By picking up a petition to run for mayor in the October special mayoral election today, former Mayor Willie Herenton maintained his reputation among most sentient Memphians as an unpredictable loon. He further solidified that reputation by issuing a megalomaniacal statement that denounced Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery and announced that Herenton was preparing a referendum that would "allow the citizens of Memphis to rescind the current charter amendment that elevated Myron Lowery to the office of Mayor Pro Tem. This resolution would prescribe limitations on the powers of a non-elected mayor."
So now Herenton wants ANOTHER election? To rescind a charter amendment??? When is THIS supposed to happen? You need signatures, lots of them, to get a referendum on the ballot. Then the Election Commission has to certify the signatures and, if there are enough valid ones, schedule a referendum election. Lowery has only another three months in office as Pro Tem mayor. Preparing a referendum to take his power away makes no fucking sense. Excuse my French.
But then again, nothing Herenton has done in the past few weeks has made any fucking sense. He's been caroming and bouncing like a pinball, making outrageous statements ("Steve Cohen is an asshole"), announcing one thing, then doing just the opposite. Resigning, not resigning, etc. etc. etc. He's floundering, lost, blustering and staggering like, well, a punch-drunk fighter that's taken one too many blows to his noggin.
Call me a crazy optimist, but I think Herenton may have finally stepped off the curb this time. I don't think he can win back the mayor's office. He doesn't look like a tough man of the streets anymore. He looks like an unstable nut, an ego-tripping old man with delusions of glory. He's the mayoral equivalent of George Foreman. He can jump back into the ring, but nobody's scared any more. Many of his former business allies have gone to County Mayor AC Wharton, never to return. And Wharton appears more and more to be the safe and stable candidate, one that middle-class and upscale whites and blacks will feel most comfortable with, and the kind of candidate people will look to to end the "drama." In fact, I ran into a couple of Wharton advisers at lunch the other day. When I asked them how things were looking, they both smiled big Cheshire grins and said, "The polling is very, VERY positive." Which is the political equivalent of saying "Our man's got this in the bag."
That was pre-Willie's reentry, of course, and you have to discount for some spin from Wharton advisers, but I don't think Herenton's voter base overlaps much with Wharton's. Sure, Willie will keep most of his core supporters (though I think Kenneth Whalum and Jerry Lawler will pick off some), but that core won't be enough to win. Carol Chumney and Lowery, in my mind anyway, are just fooling themselves. They pull from the same pool as Wharton and can only advance if Wharton does something scandalous or stupid. If anything, Herenton's reentry solidifies Wharton's chances. Herenton doesn't realize just how many "haters" he has, people who will do anything -- or vote for anybody -- to keep him out of City Hall. In the last mayoral election, the electorate was triangulated, with people literally waiting for the final polling before making a decision, trying to decide which candidate, Chumney or Herman Morris, had the best chance to unseat Herenton. There are too many variables, too many candidates, this time around. And Herenton's burned a lot more bridges.
I believe AC's sidemen: He's got it in the bag.
That's my armchair take, at any rate. For more professional and informed opinion, read Jackson Baker.