Keep your eye on one Alvin Theo Crook III, independent candidate for the District 12 County Commission seat.
Crook, something of a political unknown, to say the least, distinguished himself in two ways on Wednesday at a Latino Memphis candidate forum.
First, he wasted very little time in moving beyond mere courtesy nods to his opponent of record, Democratic nominee (and former party chairman) Van Turner. He gave an outright endorsement to Turner, and in extravagant terms.
After explaining at some length that he had filed for the Commission seat because he was “tired and mad” about X, Y, and Z that was going on in politics and the fact that local government wasn’t seeing to the needs of his district, Crook said, “After long arguments and heated debates with my good friend Van Turner, I came to realize that we had the same views….Yes, I pulled a petition, but I want all y’all to go out and vote for my good friend Van Turner. He will be the voice on the County Commission that we need.”
There followed a series of additional dithyrambs in praise of Turner, who could only sit and smile while the audience passed through several stages of amazement. Amazement not only at the fact of one candidate’s endorsing his opponent in quasi-debate situation, but amazement at the sheer verve of the previously unknown Crook.
Crook was yet to reach the apex of his authority, though. After promising that he would be a candidate in his own right again, probably in the Memphis city election of 2015 (“and that’s a dogfight I will not get out of”), he achieved his second point of distinction with a slogan that had the audience simultaneously laughing and applauding.
“I see a lot of people laughing and joking about my last name being ‘Crook.’ They say, ‘why would you elect a crook into politics’”” Without pausing for breath, the once and future candidate went on. “Well, I got news for you. I’m not the only crook in politics, but I’m the only Crook you can trust!”
And when he was done, an upstaged but grateful Van Turner hugged Crook and then made his own, somewhat more conventional, campaign pitch,
Indeed, except for Crook’s, most of the statements made by candidates by Wednesday’s forum were of a fairly standard sort.
The event, held in the Latino Memphis offices in Southeast Memphis, paired off mayoral candidates Mark Luttrell and Deidre Malone, sheriff candidates Bill Oldham and Bennie Cobb, and surrogates Jose Leon (who spoke in both Spanish and English) and Carmen Johnson for District Attorney General candidates Amy Weirich and Joe Brown, respectively. (Luttrell, Oldham, and Weirich, all Republicans, are the incumbents. Malone, Cobb, and Brown are Democratic challengers.
There were pairings in a few other Commission races, as well. The most interesting, probably, was that involving Republican Steve Basar, a Commission incumbent, and Dr. Manoj Jain, his opponent for the Commission’s new District 13 seat. Basar stressed his experience, both on the Commission and in business, while Jain, a native of India, made an appeal based on diversity and styled the race as one between a “pharmaceutical executive and a local doctor.”