The audience which heard this happy news, at a fundraising event for Bredesen at the East Memphis residence of city councilman Jack Sammons, included many representatives of the University of Memphis, who hatched the relocation project earlier this year in an effort to shore up the schools long-term accreditation.
The American Bar Association had put the university on notice that its present law school facilities on Central Avenue were considered inadequate.
The move, into the landmark Post Office building on Front St., which would be extensively renovated for the purpose, would ultimately cost some $41 million, said Law School dean Jim Smoot, one of several university officials to have lobbied the governor on the point.
I think this is what you call a full-court press, said the governor about the university groups efforts.
Bredesen kept a smiling and relaxed demeanor despite the presence across the street of demonstrators protesting his paring of the TennCare rolls, a move he defended again Thursday night as necessary for budgetary reasons.
Inviting me is one way to get demonstrators to show up at the end of your driveway, joked the governor, who said he had spoken with several of the protesters and urged the attendees at the fundraiser to do so. These are good people, he said.
The governors appearance in Memphis came at the end of a day in which the members of his recently appointed Citizens Advisory Panel on Ethics held the last of several statewide meetings at the universitys Fogelman Center.
Presided over by former state Attorney General Mike Cody and former state Senator Ben Atchley of Knoxville, the meeting was attended by several local legislators, including state Senators Steve Cohen of Memphis and Roy Herron of Dresden, and state Representatives Paul Stanley and Brian Kelsey of Germantown and Dolores Grisham of Covington.
Cohen called for ratcheting up the current "cup-of-coffee" law to the end of eliminating all lobbyist-funded favors for members of the General Assembly -- a point that was seconded by Stanley and Kelsey.
Asked how much legislation was currently initiated by lobbyists rather than members of the Assembly, Cohen answered bluntly, "Almost all of it."
Grisham, who said she and two other relatively short-term Republican legislators shared the services of a single staffer, called the absence of adequate staffing for legislators "unacceptable." It meant, she said,that increasingly legislators are forced to use lobbyists as sources of advice on legislation. "The good ones will give you both sides," she said.
At one point, panelist Lyle Reid, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, probed into the basic function of lobbyists. Among those called upon to answer was current lobbyist and former legislator Rufus Jones of Memphis, who provided one of the afternoon's best laugh lines.
"The first thing you've got to do is get a client," Jones said. "You can go up there and lobby all day long, but if you don't have a client, you're in trouble!"
The panel will shortly report its findings and recommendations to Governor Bredesen.
Her Republican opponent, Terry Roland, , refused to concede, however, telling a group of supporters at his Millington headquarters, Were still in the race, and promising to turn things over to the people who know how to handle things like this" -- presumably a team of both political and legal advisers.
A spokesman for the Roland campaign would subsequently promise to contest the outcome, saying, "We're going to bring in a shitload of attorneys," both from Tennessee and Washington. One of them, he said, might be former congressman Ed Bryant, now a U.S. Senate candidate.
The course of the election drama resembled somewhat the on-again, off-again, back-and-forth progress of the scaled-down East Coast hurricane, Ophelia, that bore the apparent winners name. The lead changed hands between Ford and Roland several times during the toting up Thursday evening, as she strove to overcome what had been a 450-vote lead held by Roland after the conclusion of early voting. Going into the counting of the last one of 60 precincts to be vouched for, Ford had been down by almost 80 votes.We were out at five minutes to 7, still scaring up votes for Ophelia, said co-campaign manager David Upton about events earlier in what was, by any and all standards, a very tense evening.
Final unofficial totals, including early voting and absentee ballots and all 60 precincts from Thursday's voting were:
Ford - 4332
Roland - 4320
Perennial also-ran candidate Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, running as an independent, had a total of 89 votes.
As push had come to shove late in the campaign, luminaries from both major parties had been pressed into service for the two standard-bearers. Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton led a phalanx of local Democrats doing last-minute robocalls for Ford in her effort to accede to the seat held for 30 years by her brother, John Ford. Meanwhile, state Republican chairman Bob Davis of Nashville, who was present Thursday night at Roland's Millington headquarters, personally took a hand in the GOP nominee's campaign. The seat had come open in late May when John Ford, freshly indicted in the Tennessee Waltz scandal and under fire for months due to other investigations, abruptly resigned it.
