Memphis mayoral candidates continued to campaign as is
their wont over the weekend:
Incumbent mayor Willie Herenton, who is eschewing formal debates with his
opponents, spoke briefly to a rally at a Frayser mall Saturday but mainly spent
his time there autographing campaign T-shirts and demonstrating his prowess at
the "Cupid Shuffle" as a sound system blared out some music.
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Opponent Carol Chumney
held a well-attended opening at her Poplar Avenue
headquarters on Sunday, once again chiding Herenton for being willing to spar
with Joe Frazier
while ducking debate, but she seemed to broaden her
attack to include rival Herman Morris
as well as Herenton: "My opponents
love to walk you through their humble beginnings, but their actions both in
political office and as executives demonstrate that they have long forgotten
where they came from."
Morris held at least one major fund-raiser over the weekend, while John
presided over a headquarters open house that spread over Sunday
Present at Mt. Olive C.M.E. Church for an all-candidates forum Sunday were
Chumney, Morris, and Willingham, but not Herenton. A wide representation of
other mayoral candidates also attended, including Laura Davis Aaron
who cited as two reason for running the fact that "Mayor Herenton reads my mail"
and that she needed a job -- and Dewayne A. Jones, Sr
., who shouted so
loudly as to temporarily short out his microphone.
With Congress in recess, 9th District U.S.
Rep. Steve Cohen is very much in evidence locally. Among other things,
* (along with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander) presided
over a ceremony formally changing the name of the Federal Building to the Cliff
Davis/Odell Horton Federal Building, in honor of the late U.S. District Judge
* proposed to President Bush that he appoint
former deputy Attorney General James Comey to succeed the disgraced and
now resigned Alberto Gonzales as U.S. Attorney General. (Comey, along
with the bedridden John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, had resisted as
unconstitutional a Bush wiretapping plan aggressively pushed by Gonzales, then
White House counsel.)
The suggestion, made at a press conference Monday, recalled Cohen's own vigorous
interrogation of Gonzales at a congressional hearing earlier this year;
*addressed a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored banquet as the first of its Frontline
Politics speakers this year and took part in a panel on crime sponsored by the
Public Issues Forum.
The congressman's remarks at the Frontline dinner at the Ridgeway Center Hilton
struck a new note, in that Cohen, a longtime critic of the Iraq War,
acknowledged for the first time that residual U.S. troops might need to remain
in the war-torn country for some time to come.
scheduled a meeting, tentatively set for Tuesday of this week, with members of
the Memphis Black Ministerial Association, one of whose leaders, the Rev.
LaSimba Gray, has led an assault on Cohen's support for a congressional
Hate Crimes Bill.
Senator Alexander, just back from an extended
fact-finding trip to Iraq in tandem with Tennessee Senate colleague Bob
Corker, seems, like Cohen, to have moderated his stand on Iraq somewhat.
Alexander continues to push for a bipartisan resolution, co-authorized with
Colorado Democrat Ken Salazar, based on the findings of the Iraq Study
Group and calling for an end to U.S. combat operations.
There are several anomalies associated with the ministers' protest - among them
that Cohen's predecessor, former congressman Harold Ford Jr., had consistently
supported such legislation without drawing criticism from the Association.
Pointing out further inconsistencies this week was an Association member, the
Rev. Ralph White, who originally expressed solidarity with the protest but later
satisfied himself it was based on misconceptions.
Said White: "I've read the bill, and I'm satisfied that it does not restrain a
minister from expressing opposition to homosexual conduct or anything else that
might be offensive to his conscience or Christian doctrine. The language of the
bill specifically guarantees such freedom of speech."
Turning the attack back on its maker, White said, "What LaSimba Gray has to
answer to is whether he is consciously trying to aid the congressional campaign
of Nikki Tinker. Nobody seems to be wondering what her attitude
toward the Hate Crimes Bill is."
Actually, many people have so wondered, but a Washington, D.C. spokesman for the
elusive Tinker, a 2006 Cohen opponent who has already filed to run a reprise of
last year's congressional race, has publicly said she will, at least
temporarily, distance herself from discussion of such issues - as she did at an
equivalent period of last year's race.
For his part, White, who also sought the 9th District seat last year,
is holding open his options for another run of his own.
But the senator indicated in Memphis last week that he had
been impressed by progress made by the ongoing U.S. troop "surge" in Anbar
Province and other points and, pending a scheduled report to Congress next month
by General David Petraeus, was keeping an open mind on continued troop
commitments in Iraq.
A casualty of county commission voting Monday was
Susan Adler Thorp, a former columnist and free-lance consultant who had been
serving as public relations adviser to Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person
but whose position ended up being unfunded. Somewhat later, a commission
majority would authorize equivalent sums for a new, "outreach" position, yet to
Coming soon: a systematic look at this year's city
n The 2007 recipient of the Tigrett Award, funded by FedEx founder Fred Smith
in honor of the late John Tigrett, will be former U.S. Senator Howard
Baker, it was announced last week. The award will be presented by the West
Tennessee Healthcare Foundation at a gala ("An Evening in the Imperial Palace")
later this year.
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Meanwhile, Richard Fields
- yes, that
Richard Fields -
was back on the attack, battling his foes by means of publicly circulated
To be sure, one
of the epistles was written not by Fields but by Lambert McDaniel, an
imprisoned ex-club owner, to Gwen Smith, the point person in Mayor
Willie Herenton's accusations concerning a lurid blackmail plot against
him orchestrated by lawyer Fields and other alleged "snakes."
How the letter
turned up in Fields' possession is something of a mystery. The onetime
Herenton intimate himself maintains he was given it by Smith, a convicted
felon who had engaged him as an attorney. This was before, in his account, he
recruited her for "investigatory" work involving Memphis topless clubs.
have contended the McDaniel letter and others were stolen in a burglary just
after her name surfaced as an accuser in Herenton's June press conference.
In the letter
McDaniel, who was incarcerated on a drug charge, refers to Smith by pet names
and advises her to stay in touch with "the Mexicans" - presumably drug
the letter has to Herenton's charges against Fields - who, according to the
mayor, urged Smith to seduce and entrap the mayor -- is uncertain. Clearly, it
does milady's reputation, already sullied, no good. But, by association, it
wouldn't seem to entitle Fields - or Nick Clark, his acknowledged confederate
in the purported topless-club investigation - to any merit badges, either.
Fields is a
textbook illustration of the adjective "unabashed," however. Confirming
reports that the lawyer's own poison pen had been unsheathed for yet another
epistolary crusade, Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism denounced
Fields in the commission's public session Monday, during a debate on whether
to assign Head Start children to the non-profit Porter-Leath Children's
In one of
Fields' widely circulated broadsides, Chism, a child-care provider himself,
was taken to task for his initial opposition to the Porter-Leath arrangement
and was told, among other things, he should be "ashamed" of himself.
response was scornful. Citing a variety of allegations against Fields himself
that have been insistently put forth by blogger Thaddeus Matthews,
Chism challenged Fields' bona fides, saying that, if all that was said about
Fields was true, "He shouldn't be anywhere around children, anyhow."
accuracy of the various charges and counter-charges swirling about Fields,
there was little doubt about one thing: With an election happening, the odds
were better than even that there will be, in some guise or another, a Richard
Fields Ballot this year, as there were in each of the last two local election
If so, would
this be good or bad for Fields' endorsees? This, too, remains to be seen.