We are at a stage in the run-up to the election of August 7 when everybody sees the stretch run coming, especially with early voting starting on Friday of next week, July 18, and there are beaucoup campaign events going on — in bunches, four or five and sometimes more a night.
We sampled three on Wednesday night — a fundraiser for incumbent Assessor Cheyenne Johnson; another for District 29 state Senator Ophelia Ford; and a meet-and-greet featuring former Judge Joe Brown, now a candidate for District Attorney General.
All of these were Democratic events, and each of them had something to say about the state of the Democratic Party as well as about ongoing trends in the election year itself.
*A good and impressively varied crowd showed up on Assessor Johnson’s behalf at the Ridgefield Road home of City Councilman Jim Strickland and his wife Melyne — a mix of blacks and whites; Democrats, independents, and Republicans; and, it would seem, a fair number of politically influential and deep-pockets types.
Jocelyn Wurzburg, Susan Thorp, Calvin Anderson, Jack Morris, Ron Belz, and Happy Jones — to take a few names out of the hat. Most of these were early comers, and, as the evening wore on, several candidates for judge and other positions on the August 7 ballot turned up — a good sign for Johnson, in that these latter were mainly there to be seen themselves by what they assumed would be a good crowd.
It had to be reassuring for Johnson, who at this stage of the game is the one Democrat given the best chance of winning, both on her merits and because her Republican opponent, Keith Alexander, is a little-known figure whose support group hails more from Tea Party and dissident groups within the GOP than from the Republican party establishment.
The worry among Johnson backers has been and will remain that she could be affected by some of the tarnish and controversy incurred elsewhere on the Democratic Party ticket, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case.
*A good crowd gathered, too, at Senator Ford’s event, held at the funeral home of her brother, former City Councilman Edmond Ford, on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Several members of the extended Ford clan were on hand, including current Councilman Ed Ford Jr., County Commissioner Justin Ford, former County Commissioner Joe Ford, and former state Senator John Ford.
If there was ever any doubt that Ophelia Ford would have the full resources of the Ford political family behind her reelection effort, Wednesday night’s turnout surely dispelled it.
Her major opponent, City Councilman Lee Harris, has been careful not to say anything remotely critical of the Fords as a group, even tossing some generic praise their way, but they seem every bit as aware as he is that defeating a Ford in a reelection bid is an accomplishment no one has yet achieved, and the Fords seem determined to gather round their kinswoman, afflicted as she has been by negative publicity about her attendance and other matters, so as to ward off such a precedent.
Another intriguing presence at the Ophelia Ford event was that of Terry Roland, the County Commissioner and Millington Republican who first won widespread notice with his aggressive near-win race for the Senate seat against then candidate Ford in a 2005 special election. “I’m here to support my Senator,” Roland declared.
The attendees were a group of last-ditch loyalists in the main, though one of those present was John McKamey, an East Tennessee Democrat running for governor. There was a smattering of local candidates, too — among them County Commissioner Henri Brooks, now the Democratic Party nominee for Juvenile Court clerk and beleaguered in her own right; Bennie Cobb, Democratic nominee for Sheriff; and judicial candidates Sheila Bruce-Renfro and Venita Martin Andrews.
The event was dominated by two longish speeches — one, delivered in two installments, by Brooks, and another by Brown himself. Both those candidates sought to characterize themselves as champions of the under-represented populations of Memphis against a self-aggrandizing political and economic establishment.
There was some fire and energy here and there in these presentations — on Brown’s part, especially — but it was hard not to be reminded of the what-might-have-beens of the campaign year.
There was a time when both Brown and Brooks were considered to have a shot at siphoning off enough of the county’s middle-of-the-road swing voters to be potential winners, but the controversies that have swirled about them of late would seem to have made that outcome difficult at best. It has to be said, though: They haven’t given up.