Just at press time, the Flyer received a communication from an apparently reliable source who tells us he was in an audience last week to which Shelby County mayor A C Wharton communicated the news that he was about to "appoint a campaign treasurer and run for City Mayor in 2011." The quotes are from our correspondent, and pending confirmation, the matter will have to be fodder, not for a news column but for this place of considered opinion — our editorial space.
Generally speaking, the appointment of a campaign treasurer belongs to the relatively late stages of a campaign for office, hardly ever three years out. It represents the stage at which things become official and the candidate in question must start accounting for dollars raised and money spent. If the report we received is accurate or even if it represents some gossipy instinct, some itchy trigger mechanism out there in our edgy body politic, then it speaks to a genuine concern in our midst.
That is the suspicion that things are moving ahead of cycle, and that, if they are, there's a reason for it — namely: Arrangements have been made at a level most folks cannot access. It is well-known that Memphis mayor Willie Herenton is uneasy with the mantle he not so long ago ran for and won for a fifth time. And as we learned for certain earlier this year, the two mayors, Herenton and Wharton, collaborated in private for some months on a plan for Herenton to take over the guidance of Memphis City Schools.
For those with short memories or persons who missed it the first time, the disclosure was made by the county mayor in our April 3rd issue in a cover story entitled "The Mayor's Gambit." Really, the title should have been "The Mayors' Gambit," with a plural possessive, since the story spoke specifically and eloquently to the partnership that underlay Herenton's surprise "resignation" and his pursuit of the city's school superintendency.
Well, Herenton didn't get the job, nor did he "resign," and so there was no immediate transfer of power from one mayor to the other. But no one doubts that the well-liked Wharton will become a candidate for city mayor just as soon as a vacancy exists. (Wharton acknowledged as much in the above-referenced issue of the Flyer.) And no one doubts either that Herenton is looking for — and will find — an exit of some sort before his term ends.
It is against this background that the above-cited rumor (or report — exactly which it remains to be seen) enters our e-mail inventory. Since within the last month we have seen a City Council chairman leave office on short notice and since we live in uncertain times (as when have we not?), we are ready for anything at any time. We recommend that as a state of mind for all Memphians in what, locally as well as nationally, is coming to be understood as a "change" year.