Kyle said he thought he had a strong chance of winning the primary in August but had serious doubts about his ability to win in this fall’s general election. Asked if he thought a Democrat could win, he said, “Yes, I think so, but I don’t think I’m that Democrat.”
The two remaining Democrats in a primary field that has rapidly winnowed are Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, son of former Governor Ned McWherter, and former state House majority leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville.
Some of the factors that he said had entered into his decision were: fundraising restrictions in state law that prohibit sitting legislators from raising money during an ongoing General Assembly session; the acute demands of the current session “and my commitment to getting things accomplished in it;” a sagging economy; and “the fact that I began to doubt if I could get my message across in the current environment.”
Kyle said he had reached his decision earlier this week, when he confided it to family and staffers, and informed a few of his legislative colleagues earlier Friday morning in Nashville but did not announce it publicly until 1 p.m. Friday afternoon.
“It was a difficult decision,” Kyle said, “but I can make difficult decisions. That was one of the reasons why I thought I could perform well as governor.”
Kyle’s full formal statement on exiting the race was as follows:
"After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I have decided that I will no longer be a candidate for Governor of Tennessee.
It is clear to me that while our campaign had the assets to be competitive in the Primary, the legislative fundraising restriction, the economy, and my duties as Senate Leader have severely hampered my ability to generate resources which would have been vital to our success in the general election. Our state faces unprecedented budget and funding issues that cannot wait for the next Governor, and I plan to devote all my energies to working with Governor Bredesen and my colleagues in the legislature to ensure that the best interests of all Tennesseans are placed first.
"I started this campaign for governor to help our state create the recession-proof jobs that will move us forward. My vision for accomplishing this task was to take "Higher Education to a Higher Place," and make our colleges economic engines for Tennessee. While no longer a candidate for Governor, I will continue to be an outspoken advocate to promote and define the solutions that answer our state's most pressing challenges, in both higher education and job creation. Perhaps, my exit from this race will enable some of my legislative initiatives, which will address these challenges, to be seen and heard more clearly.
"For a guy whose Mom worked in a tire factory and whose Dad drove a truck, perhaps the most humbling support has been from Tennessee's working families. My parents' jobs were hard jobs, and because of the Unions they belonged to, they were able to provide a better life for our family.
"I would like to thank each and every Tennessean who has assisted me in this campaign. I am proud to call Tennessee home. I have built a career in this great state, raised my family here, and will continue to pursue the same goal I set for this campaign: that we have a government that measures its success one citizen at a time."
In this week's Viewpoint, Jackson Baker wonders if the U.S. Attorney's office is once again fuzzing the distinction between criminal conduct and an ordinary garden variety quid pro quo.
The rhetoric of campaign meet-and-greets and fundraisers runs the gamut of possibilities — from thank-yous, both perfunctory and elaborate, to introduction of prominent guests to lengthy recitations of accomplishments to partisan exhortations to appeals across party lines. And anything and everything besides.
Once in a while you get something different, as was the case last Tuesday night at Cozymel’s Restaurant in East Memphis, when Probate Court clerk candidate Danny Kail hosted a largish crowd that filled two meeting rooms and comprised people from several of Kail’s past lives — labor representative, county employee, and political activist, among them.
Kail, whose main opposition in the Democratic primary would seem to be Clay Perry (currently an administrative assistant to the Shelby County Commission, with several career stops of his own to draw upon) transcended himself, with a brief oration that was part barn-burner and part job-definer.
He began by castigating unidentified predecessors whose concept of the job was to “see the same old 30 lawyers every day” and then go home to the suburbs and forget about everybody, Kail boasted the number of seminars on probate matters he already gives and plans, if elected, to accelerate in various parts of the community on behalf of “working-class people,” people who without good advice will expire “with their finances in a shambles.”
In Kail’s audience was the newly appointed Trustee Regina Morrison Newman, running for reelection in the May 4 Democratic primary. Like assorted other candidates — including most successful ones — Newman finds herself out and about almost every evening of an election season.
When she turned up at a Germantown Democratic Club event Wednesday night that featured county mayoral candidate Deidre Malone, Newman got a couple of minutes’ speaking time herself and began by scanning the crowd and noting the presence of “people I’ve seen every night this week.”
Newman, who is opposed in the Democratic primary by veteran candidate M. LaTroy Williams, had been featured, along with current Assessor Cheyenne Johnson, at a meeting of the League of Women Voters earlier in the week, and she’d held her own well-attended meet-and-greet fundraiser last Thursday night at La Pavillon Restaurant in East Memphis.
