all present regarded as a powerful presentation, and shortly thereafter, whether encouraged by the experience or not, began his preparations for the 1992 presidential race.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

State Senator Paul Stanley, Blackmail Victim or Self-Victimizer?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 9:33 PM

db19/1248230121-paul_stanley.jpgThe details thus far are sketchy, but two things stand out about the saga of state Senator Paul Stanley and his 22-year-old former legislative intern, McKensie Morrison: (1) The two of them seem to have had some sort of sexual relationship; and (2) explicit photographs of Morrison, apparently taken in Stanley’s Nashville apartment, were used in an attempt to blackmail the Germantown legislator.

The story apparently first surfaced Tuesday in a Nashville TV station’s report on an arrest affidavit charging Morrison’s boyfriend, 28-year-old Joel Palmer Watts, with an attempt last April to extort $10,000 from Stanley, married with two children, in return for the photographs. At that point, Stanley contacted the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Watts’ arrest followed.

What makes this story different from several others the public has grown familiar with is not necessarily that Stanley, as a legislator, has been identified with a number of family values issues — introducing a bill while a House member that prohibited the showing of pornographic materials in a moving vehicle and taking a prominent role this past session in opposing legislation enabling adoption by gay parents.

After all, Mark Sanford, the errant governor of South Carolina, idol of the Moral Majority, and onetime presidential prospect, was just recently exposed as a philanderer (and a long-distance one at that), and former Congressman Mark Foley, another righteous solon, was discovered to have hit on male pages, and no one has forgotten — or will ever forget — Senator Larry Craig’s wide bathroom stance or, for that matter, the Oval office escapades of Bill Clinton, a former president (who, however, was not especially prone to wearing moralistic causes on his sleeve).

While all of the above left traces of their indiscretions, ranging from emails to DNA stains, none of them, so far as is known, made photographic records of their deeds, as Senator Stanley may have. Another possibility, that a third party took the pictures in Stanley’s presence, is too kinky to imagine. There is, however, yet a third scenario, significantly more exculpatory — that Morrison herself, with the aid of a self-timer or a confederate (e.g., Watts) may have taken the pictures without Stanley’s cooperation or knowledge.

In any case, the senator — who was employed as an account manager with the now discredited Stanford Group (though not implicated or charged himself) — is up against it. “Judge not lest ye be judged” goes the Biblical injunction, but a public official unavoidably will be judged, at election time if not earlier.

What is remarkable, given the strain Stanley was under during this last session, is that, instead of hunkering down, he kept on taking prominent roles in controversial legislation — e.g., in sponsoring a bill, which ultimately and narrowly failed, that would have prohibited local political jurisdictions from passing “living wage” ordinances.

Technically, Stanley is the victim in this case, though he was more self-victimizer than not, and he did the right thing by calling in the TBI once things had progressed to that pass. Public officials involved in these circumstances have no choice if they intend to keep on pursuing their political careers: They must express contrition and must do so quickly and believably.

Even then, it is a judgment call by their families or constituents as to whether they are forgiven, and Paul Stanley’s lot is complicated by the existence of those blackmail photographs. Much of Stanley’s fate, personal and political, will be determined when it is discovered just how those pictures came into being.

Optical Scan Voting "Insanity," Says Election Commission Head

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 1:29 AM

4154/1248182512-giannini_at_se_shelby2.jpgThe Voter Confidence Act passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008 is a creation of “the liberal wing of the liberal party” and a “bad idea,” according to Bill Giannini, the chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission.

In particular, said Giannini in the course of remarks Monday night to members of the Southeast Shelby Republican Club at Perkins Restaurant on Germantown Parkway, “it would be insanity to go back to paper ballots.” As Giannini noted, the law mandates statewide voting in 2010 by optical scanning machines — a process in which paper ballots are read and tabulated electronically, with the originals maintained for possible recount purposes as a “paper trail.”

The paper costs by themselves would be “astronomical,” said Giannini, who argued further that to carry out the mandate next year requires state-of-the-art optical-scanning devices certified by both the state and federal governments and that” no such animal” exists.

Giannini, a former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, thus concurred with arguments made by state Election Coordinator Mark Goins and by Secretary of State Tre Hargett. Both are Republicans who ascended to their offices as a consequence of Republican victories in 2008 legislative races that gave the GOP a majority in both houses of the legislature.

The Voter Confidence Act has been stoutly defended by leading Democrats, including state House Majority Leader Gary Odom of Nashville and state Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester, who maintain that Republicans are using sham arguments to delay implementation of the Act.

Giannini contended that even the Democratic members of the local Election Commission agreed that to try to implement the act next year would be impractical, but he said the commission had” no choice but to comply” without emergency relief by the legislature.

The electronic voting machines now in use in Shelby County are acceptably accurate, argued Giannini, who maintained that to rig a vote with them would necessitate “a conspiracy of unbelievable magnitude.”

Another immediate concern of the local commission is to update voter rolls, which still contain the names of numerous deceased people, according to Giannini. He said there might be “forty or fifty thousand names” that shouldn’t be on the rolls for one reason or another.

Yet another priority is to create at least two new early voting sites in eastern Shelby County, Giannini said. He maintained that the current pattern of 12 “Democratic” sites and 6 “Republican” sites is inequitable.

