Wednesday, February 11, 2004



Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2004 at 4:00 AM

City councilman Rickey Peete introduced Gert Clark to a small but adoring crowd at the downtown Marriott Tuesday night as “the next First Lady of the United States.” Gert, in turn, introduced husband Wes as “the next president of the United States.” And Clark, in his turn, proclaimed joyously, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” These were all lines that belonged to another script, however -- not the one that was about to be enacted. Having finished third in both the Tennessee and Virginia presidential primaries, the former NATO commander would speak eloquently and thankfully to this supporters, as defeated candidates (at least, up until Howard Dean’s much misunderstood “I Have a Scream” concession speech in Iowa) have ever done. Then he would work his way out of the room, confer with Gert, with son Wes Jr., and with assorted aides, and let it be known, an hour or so later, that he’d be going back to Little Rock in the morning to announce his withdrawal from the presidential race. It was a gracious passage, and Clark’s last stand had surely been an act of grace for Memphis, which had not yet experienced something quite as unique as this bowing out of a warrior who might, but for a few mischances, have indeed become the next president of the United States. The closest thing to it in the city’s history was the 1982 Liberty Bowl, in which legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant coached his last game, a defeat, and then gallantly took his leave. There were cries of “Don’t go, Wes! Don’t go!” But Clark, who had once thought he’d be fighting with North Carolina Senator John Edwards for the right to be the South’s answer to Howard Dean, had been consigned to the role, instead, of Edwards’ rival for distant second to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, he of the irresistible -- and largely unresisted -- bandwagon. So he would go. The final percentages in Tennesse were: Kerry, 46: Edwards, 26, Clark, 23; with single digits going to everybody else that was still in, including erstwhile frontrunner Dean. The figures for Virginia were: Kerry, 52; Edwards, 27; Clark, 9. Besides showcasing the exit of Wesley Clark, Shelby County saw other winners and losers Tuesday. In local races, Harold Sterling beat four opponents for the Republican nomination for assessor, his onetime job, earning the right to have another go at incumbent Rita Clark, who beat Sterling eight years ago, and this time disposed of another former assessor, Sterling predecessor Michael Hooks, in the Democratic primary. As expected, Chris Turner, the Republican incumbent, bested process server Charles Fineberg in the Republican primary for General Sessions Court clerk. State Senator Roscoe Dixon won the Democratic nomination over former deputy clerk Becky Clark.

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