“I’m up against a family name, and I think he’s a good guy,” was Malone’s way of accounting for Ford. “Otis, that’s another story,” she said about Jackson and went on to maintain that Jackson had pledged her his support for mayor before making his surprise announcement of his own mayoral candidacy last Thursday, the filing deadline.
Earlier Wednesday, veteran political figure Reginald French opened his campaign for Sheriff at the historic Four Way Grill at Mississippi Boulevard and Walker. French, whose main Democratic primary opponent is Randy Wade, currently 9th District congressman Steve Cohen’s district director, professed optimism about the election.
After being serenaded by supporters who chanted “Now is the Time,” French promised “a new era of leadership,” reduction of repeat offenders, school safety, and a concerted effort to minimize and control gang activity. “We will work hard, and we will win this primary on May 4th. Failure is not an option,” French said.
Unless functional consolidation can be achieved fairly quickly in local government, City Hall is going to have to go some to catch up with Shelby County in certain technological ways — most notably and most recently in the televising of legislative proceedings.
This Monday’s was the third consecutive public meeting of the Shelby County Commission that could be followed by televised image on the commission’s website. While proceedings of the city council can be followed via audio (as can those of the commission), interested citizens are still deprived of the opportunity to actually see Jim Strickland and Joe Brown cityside as they can Henri Brooks and Mike Ritz on the other side of the plaza.
Here is a still of Brooks in action Monday, sounding off on the merits of re-bidding medical care for inmates of the county’s correction system — the week’s hot-button issue.
There are three camera positions — one for long shots of the commission, another trained on individual commissions as they speak, and a third fixed on the commission dock where citizens and summoned witnesses come to speak. Camera movements are controlled by commission aides. Video quality and audio quality are both acceptable.
Here, by comparison, is an image of state Senator Mark Norris from a Monday evening session in Nashville, carried on the Tennessee General Assembly web page.
Commissioner Ritz, who, while affiliated with Germantown city government, was one of the pioneers of that city’s own televised proceedings of its government proceedings (a full 20 years ago!), credits former Commissioner David Lillard, now state treasurer, with beginning the move toward televised proceedings some three years ago.
Ritz said it is his ambition to help arrange for the commission’s televised meetings to be seen on a Comcast cable channel.
Nothing about Tiger, not his upbringing by a father who made him believe he was destined for one-of-a-kind greatness, not a sport that made him believe it didn't matter how often he threw a tantrum (or a club) on the golf course, not a sports media that apparently knew, but refused to report, that the public persona of the man and his behavior behind closed doors were two very different things, and not a fan base that made him believe he was “da man” or that every time he hit the ball it was destined to go “in the hole,” could have ever been conducive to convincing Tiger to consume the large slice of humble pie his handlers finally convinced him to eat in front of the world on Friday.
None of the clubs in Tiger's bag of tricks is labeled shame or contrition, so is it any wonder he seemed so uncomfortable during his “forgive-me-for-I-have-sinned” spiel that he had to read from a prepared script, or that in spite of the obviously painstaking preparations that preceded the carefully staged event, he still managed to mangle that reading?
If sincerity is measured in pained expressions, halting speech or well-timed, piercing glances into a TV camera, then yes, Tiger passed the sincerity test. But then again, every actor who is coached to deliver lines and communicate by body language that he is someone other than the person delivering those lines must pass the same sincerity test. That doesn't mean we don't recognize the actor is playing a role, rather than actually experiencing a transformative moment. Unlike an actor playing a role, we didn't have to suspend disbelief while listening to one of the world's cockiest personalities try to come across as self-deprecating, but it certainly would have helped.
And No, I, for one, don't believe that Tiger's hasty turkey-night retreat in his SUV, at 2:30 AM, shoeless, and insentient enough to require his wife to turn a “rescue” club into a double entendre wasn't the result of, shall we say, domestic intemperance, if not outright violence, immediately beforehand. Suffice it to say, there will be no Academy Award nomination forthcoming for best performance by a philandering superstar in a humiliating role for this going-through-the-motions appearance.
As for his plea for privacy, and the claim by many that his behavior is a matter strictly between him and his wife, my response is, nothing Tiger has done in his life since his father first finagled his two-year-old phenom's appearance on a national TV show, has been private, so why should anything since then be? You can't make yourself into the richest athlete of all time by creating an image of yourself, on the golf course or in the media, expect people to buy what you make all that money trying to sell them, and then claim that anything you do that gives the lie to that image isn't a legitimate object of public scrutiny, and yes, even scorn.
