Wednesday, April 3, 2002



Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Three out of four of Shelby County’s major Republican hopefuls in the 7th District congressional race now have their hats in the ring -- lawyer David Kustoff, businessman/city counciman Brent Taylor, and lawyer/legislator Mark Norris.

On the very eve of Thursday’s filing deadline, one other prospect, plastic surgeon Phil Langsdon, the former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, decided Wednesday -- albeit reluctantly -- not to add his hat to the max.

Taylor, who conducted a two-day bus tour of the district last week, had been the first to announce. He was followed by the others in rapid succession. Kustoff’s announcement said in part: "President Bush needs a congressman from the seventh district he can count on to support his efforts to fight terrorism, reduce the tax burden on working families, create jobs and improve the quality of public education.”

As the Memphis lawyer’s release noted, Kustoff headed up the 2000 Bush campaign in Tennessee and is largely credited for the current president’s victory here -- one which propelled him into office.

Norris’ announcement said in part: "I believe my experience in state and local government, as a community volunteer, and the fact that my family and I actively farm in Shelby County, equips me to represent the people of the 7th District well. Congressman [Ed] Bryant‘s successor must be able to represent our President and the people of Tennessee in a meaningful way. It would be my honor to do so.”

Norris, a former Shelby County Commissioner, has been a member of the state Senate from outer Shelby County (and portions of Lauderdale, Tipton, and Fayette counties) since his election in 2000.

Langson, who chaired the local party during its years of greatest dominance in the late 90s, said in part: “After a careful review of my support, fundraising commitments, and recent poll results it appears that I am well positioned to win the 7th District US House of Representative seat. However, because of my young family, my wife and I don1t believe this is the time for me to leave home to serve in elective office.”

Each of the Shelby Countians must reckon with candidates from elsewhere in the newly configured 7th district, notably state Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Williamson County in Nashville’s environs.

At least one Shelby County Democrat, Drew Pritt, has said he will file to run for the seat which incumbent Bryant is vacating to run for the U.S. Senate. Pritt has worked in several local campaigns and recently was part of a winning effort in a lieutenant governor’s race in Illinois.



Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2002 at 4:00 AM

  • Fields
  • Ford

“It’ll be the most interesting political race of the season,” says lawyer Richard Fields, and he may have something there. There are some bigtime races going on both locally and statewide, but the principals are, for the most part, conventional sorts.

There’s nothing conventional, though, about Fields, a prominent civil rights attorney for several decades, and there’s certainly nothing conventional about his chosen quarry this year, State Senator John Ford.

Fields has other reasons for challenging the powerful state senator in District 29 than to generate interest, of course. He regards Ford as “an embarrassment to Memphis and the state of Tennessee.”

Says Fields, “The thing that really did it was his vote on the Senate Finance committee against the tobacco tax a couple of weeks ago. That killed a bill that would have raised $160 million, strictly for education. How could you vote for tobacco and against education?"

Fields cites also Ford’s controversial role as a Day Care proprietor and as a figure in the industry scandals that brought about corrective legislation (legislation that faces various ex post facto perils and obstructions even now). “He was just horrendous, he was right in the middle of it [the scandal], and in my estimation was the cause of it,” Fields says.

There are other issues Fields intends to raise against Ford, including the way in which he believes the senator pulled strings and twisted arms to get himself appointed to the Public Building Authority, but one case he’ll make has to do with the simple fact of residence.

“He doesn’t live n the district, and he doesn’t know what’s going on in his district,” Fields says. “As far as we know, he lives in Collierville.” Fields himself lives downtown, “square in the middle of the 29th District.” And he thinks his familiarity with the district’s concerns, as well as his record of civil rights litigation, will stand him in good stead with the district’s majority-black population.

The California native won’t be the only opponent for Ford, who, like Fields, filed with the Election Commission on Wednesday (thereby gainsaying some recent musing out loud about retiring from the Senate). Another filee is-- Prince Mongo, the barefoot restaurateur who is generally regarded these days as an idea whose time has come and long gone.