Giannini also advocated stricter voter ID measure to prevent fraud, and called for Republican pollworkers to volunteer for deployment at inner-city precinct locations. He was optimistic that instant runoff voting, approved in a countywide referendum last year, could streamline elections and curtail expenses but said implementing such voting would not be feasible by next year.

On the big issue of the day, whether and when there will be a special election to succeed Mayor Willie Herenton, Giannini acknowledged that Herenton had apparently informed media people on Monday that he'd be leaving the office on July 30, but there was still a hitch.

"We can't do a thing until we get certification from the City Council of the minutes of their last meeting," he said. Giannini referred to the meeting two weeks ago at which the council officially declared a mayoral vacancy as of July 31. An effort to pass a "same-night minutes" resolution failed by one vote, however, and, as the Election Commission head said at the time, "that ties our hands."

Friday, July 17, 2009

American Conservative Union Accused of Shaking Down FedEx, Cutting Deal With Rival

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 4:16 PM

caf9/1247865716-acu_fulllogo.gif“The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s support in a bitter legislative dispute, then the group’s chairman flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.” .So goes one of those “stranger than fiction” accounts — this one from the website. It concerns a congressional mano-a-mano between FedEx and arch-rival UPS over whether FedEx truck routes should be considered under different and more stringent federal regulations regarding union recognition than apply to its airline routes.

Here's the Politico story:

Here's the ACU reply:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Republican Heavyweight Watkins Gives Herenton an Unexpected Boost

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2009 at 9:35 AM

dd6e/1247755278-billwatkinsmug2.jpgThe real news in congressional candidate Willie Herenton’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission is not his naming of lawyer Ricky E. Wilkins as his campaign treasurer but the simultaneous designation of CPA Bill Watkins as the outgoing mayor’s “custodian of records” for the campaign.

Wilkins — like Keith McGee and Joseph Lee — is one of those perennial Herenton protégés who might as well be joined to Herenton at the hip. Their relationship with the longtime Memphis mayor is one of steadfast reciprocated loyalty, and Herenton’s patronage has always been the motor and maintenance of their careers. With the mayor’s support, Wilkins has floated several trial balloons for candidacies of his own over the years, but so far none of them has materialized.

Watkins’ participation in the Herenton campaign is more significant. Reference has been made in various news accounts to the Watkins-Uberall executive’s involvement in a variety of Republican office-holders’ campaigns — the most recent being that of register Tom Leatherwood’s unsuccessful Republican primary challenge in 2008 to 7th District U.S. representative Marsha Blackburn.

But all of that is an understatement: In his own right, Watkins, a former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, is a pillar of the G.O.P. establishment. He and his wife Jeanette are longtime mainstays of the local party organization, and Watkins’ involvement, many more times than not, has made the difference between a winning Republican primary campaign and a losing one. (Leatherwood’s long-shot loss is one of the exceptions.)

More so than Wilkins, Watkins is used to handling numbers, and his firm is regarded as a leader in the accounting industry. Beyond that, his importance to Herenton’s campaign lies in his potential for magnetizing the soon-to-be-ex-mayor’s fundraising, particularly among national sources where Watkins is a known quantity. Symbolically, too, Watkins provides some check to the well-known — and somewhat ironic — penchant for garnering G.O.P. crossover votes of 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, Herenton’s 2010 opponent.

[UPDATE; Bill Watkins III (or "Tre"), a partner in his father's firm, stressed to the Flyer Thursday night that the involvement of Bill Watkins and Watkins-Uberall in Herenton's campaign would be "purely professional," restricted to accounting responsibilities only and involving no "strategic" aspect.]

Particularly if the gubernatorial campaign of District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, a Republican, should slump (and Gibbons’ reported fundraising totals so far put him well behind the G.O.P. leaders), the Herenton-Cohen race could attract a good deal of interest among Republican voters in the 9th District by the time of next year's primary season. In past elections, Democrat Cohen has done surprisingly well among such voters despite his reputation for political liberalism.

Though nobody’s idea of a Republican beau ideal (to say the least), Herenton’s dedication to Democratic causes has been conspicuously on and off, and his support for Republican Lamar Alexander’s senatorial campaign in 2002 was a significant boost for Alexander in his victory over Democrat Bob Clement.

However modestly and however symbolically, Bill Watkins represents a foot — a toe, rather — in the door of a Republican establishment and voter base that otherwise would seem distant beyond reach for Herenton.

    • Guns to Blast and the Stars and Bars to Fly Again in Bartlett

      The "Battle of Bartlett' (sure, you remember that one!) will be commemorated in a reenactment next month, in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Bartlett's chartering -- for the record, two years after the battle.
    • The Big River Crossing: A Weekend to Remember

      The giant locomotive whistles, the inspiring speeches, the dazzling display of rainbow lighting on the Harahan Bridge at night, and the first treks across the bridge by foot and by bike are all embedded in Memphis history now, as the "Main St. to Main St. Multi-Modal Connector" project came to pass, linking Memphis to West Memphis, and both to the future. (WITH SLIDESHOW AND VIDEO OF BRIDGE LIGHTS)

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