Tiger's demeanor at his coming-out event was as phony and contrived as was the staging he engineered to convince us otherwise. Did any of us really expect one of the hand-chosen people who played the role of audience at this event to blurt out (a la the State of the Union speech incident), “You lie,” during his prolonged apologia, or to hold up a sign (a la the PETA incident during the recent Westminster Kennel Club dog show) that read “faithful husbands rule?” I couldn't help but wonder how much money Tiger was responsible for putting in those folks' pockets. Suffice it to say, they were bought and paid for.
And so, too, were the shills who played the role of “journalists,” who, contrary to everything journalism is supposed to stand for, prostituted themselves by capitulating to Tiger's refusal to answer questions just so they could say they had been there.
Tiger's image-repair tour has now touched all the familiar bases. Apologize, enter rehab (not necessarily in that order) and, most importantly, claim to be born again. Just like every guy who gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar (or his you-know-what in the you-know-where), Tiger's declared rediscovery of Buddhism would probably be the least believable of all his efforts at redemption, were it not for the convenient fact that one of the tenets of Buddhism, unlike the religion touted by some as a pre-requisite for his redemption (eat your heart out, Britt Hume), is reincarnation. Sadly, though, for Tiger, the reincarnation he needs, namely a rebirth of respect and regard for him as something more than just a remarkable golfer, isn't likely to be the rebirth he gets.
Two commission candidates are, in fact, unopposed. Incumbent Republican Mike Ritz has no opposition in District 1, Position 1, and Democrat Walter Bailey, who was term-limited off the commission four years ago, will return to the commission in District 2, Position 1 with no opponent. Bailey’s once and future seat has been held for the past four years by J.W. Gibson, who is retiring
All other commission races will be contested, at least on primary day.
In District 1, Position 2, the seat being vacated by George Flinn, now a candidate for Congress in the 8th District, will be sought by Heidi Shafer, Flinn’s personal assistant, and Albert Maduska. All are Republicans.
Incumbent Republican commissioner Mike Carpenter will be opposed in the GOP primary by Joe Baier in District 1, Position 3.
Democratic incumbent Henri Brooks will have primary opposition in District 2, Position 2 from David Vinciarelli. Contestants for District 2, Position 3, an open seat, are Norma Lester, Reginald Milton, Melvin Burgess, Eric Dunn, and Freddie L. Thomas, all Democrats.
Incumbent Democrat James Harvey faces primary opposition from James Catchings in District 3, Position 1. Incumbent Sidney Chism is opposed by Andrew Rome Withers in the Democratic primary for District 3, Position 2, while incumbent Edith Moore and Justin Ford will vie in the Democratic primary for the District 3, Position 3 seat that both sought when Moore was awarded the appointment by the commission last month.
There are three contestants for the Republican nomination in commission District 4, Position 1, which is being vacated by a term-limited Joyce Avery. They are: Jim Bomprezzi, John Pelliciotti, and Chris Thomas.
There are three contestants as well for the GOP nomination in commission District 4, Position 2: incumbent Wyatt Bunker, Ron Fittes, and John Wilkerson. In commission District 4, Position 3, the three candidates, all Republicans, are George Chrism, Edgar Babian, and Terry Roland...
In commission District 5, there are two Democrats, incumbent Steve Mulroy and Jennings Bernard, and one Republican, Rolando Toyos.
The race for SHELBY COUNTY MAYOR boasts races in both party primaries. As expected, interim mayor Joe Ford and Shelby County commissioner Deidre Malone will fight it out on the Democratic side, and they will be joined by an unexpected last-minute filee, Otis Jackson, who currently serves as General Sessions Court clerk. Jackson can keep his clerk’s job, which isn’t up again for two more years.
In the Republican mayoral primary, Sheriff Mark Luttrell is opposed by perennial candidate Ernest Lunati, in what is expected to be a walkover for Luttrell.
Leo Awgowhat filed for mayor as an independent, as did Sandra Sullivan. Only Awgowhat had the requisite number of correct signatures, however.
The SHELBY COUNTY SHERIFF's race promises to be interesting on both sides of the party line. Democrats filing include Randy Wade, Reginald French, Bennie Cobb, Larry Hill, Elton Hymon, and James Bolden, but the candidacies of Hymon and Bolden are in jeopardy, as they failed to turn in completed Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) forms by the February 4 deadline.