Tuesday, April 2, 2002


Congressman is dismissive of opponent Lamar Alexander.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2002 at 4:00 AM

If Ed Bryant believes he is an underdog to Lamar Alexander in the current Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, he did not betray that sense of things to the crowd of several score that welcomed him at Shelby Farms Monday afternoon for the last stop of his statewide announcement tour. Neither did the crowd, a keyed-up group of local GOP celebrities and other backers who seemed to share the 7th District congressman’s sense that “something was going on” in Tennessee Ð that “something” being a grass-roots rebellion against Alexander or, more precisely, against the Republican establishment figures that have been backing the former Tennessee governor and twice failed presidential candidate as a successor to outgoing GOP Senator Fred Thompson. “It’s happening from the bottom up,” declared Bryant. “This isn’t going to be a from-the-top-down election.” Alexander was the candidate of some people in Washington and some people in Nashville, said Bryant, who added that on a tour of East Tennessee, a supposed Alexander stronghold, “I didn’t see any support for Lamar. I had been thinking that maybe we could hold our own up there. Now I think we can carry it.” Bryant said he had commitments of support from 30 of the 42 Republican members of the state House of Representatives and nine of the 15 members of his party in the state Senate. And most of the others were uncommitted rather than leaning to Alexander, he said. The congressman was unsparing in his criticism of his Republican opponent who, he said, had not won an election in 20 years, had “a national reputation of not being conservative,” and who was “indecisive.” Implicitly comparing the moderate Alexander to former vice President Al Gore. Bryant said “this state did not vote for such a person as president” in 2000. By his own prior admission, Alexander was “not suited” for legislative service and was on the wrong side of several contemporary issues, Bryant alleged.. In 1985, while governor, Alexander “advocated a state income tax,” Bryant said, reminding the crowd that “Don Sundquist has endorsed him” (but not reminding them that current Governor Sundquist, whose support for income-tax legislation has soured his name with may Tennessee Republicans, had plucked Bryant himself out of relative obscurity by recommending him to the first President Bush for District Attorney General in 1993). “Now he says he ‘didn’t mean it,’” said Bryant scornfully of Alexander’s recent attempts to distance himself from that early flirtation with a state income tax. The congressman also reminded the crowd that, while running for president in 1999, Alexander had dismissed then opponent George W. Bush‘s phrase “compassionate conservatism” as so much “weasel words.” Describing himself as a known conservative, Bryant said Alexander was currently engaged in an effort to remake himself ideologically, “to jump on my back, but I’m trying to toss him off, trying to get away from him.” It was “time for a change,” Bryant said, time “to permit the old Political Guard to gracefully retire.” As a local show of strength, Bryant’s climactic announcement-tour appearance in Shelby County was convincing. Though outgoing Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, and several other local GOP officials have endorsed former Governor Alexander, the turnout of Bryant supporters Monday was impressive. Shelby County Commissioner Morris Fair introduced him, and numerous other local officials (e.g., County Trustee Bob Patterson, Probate Court Clerk Chris Thomas, Register Tom Leatherwood) and candidates for office were on hand. Republican candidate for Shelby County mayor George Flinn was moved to recall that he and Bryant had been members of the same social fraternity (Sigma Nu) at Ole Miss --as had GOP Senate leader Trent Lott, who has expressed reservations about President Bush’s reported preference for Alexander. Flinn’s Republican opponent in the mayor’s race, State Representaive Larry Scroggs, was even more firmly attached to Bryant; his son Kenny Scroggs is the congressman’s Memphis-area field representative. And the statewide grass-roots sentiment of which Bryant spoke was visible enough that several national reporters and columnists thought to point out over the weekend or on Monday that Alexander might be in for a serious battle in Tennessee. In the last several weeks a series of increasingly blunt signals have come out of Washington to the effect that Alexander’s candidacy, just as Lott had indicated, enjoyed the backing of the White House and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, headed by Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist. While acknowledging Monday that “some elements” of the NRSC were pushing hard for Alexander, Bryant said Frist himself had not expressed a preference. As for speculation that, between now and Thursday’s filing deadline for statewide candidates, President Bush might make a point of stating a preference for Alexander, perhaps even in Tennessee, Bryant said, “That’s not going to happen.” And the congressman’s campaign manager, Justin Hunter, was blunt on the subject. “Even if the president should do that, Ed Bryant is going to continue to be a candidate.”
    • Proposed Tax Cut in Jeopardy as Commissioners Reverse Course

      Meeting in committee on Wednesday, Shelby County legislators cast party-line vote for $4.13 tax rate, edging away from $4.10 rate that dominated discussion in marathon Monday session. Matter to be decided next week.
    • Mark Norris Nominated for Federal Judgeship

      Opportunity presumably makes Senate Majority Leader’s gubernatorial plans moot. President Trump also taps Thomas Parker for state’s Western District
    • 5 Attorneys File for Circuit Court Vacancy

      State Trial Court Vacancy Commission to meet in Memphis on July 21 to interview candidates and select three finalists for Governor Haslam to choose from

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