Wednesday, July 10, 2002

DOUBTING A C

Herenton takes a dim view of candidate Wharton's strategy.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 10, 2002 at 4:00 AM

The new AC Wharton commercials are up, and so far the Shelby County Public Defender seems to be making the pitch for his mayoral campaign mainly to suburban voters -- or at least to white ones. One ad shows the candidate himself making nice to the county’s outlying municipalities, uttering dithyrambs on the order of, “Getting It Together/To Get the Best Out of All of Us.” Another has Bill Morris, a former county mayor who always played well in the outlying areas, offering his personal testimonial to Wharton. This approach leaves the current Memphis mayor, Willie Herenton, cold, it is quite reliably reported, and His Honor also is said to be convinced that white suburban voters won’t be moved this way or that by it., that the number of potential white voters for the African-American Democratic nominee is the same as the number of actual white voters, regardless of the advertising approach taken by Wharton. On the other hand -- or so the mayor’s thinking is summarized, -- African-American voters themselves are being taken for granted by the Democratic candidate, and this at a time when the August 1st ballot provides no race beyond the one for mayor itself that might drive a large county vote among blacks or Democrats. Herenton, a Wharton supporter, is said to regard the inner city electorate’s mood as “flat,” and likely to stay that way so long as Wharton declines to attempt to arouse what should be his natural base and maintains an “all-things-to-all-people” posture. Herenton has made no secret either of his disdain for this approach or of his disappointment that his standing offers to become an active presence in the Wharton campaign have so far been ignored. “A C’s keeping his distance from me and from the Democrats,” is a statement the mayor has made several times of late to intimates. Contrasting Wharton’s election strategy with his own of 1991, when inner-city voters were disproportionately cultivated, the Memphis mayor has predicted a neck-and-neck outcome in the current race between Wharton and Republican nominee George Flinn. And he further prophesies that connections will be made between himself and Wharton, his former two-time campaign manager, whether the Democratic nominee likes it or not, and that they will be made by the Republican opposition, which Herenton thinks will do what it can in the last week or two to link the would-be black mayor of the whole county with the existing one of the city.

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