Bolden, a former Memphis police director and director of Homeland Security locally, maintains that he passed POST certification while a member of the Memphis Police Department and that no POST deadline for the Sheriff’s race had been publicly posted.
The status of his candidacy and that of Hymon, also a former law enforcement officer, will be determined within the next week.
Republicans running for Sheriff are James Coleman, Dale Lane, Bill Oldham, and Bobby Simmons.
TRUSTEE candidates are: incumbent Regina Morrison Newman and M. LaTroy Williams, both Democrats, and Jeff Jacobs, David Lenoir, and John Willingham, all Republicans.
Candidates for SHELBY COUNTY CLERK are: Charlotte Draper, Corey Maclin, and Keith Miller (Democrats); and Wayne Mashburn and Steve Moore (Republicans).
Running for JUVENILE COURT CLERK are: Sylvester Bradley Jr., Charles R. Marshall, and Shep Wilbun (Democrats); Republican Joy Touliatos; and independent Julia Robinson Wiseman.
Candidates for CIRCUIT COURT CLERK are: Ricky W. Dixon, Carmichael Johnson, and Steve Webster, Democrats; and incumbent Jimmy Moore, Republican.
Seeking the office of CRIMINAL COURT CLERK are: Republicans Michael Porter and Kevin Key (the latter of whom is the son of outgoing clerk Bill Key); and Democrats Ralph White, Minerva Johnican, and Vernon Johnson. Independent Jerry Stamson also seeks the position.
PROBATE COURT CLERK candidates are: Democrats Sondra Becton, Peggy J. dobbins, Danny w. Kail, Clay Perry, Anita Sawyer-Hamilton, and Kevin Tyler; and Republican Paul Boyd.
Finally, candidates for REGISTER are: incumbent Tom Leatherwood, Republican; and Carlton W. Orange, Lady J. Swift, and Coleman Thompson, Democrats.
(Here, courtesy of the Daily Docket, is an easily readable link to the filings in grid form:
The “he” was interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford, and, before an audience composed largely of fellow candidates and office-holders, Ford answered it forthwith, informing the attendees what they already knew — that he had picked up a petition for the mayor’s race at the Election Commission and would like those present to sign it, so that he could get it in by Thursday.
Thursday is the deadline for filings for the May 4 primary for countywide offices, and Ford was not alone among hopefuls with papers to sign. After he had finished his brief remarks and indulged in a Q and A about county government, he — and they — set about getting their homework done, and, in a display of the cooperative spirit, candidates began passing around each other’s petitions.
(It was doubtful, though, that Steve Webster and Jimmy Moore, say, Democratic and Republican candidates for Circuit Court Clerk, respectively, actually got into the act of such reciprocal back-scratching. And there were several other such cases of rivals passing around petitions, more or less in the same space...)
This fact constitutes a major irony, in that Ritz, whose dealings with county government — both inside and outside the tent — go back for decades, may be the single most obstinately independent commissioner on the 13-member board, the most inclined by far to take (or propose) drastic steps and to go it alone, especially in all matters fiscal.
This is not to say that Ritz is not personally agreeable. Indeed, he can be uncommonly so, and his differences with other commissioners have to do almost exclusively with policy issues, not personalities.
Though occasionally he can storm and bluster in the manner of, say, Commissioner Sidney Chism (a Democrat who frequently affects a state of rage over what Chism considers GOP “lockstep”), Republican Ritz’s displeasure is most often demonstrated by a slight metamorphosis of his normally pleasant and accommodating grin into one so sardonic and mocking as to put Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat to shame.
With the Med in financial crisis, and with a beleaguered county government (which just upped its own contributions from $27 million to $37 million) getting no or minimal help from equally strapped city and state governments, Ritz has just stepped out of formation and thrown what is either a Hail Mary or a bomb. He has intervened directly with the federal government — filing a “civil rights discrimination complaint” against the state of Tennessee and the federal Department of Health and Human Services itself.
Essentially Ritz, acting as an individual and not on behalf of county government (but addressing his complaint under his official commission letterhead) charges that the Med has been unjustly deprived of its rightful share of federal funding — largely as a result of the creation of TennCare.
In the 16 years since the U.S. government granted Tennessee a waiver to route its Medicaid spending via the new machinery of the state-run TennCare, says Ritz, federal funds — particularly those for uncompensated medical care administered to indigent patients at the Med — have been siphoned off throughout the TennCare network, including a variety of private hospitals.
