Leaders of the "Draft A C" movement threw in the towel on Monday, after confirming reports that Shelby County mayor A C Wharton will not enter the race for city mayor against Mayor Willie Herenton.
One leader of the group, Rev. Bill Adkins, said he had the bad news from Wharton as early as Sunday and that nothing had changed by the time he talked again Monday morning with the county mayor, who is on official business in Washington, D.C.
"We're disheartened. We thought he was the solution to Memphis' problems," Adkins said in an interview at Greater Imani Church in Raleigh, where he is pastor. Adkins credited "consultations with his family" as the main reason for Wharton's decision.
"But he was always aggravated by having to make the decision. That's how he is. He called us up when he first heard about the committee and said, 'What are y'all doing?'"
Adkins said neither he nor, as far as he knew, other members of the draft committee would attempt to find another candidate.
"It's over," he said, but conceded, "There are still lots of problems out there, as there have been for the last eight years." Adkins said a major sore point with him was Herenton's disinclination to hire minority contractors for major building projects.
"But other people had other reasons. He [Wharton] appealed to a wide constituency. The polls said he would have won, but I didn't need a pollster. A pastor is a pollster every week, and I knew he'd have won."
Adkins acknowledged that a battle between old friends and allies Herenton and Wharton might have been bitter and bruising, however, as did the Rev. LaSimba Gray, co-founder of the draft committee.
"It would have been a battle royal," said Gray, "and that's probably one thing he [Wharton] wanted to avoid. But there would have been peace and harmony in the city afterward."
Neither he nor Adkins expressed any interest in endorsing one of the remaining mayoral candidates.
The county mayor's disavowal left city council member Carol Chumney and former MLGW head Herman Morris in that order, according to the most recent polls as the leading challengers to Herenton's reelection. Another candidate with support in some quarters is former county commissioner John Willingham.
Candidates Chumney and Morris had quick responses to Mayor Whartons decision to forgo a race for city mayor.
Said Chumney: I respect Mayor Wharton, and I respect his decision. We both want to focus on cleaning up government and making our streets safe for hardworking Memphis families. When Im Mayor, I know we will work together to make our communities a better place for everyone.
Said Morris: I am pleased that AC Wharton has decided it is best to continue in the job of Mayor of Shelby County to which he was re-elected two years ago and where he is doing a great job. I look forward to working closely with him starting next January.
We have in effect a whole new election starting today. I invite all Memphians interested in real change in City Hall to join my campaign for mayor.