Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Runoff Alternative

Posted By on Sun, Sep 6, 2009 at 10:36 AM

A runoff in the upcoming mayoral election would be a good idea, but it's too late and it's not going to happen.

What's plan B? An alternative preemptive runoff. It would require selflessness and statesmanship, but it would work and Memphis would be better off for it.

The leading candidates should get together and choose a consensus candidate. Who are the leading candidates? Obviously that is a subjective judgment. But as Otis Sanford said in The Commercial Appeal Sunday, the also-rans know who they are, and by the same token, the leaders know who they are. Certainly the list should include A C Wharton and Myron Lowery.

Then they should go one more step. They should make a joint announcement and campaign together.

A low voter turnout — non-presidential elections are always relatively low turnouts — and a big field — nearly 30 candidates at this point — is a recipe for a fluke winner. There are two years remaining in this mayoral term. Memphis can't afford a fluke winner.

A preemptive runoff could have spared Memphis 18 more months of Mayor Willie Herenton if either Carol Chumney and Herman Morris had dropped out and supported the other, or if Wharton had not been backed down by Herenton and Chumney and Morris had supported him.

There are some qualified people running for mayor. They know who they are. Let them meet somewhere — Le Chardonnay, perhaps — and make a deal for the good of the city. The last thing Memphis needs is a mayor who gets into office with 30 percent of the vote. That could happen. The polls supposedly showing Wharton winning going away could be as fanciful as the polls two years ago that showed Morris and Herenton in a nail-biter. Polls and elections are two different things. This one matters.

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