Says Ritz in the letter of complaint (which is accompanied by a variety of supplementary graphs, tables, and other exhibits): “…Tennessee recently received an annual payment from DHHS of over $200 million for uncompensated care. Of that amount DHHS sent to Tennessee $81 million based on the uncompensated care at the Med alone. However, Tennessee has forwarded to the Med total supplemental care payments of $29 million to $39 million a year.”
And Ritz continues: “Therein lies my Complaint against the state of Tennessee.”
The commissioner buttresses his case by demonstrating — this is a civil rights complaint, after all — that the patient base at the Med consists predominantly of minority patients, chiefly African Americans and Hispanics under the poverty line, and that Med employees are also largely drawn from this population base.
And Ritz dismisses what he says is the argument of Governor Phil Bredesen that amounts in the range of $50 million to $60 million of uncompensated care funds distributed through TennCare constitute “a back door way of helping the Med because of the Med’s paying customers/patients are TennCare enrollees.”
Among other things, says Ritz, noting that the new state budget contains new cuts in TennCare appropriations, prior cutbacks n 2007 “had the impact of increasing uncompensated care at the Med because the Med cannot turn down anybody for inability to pay.”
Further: “An ironic result of the state’s current treatment of the Med’s uncompensated care is that the more uncompensated care the Med has, the more Tennessee has for their TennCare bucket to assist all Tennessee hospitals, most of which are private! Even more ironic is the fact that if the Med has to close the TennCare moneybucket for private hospital care will shrink by $50 to $60 million annually!”
In other words, not only the Med itself, which currently faces a looming financial shortage which could run from a low of $32 million to a high of $100 million, but the TennCare network itself are caught in an inescapable and merciless Catch-22.
It remains to be seen how the federal government itself deals with Ritz’s complaint. The reaction from state government can only be described as stony, even hostile. State Finance Commissioner dispatched an email to Med administrator Gene Holcomb seeming to threaten a hands-off attitude toward the Med’s problems and stating “It [Ritz’s complaint] has changed our ability to negotiate any further agreement for the benefit of the Med. I sincerely hope that other sources become available to assist you.”
Members of the county Task Force on the Med appointed by interim county mayor Joe Ford have expressed concern over the effect of the Ritz complaint but also discontent over Goetz’s reaction. Ritz himself has indicated he will continue to press the matter, come what may.
Meanwhile, one of Ritz’s colleagues, Commissioner George Flinn, has launched his own Med-related initiative with the federal government —- one that, like Flinn himself, is direct, straightforward, and free (too free, some would say) of complicated process. Flinn had already prevailed on commission members to endorse his call for a commission letter to this year’s crop of gubernatorial candidates demanding that they pledge to support a routing of all uncompensated care funds generated by the Med to operations of the Med itself.
Flinn, now a Republican congressional candidate in the 8th District, upped the ante at last week’s public meeting of the commission by announcing his own unilateral mission. He said he had arranged a visit to the “White House” to meet with unspecified staff members there in an effort to solve the imbroglio over distribution of uncompensated care funds.
Not everybody in county government is on board with that mission, either. Although the commission would vote to support Flinn’s effort, at least two members — Democrats Henri Brooks and J.W. Gibson were publicly scornful of it.
Nor is everybody attempting to intercede with the feds coming in through the transom a la Ritz and Flinn. 9th District congressman Steve Cohen notified attendees at an open-to-the-public issues meeting in his office on Thursday that he would be attempting, in budget reconciliation negotiations between House and Senate, to acquire more funding for the Med via “disproportionate share” provisions of the federal Medicaid statute.
Meanwhile, the patient — in this case, the Med — remains badly in need of a transfusion and is still on the critical list.
Mayoral Candidate Deidre Malone 'Not Afraid' of Ford or Luttrell
With but days to go before Thursday’s filing deadline for countywide offices, there’ll be more high-powered announcements and candidate filings—some of them sure to be surprising. Meanwhile, the last week or so has been marked by some serious candidate action.
COUNTY MAYOR: Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone, who had already filed for the office of Shelby County mayor, presided over the opening of her campaign headquarters on Poplar Avenue on Saturday and made it clear that she was not daunted by either likely Democratic primary opponent Joe Ford, the current interim mayor, or Sheriff Mark Luttrell, who will run for mayor as a Republican.
