Even as one Memphis entry in the still-young 2010 gubernatorial race, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, struggles to stay on an even keel with his financially better-heeled Republican rivals, another homeboy, state senator Jim Kyle, a Democrat, announces for the governorship this week.
Kyle brings advantages stemming both from his own distinguished legislative record (he is currently the Democrats' leader in the state Senate) and his family connections (his wife Sara, a member of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, is part of the still influential Clement clan). Yet Kyle will have it hard going against a field that includes such worthies as Mike McWherter, son of the best-remembered former governor from his party.
We are playing no favorites in either party's roster of candidates just now, but it would be disingenuous of us not to admit we're pleased to have two such worthy local specimens vying for an office that, perhaps increasingly in the austere times we're in, has such power to alter our destinies.
Time was when Memphis and Shelby County had a disproportionate influence on the governor's office, and state government in general, through the medium of former mayor "Boss" Ed Crump. Even in more recent times, our region profited from the proximity of longtime Senate speaker and lieutenant governor John Wilder and House speaker Jimmy Naifeh, who hailed from the adjacent counties of Fayette and Tipton, respectively. These days, though, Wilder is in retirement, and Naifeh is a back-bencher. Influence in the General Assembly has measurably shifted from West to East Tennessee.
So we'll be paying close attention to the races run by Gibbons and Kyle and to the attention each gives to legitimate local concerns.
Last week in this space we offered some observations on the struggle to rehabilitate himself faced by Paul Stanley, who resigned from the legislature following disclosures of a blackmail plot relating to his sexual relationship with a legislative intern. On Monday, his last official day as state senator from District 31, Stanley shared some of his thinking about the foibles of public life at a prayer meeting at the Crescent Club in East Memphis.
Stanley spoke on the theme that human conduct consistently falls short of Biblical ideals, but that it is important all the same to pursue those ideals.
Owning up to his own shortcomings, Stanley said that politicians as a group are all "only an eighth of an inch from ending up in the newspapers" for this or that moral imperfection. Interestingly enough, among those attending were two of Stanley's would-be successors in the forthcoming special election — state representative Brian Kelsey and financial adviser/county school board president David Pickler. Another was newly installed Memphis mayor pro tem Myron Lowery, currently a candidate for election as mayor in his own right.
Though it hardly excuses his own transgressions, we would agree with Stanley on the universality of human foibles and the incurability of same. Maybe, indeed, we're all an eighth of an inch away from corruption. Frankly, keeping that distance may be the whole point of public life.