Much statewide attention was focused on the Ford-Roland race for the light it might shed on a variety of looming political subjects: the state of the Ford-family campaign apparatus; the possible shift of power in the General Assembly; the signals the outcome would send for races to come, including that of Senator-elect Ford's nephew, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., now a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Long considered a stronghold for the Ford family and for Democratic candidates in general, District 29, which hugs the Mississippi River-front for almost the length of Shelby County, has a largely African-American population, but Roland's Republican team put forth intense efforts, especially in the Millington area.
Late in the game, it had become obvious to everyone on both sides that either candidate could win. Early Thursday, weather forecasts called for intermittent showers, a prospect that was thought to be more threatening for Ford, dependent on a working-class, less mobile constituency. But the rains never came.
Thus did Ophelia Ford, for the second time in a month, squeak by an opponent; her victory over state Rep. Henri Brooks, runner-up in last month's special Democratic primary, a multi-candidate affair, was by 20 votes an outcome Brooks opted not to challenge legally after an appeal was denied by the state Democratic Party.
As indicated, Roland is unlikely to be so acquiescent. Alleging that a voting-machine cartridge was suspiciously missing from one of the district's precincts, a Roland ally, TeamGOP chairman Jeff Ward of adjacent Tipton County was calling for the state Senate to review the results.
And GOP chairman Davis fired off a letter Friday to state Attorney General Paul Summers asking Summers to investigate the election, citing "the alleged voting of convicted felons, unregistered voters, and an incident involving the questionable voter cartridges of the last precinct reporting."
To that, Shelby County Democratic chair Matt Kuhn, who had served as one of Ophelia Ford's last-minute robocallers, issued a formal response. "It is unfortunate that the Republican party has chosen to not accept defeat graciously and cast needless dispersions on our Election institutions," Kuhn's statement said in part. Kuhn also announced that Memphis lawyer Jim Strickland, a former party chairman, would "be prepared to issue a legal statement" as part of any subsequent process.
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Speaking at a seminar on Rethinking the War on Drugs sponsored by the Public Issues Forum of Memphis, the Midtown Democrat also took an indirect swipe at U.S. Senate hopeful Harold Ford Jr., the Memphis congressman whom Cohen unsuccessfully opposed in the 1996 Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District seat.
Cohen noted that no Tennessee congressman had voted for a bill in Congress that would have prevented federal law enforcement authorities from arresting medical-marijuana users in states where they were entitled to use marijuana by law. And I submit to you that itd be a popular thing for one of our congressmen to do, because it would say to the state of Tennessee that we had a congressman who had a brain and who had a vision and who had a heart and was trying to make a difference and not just to promote themselves to another office to do nothing except at a higher level.
Said Cohen: "Theres a purpose to being in office and thats to try to do things to make your society better and not just to advance yourself. Basically what Ive seen in my life, most politicians are just there for the next office. Theyre there for the next fundraiser, for the next round, for the next whatever. And I see it when I look to Nashville, and I see it when I look to the 9th District. And its very, very disheartening."
The full context of Cohen's remarks about Bredesen went this way: The people are so far ahead of the politicians on so many issues, its a shame, and you dont see a whole lot of politicians put their neck out on issues to make society better.I have a lot of despair right now when I look at our president. To be honest, when I look at our governor, who is bringing about a Katrina in Tennessee. Its just that the 200,000 people hes depriving of health care arent put in front of The Pyramid for the public to see it. Theyre spread out throughout this state. That is a Katrina a war, for political expediency on poor people who cant afford health care themselves and for the political agenda of a multi-millionaire who wants to be something else in life rather than the provider and giver of health care and a better, more progressive society, but wants to advance himself.
Hes going to deprive 200,000 people of health care and cost many of them their lives. Thats cruel, and its Katrina in Tennessee, and its happening now at our governors level.
Cohen, the sponsor of pending legislation that would legalize medical marijuana use for specified classes of patients, appeared at the Forum meeting along with Dr. Ethan Nadleman, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes the federal War on Drugs as both a wrong-headed policy and a failure.