“We take whoever decides they want to run…and we’re ready for them,” said Malone to supporters’ cheers. “I’m not afraid of much…I’m prepared to be the next mayor of Shelby County.” .
“Some people..are born into politics, they’re part of a family dynasty,” Malone said, clearly indicating Ford, while others have been “in one area of government all their professional lives,” a possible reference to Luttrell, while she herself had a “well rounded” dossier that included both government and business experience.
Ford is expected to file for mayor himself this week but was still being coy about his intentions last Thursday night when he appeared at a Citizen’s Safety Committee forum on crime at the Jewish Community Center.
“Wait and see what happens next week,” he said. “There won’t be long to wait.”
SHERIFF'S RACE: Randy Wade, 9th district congressman Steve Cohen’s district director, formally filed for the position of Sheriff on Friday. In the presence of a swarm of supporters and media at the Shelby County Election Commission, Wade and Cohen exchanged vows of mutual support and essentially pronounced themselves to be a team.
Asked about that very prospect, Wade said, “Steve Cohen is a man of integrity and a man of honesty…I know that I’m supporting a friend and a man who brings so much to this office, so, to answer your question Steve Cohen for Congress, and —“ (with Cohen joining in) “—Randy Wade for Sheriff.” As Cohen put it, “I couldn’t have had the successes I’ve had without Randy…Randy’s going to make Shelby County better, and it’s gong to be Team Memphis, where we’ll all work together.”
Would there be another such team, one composed of former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, Cohen’s Democratic primary opponent, and Reginald French, a longtime Herenton aide who’ll be competing with Wade in the Democratic primary?
Wade said he’d seen no such evidence and professed some fellow feeling for French, who, like himself, had lost a previous Sheriff’s race. “He’s been knocked down, I’ve been knocked down, but I’m just like Muhammad Ali, I’m going to get up, and I’m going to win the belt this time.”
And there are candidates who, with fingers crossed, are still hoping not to have opponents at all. Or to avoid consequential opponents, in any case.
COUNTY COMMISSION: One such is Mike Carpenter, the first-term Shelby County Commissioner in Distract 1, Position 3 who has made a name for himself as a maven in several fields — school funding and several aspects of governmental reorganization prominent among them. He also has crossed swords with members of his own Republican Party. Early in his tenure, when he sided with the commission’s Democrats in voting to add a second Juvenile Court judge, it appeared inevitable — even to himself — that he’d have a contested primary in 2010.
But, as of the weekend, Carpenter still had no opponent, and the likely reasons for that were spoken to last Thursday night at a reception/fundraiser for Carpenter at the Crescent Club. Two of those who made remarks on Carpenter’s behalf that night were Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, whom Carpenter had served as co-chair of Wharton’s post-election transition team.
Wharton referred to his support for Carpenter as “a no-brainer,” calling the commissioner a “statesman” and describing Carpenter as “someone who is willing to look at each matter that comes before him with one simple question: ‘Is this the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do? Not the Republican thing to do, or the liberal thing to do, the conservative thing to do, the black thing to do, or the county thing to do, or the white thing to do, the city or urban, but is this the right thing to do? I wish we had thousands of Mike Carpenters in office.”
Like Carpenter, two other high-profile commissioners with penchants for the controversial are equally unopposed — Republican Mike Ritz in District 1, Position 1 and Democrat Steve Mulroy in District 5. Both have proved themselves willing to put themselves on the line — Ritz in any number of causes involving the county’s management of its fiscal house and Mulroy in taking the lead on such matters as that of non-discrimination in government.
Both are formidable in debate, though Ritz’s modus operandi runs to the dann-the-torpedoes variety, while Mulroy, equally staunch, is more willing to accept compromise at the margins of an issue.
Understandably, the well-financed Mulroy is keen for the depth of his endorsements — which include several from organized labor and such Democratic potentates as Wharton, interim mayor Ford, former congressman Harold Ford Sr., and city council chairman Harold Collins to be known.
One factor that may have diverted potential candidates in othe commission races is the fact of Commissioner George Flinn's decision to vacate his District 1, Positon 2 seat in order to run in the Republican primary for Congress in the 8th District. Indicating intentions to run in that race are Fliinn's longtime assistant Heidi Shafer and former Commissioner John Willingham.
To Be Continued
As well they might. George Flinn, the radiologist and radio magnate, is Shafer’s employer. Commissioner Flinn is giving up his Shelby County Commission seat this year to seek the Republican nomination for Congress in the 8th District.
And this acknowledgement by Shafer, a fixture at commission meetings and an all-purpose assistant to Flinn in his medical office and his business dealings as well, confirms a long prevalent rumor — namely,that she would seek to succeed her boss on the commission.
Dee Nollner, like some of the “5 others” on the reaction thread, is a local Republican activist, and Lang Wiseman is the chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party. So Shafer will clearly have some decent support from within the local GOP.
One of the other commenters to Shafer’s Facebook entry is one Judson Phillips, best known to the outer world as the impresario of the recently concluded Tea Party Nation convention in Nashville.
Which is to say, Shafer has friends in high places, and she is something more than a factotum. Those Shelby Countians with not-so-long memories will recall Shafer as the activist who, more than any other, launched the local protest against the now notorious FedEx Forum deal in 2001-2.
Which is to say, she is unlikely to be a rubber stamp for her current boss or for anyone else, and her emergence in a politically active role in 2010 is a reversion to type, not an occurrence out of nowhere.
Before the filing deadline of next Thursday, February 18, others will undoubtedly file for Flinn’s now open District 1, Position 2 seat, but they had best beware. If she follows through, Shafer will be a formidable adversary.
The correct answer is (c) Harold Ford Jr., and he wants to be drafted to run for U.S. Senator from New York. This header is from DraftFord.org, a newly created site which fronts for the former Memphis congressman's all-but-declared campaign in the Empire State.
And the text is the latest entry of several in which the hopeful Senator-to-be communicates his world-view to his new constituents.
(Sorry, Auto; This Astro-Turf Muse is hard not to heed.)
Why the change from one District 4 seat to another?, Pellicciotti was asked. “Because I promised the commission and the other people who sought the interim position that I would not seek it on a permanent basis,” Pellicciotti said.
No such vow applied to Position 1, which is also being sought by current Probate Court clerk Chris Thomas. Pellicciotti is quite aware that a confrontation between himself and Thomas in this year's Republican primary would likely be a hard-fought and closely observed race. Pellicciotti offered no criticism of Thomas but suggested, without elaborating, that there were possible philosophical differences between the two.
Pellicciotti, who works as a high-tech consultant and as a restorer of vintage automobiles, had sought several elected positions before winning out over a crowded field of applicants for the District 4, Position 3 seat. At least two of Pellicciotti’s unsuccessful rivals — Terry Roland and George Chism — are actively seeking the Position 3 seat in this year’s election.
On the commission, Pellicciotti has kept a generally low profile but has not been reticent about offering solutions to issues before the legislative body. He authored the text of a compromise resolution allowing county employees to volunteer for Haiti relief missions that was narrowly defeated.
Pellicciotti says that very shortly he will offer proposals for resolving the county’s current budgetary problems through work-force economies.
Wharton did so on Tuesday evening at the University Club, during and after his participation in a panel on consolidation conducted by the Inns of Court, an invitational organization comprising members of the local legal community.
Following the panel discussion, Wharton was asked directly what his reaction had been to Herenton’s rhetoric, with its essential appeal to African American voters in the 9th District to observe racial solidarity.
The mayor responded forthrightly but cautiously. “I’ve always made it clear that that is the antithesis of everything I stand for. But at the same time I refrain from being the standing commentator on everything he might say. Otherwise I’d have to go into commentating full-time,” he said.
As he had during his remarks to the group at large, Wharton was candid about the reality of racial schisms in the community. “We have a history of racial voting. We’ve got to deal with that…But everybody knows that it is not what I stand for,” he said.
Earlier, in his remarks to the legal audience, Wharton had named racial divisiveness as one of the obvious obstacles to political unity in the community at large. “The question of race is always there,” the mayor said, and, though it was “not spoken as it once was,” it remained pervasive.
“Some would suggest that all you would have to do is just call a big Kumbaya session. Everybody would just get on the blanket and say ‘Peace, brother, peace sister,’ and we’d all just come together in love and harmony. That is not the real world in which we live.”
The only way to deal with the race issue is to be “open and honest about it,” Wharton said. “We’re going to have to deal with that issue openly and honestly…. It makes it difficult, but let’s just be candid. We know Memphis. We know Shelby County. Let’s just be candid and open-minded.”
Only the famous roller-coaster ride that tested the mettle of innumerable Memphians since 1923, when it first showed up at the Fairgrounds, won’t be preserved on its home grounds. Rather, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a town heretofore more famous for football than for free fall.
As head of the ad hoc group Save Libertyland! Inc., Mulroy has been trying since 2006, the year he ran for — and won — his District 5 commission seat, to prevent the legendary attraction from going extinct along with the rest of the vintage Fairgrounds properties as the site’s amusement park core headed for shutdown.
After Mulroy, a University of Memphis law professor, and his fellow Pippin enthusiasts had done a good deal of shopping the Pippin out to various amusement parks in their spare time, the mayor of Green Bay, Jim Schmitt, got wind of what was going on and asked for a look-see. On Monday, Schmitt (who is surely used to inclement weather) braved the snow, ice, and slush of Memphis to examine the property, arriving in town along with other Green Bay officials.
He and they liked what they saw, and Schmitt announced at the end of the day that, upon returning to Green Bay, he would recommend to his city council that they buy the Pippin. In practice, that means the name, the ride’s basic architecture and physical plan, and its historical association will be sold — with new boards and other materials to be supplied by the Wisconsin city.
Tentatively, the transplanted Pippin would reopen in 2011 at the Bay Beach site in the Green Bay area, and Schmitt estimated the deal could be wrapped up within 60 days.
Helping to midwife the deal was Memphis mayor A C Wharton, who met with Mulroy and Schmitt on Monday — though the city itself had no claim to ownership over Pippin, which had become the sole property of Save Liberftyland!, Inc.
Though Mulroy estimates that millions will be lavished on the Pippin during its restoration at Bay Beach, he acknowledges that the purchase price was quite a bit smaller — maybe even a token sum, especially in comparison to Mulroy’s own fundraising efforts for his reelection bid, which, he wanted it known, are subject to no Pippin-like rise-and-fall but are going straight up, along with several key endorsements, and…..
But that’s another story, which — if the oh-so-bashful commissioner assents — may get told at some later point.
The incumbent sheriff, Jack Owens, had just created a vacancy by the most dramatic means imaginable: He had committed suicide, blowing out his brains with a handgun in a parked car.
Owens, who had been a dramatic innovator — most notably by personally leading “jump-and-grab” drug raids within the city limits of Memphis — had been considered a shoo-in for reelection that year (“One Good Term Deserves Another,” would have been his slogan) and a contender for the office of Memphis mayor in 1991.
Though various irregularities in the Sheriff’s department were subsequently pinpointed as possible causes of Owen’s mental discontent, the full and complete reasons for his suicide remain unknown. But the manner of his leaving office focused everybody’s attention on the question of a successor.
A large field of well-known public figures — including former sheriffs and politicians like then city councilman and current Circuit Court clerk Jimmy Moore — competed for the job, which was ultimately won by A.C. Gilless, who had been Owens’ deputy. Gilless would encounter scandal during his three terms and would retire under a cloud, embodying in his own way a position that is part law-enforcement and part old-style politics.
When Gilless’ successor, Mark Luttrell, announced last week that he would be seeking the office of Shelby County mayor this year, he professed confidently, “Eight years ago, Sheriff’s Department was a mess. The Sheriff’s Department is no longer a mess.” Now, opined Lutrell, the department required only “maintenance” to stay on the high side.
Be that the case or not (especially at a time when “functional consolidation” is the watchword), contenders for the job will shortly be lining up for the nearest thing to a full-scale donnybrook since that hotly contested, multi-candidate race in 1990.
Candidates for sheriff, a constitutional position, were expected to meet state certification requirements relating to law enforcement background as of last week. Among those who did so and are expected to file by the February 18 deadline are a sizeable number of former contenders,
One is Randy Wade, a former deputy who ran for sheriff as a Democrat in 2002 and who in recent years has been right-hand man locally for 9th District congressman Steve Cohen. Word is that Wade will announce by the end of next week.
Another Democrat running (and already announced) is Reginald French, well known as a longtime aide to former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and the Democratic nominee in 2006, when he gave Luttrell something of a run for his money.
Yet another likely candidate is Bartlett alderman Bobby Simmons, who as a sheriff’s deputy had been one of Luttrell’s opponents in the 2002 GOP primary.
And current chief deputy Bill Oldham, a former interim police director, has also pulled a petition to run for sheriff as a Republican.
Others who have pulled a petition include: Floyd Bonner, Bennie Cobb, James Coleman, Larry Hill, and Elton Richard Hymon (Democrats); William S. Cash, Dale Lane, and Ernest Lunati (Republicans); and Erick Snyder (independent).