Friday, August 28, 2009

The Debate: Ten Preliminary Statements in Advance of a Think Piece

Posted By on Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 2:30 AM

1. Jerry Lawler proved he was no circus freak; Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges proved he was.

2. Carol Chumney and Kenneth Whalum Jr., both of whom can be quite engaging, each, when asked about difficulties with colleagues, gave the game away with downright scratchy, even snarly answers.

3. This contest, insofar as there is one, is going toward a face-off between A C Wharton and Myron Lowery — the highly diverting Chumney-A C scrap notwithstanding.

4. Wanda Halbert sounded a bit canned, but at least she was prepared — unlike poor sweet Sharon Webb.

5. Charles Carpenter proved serious but unexciting, not a bad combination for someone already in office but difficult for a candidate having to make up a lot of ground just to get there.

6. A little bit of Mongo goes a very long way. He lawyered up with Leslie Ballin to force his way in; A C was tempted to drop out because of it but stayed in.

7. The WMC-TV folks worked hard; they and the League of Women Voters designed a format with enough variance to crack any walnut.

8. Channel 5's brass promised that Mongo’s “turd” remark would stay in the replays, unbleeped. Good for them.

9. All the candidates revealed something important about themselves, for better and for worse.

10. Twitter got a workout and proved itself again, but, for all the tweeted hoots and howls, there was a good deal of intelligence buried in the crevices of the questions and answers, requiring a second or even a third hearing to fully grasp — one reason why your visitor (a panelist for the evening) will deliver a more elaborate judgment a little later. (Not that much later.)

10a. (Ignore everything you've just read. It could all be overhauled upon further review).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

“Underdog” Lowery Lashes Out at Wharton, Herenton, Thaddeus Matthews

"What has he done during the last seven years?" Mayor pro tem asks about A C....

Posted By on Wed, Aug 26, 2009 at 7:00 AM

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery
  • JB
  • Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery
Calling himself “the underdog,” Memphis mayor pro tem Myron Lowery announced to members of the Germantown Democratic Club Tuesday night, “I’ve been doing the city’s work and not campaigning. I’m going to start campaigning.”

And he promptly did so, throwing out broadsides and talking candidly about politics and personalities to club members gathered at the Cozymel Restaurant on Poplar Avenue. Targets for some choice Lowery invective included Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, former Mayor Willie Herenton, and blogger/talk show host Thaddeus Matthews.

In an obvious reference to the campaign of Wharton, an election opponent who is heavily favored to win the special mayoral election on October 15, Lowery said, “The other side will have bigger signs, and they’ll have people with them on the street corners. But signs don’t vote. People do. Watch. You’ll see the tide turning.”

'That man has said things about my wife....'

Lowery predicted that public opinion at large would turn his way. And so would that of radio talk-show hosts. “All except for one who uses the N-word,” he said, referring to Matthews, who has frequently been critical of Lowery on his daily KWAM radio show.

In an indirect swipe at Wharton, who made a much-noted appearance on Matthews’ show some weeks back, Lowery said, “We’ve had every politician kiss his ring.” About Matthews' N-word use, he said, “People are sitting next to him and they say nothing. That’s only a step away from young people who shoot each other with that same disrespect…. Any man who sits alongside him and lets him do it lacks some backbone.”

In a personal reference to Matthews, Lowery said, “That man has said things about my wife that, if I weren’t a politician, might bring me to want to fight.”

'Myron Lowery: The Man Willie Doesn't Want'

Asked by a club member whether he thought there had been “collusion” between Wharton and former mayor Willie Herenton, Lowery said, “You make up your own mind about that,” and added a reference to the famous sit-down between Herenton and Wharton at La Chardonnay restaurant in 2007, just before the county mayor decided not to run against Herenton for city mayor.

“I didn’t have a glass of wine with Willie. The rumor was there was a deal cut…I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t know. Yesterday, what did the [former] mayor say on the Thaddeus Matthews show? He would pass the baton. He didn’t pass it to me… The former mayor says I’m passing the baton, and I don’t want Myron.” Lowery jested that someone had suggested a campaign billboard to him that would say, “Myron Lowery: the Man Willie Doesn’t Want.”

'What has he done during the last seven years?'

Proceeding further on rival Wharton, the acting mayor said, “You can ask yourself the question: What has the county mayor done?” Recently someone had said to Lowery that Wharton might “bring the races together.” The mayor pro tem went on. “I said, ‘Well, that’s fine. What has he done during the last seven years?” To which, said Lowery, the man responded only with “Uh…uh….”

On Herenton, Lowery said, “He lacks credibility. He says one thing and does another. I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps back in the race… I never really thought Willie was going to leave.” On the eve of the former mayor’s July 30 departure, “I told my wife, I’ll believe it tomorrow when I raise my hand. The day he resigned he gave me the letter. That’s when I started planning the swearing-in ceremony.”

Concerning the forthcoming election showdown between Herenton and 9th district congressman Steve Cohen, Lowery said, “Steve has been there for me. There’s no question who I’m supporting. Certainly not the one who is not a good role model.”

Lowery also proved unusually forthcoming in his remarks concerning his onetime litigation against WMC-TV, where he had been a weekend anchor in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Deprived of a chance to become a weekday anchor at the station, Lowery sued and ultimately received a settlement.

“The important thing about that lawsuit is that Scripps-Howard started nationwide an affirmative action program at all its broadcast stations…. As a result, more African-American men and women were promoted and are now in broadcasting positions nationwide. My lawsuit was the first ever won for discrimination in broadcast journalism, the first. It’s been written up in law books, and law students now study it.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Knock Could Prove a Boost as Herenton Goes After Chumney, Lowery

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2009 at 12:44 AM

Mayoral candidates Lowery and Chumney
  • JB
  • Mayoral candidates Lowery and Chumney
Though he made it clear on Monday he could not endorse A C Wharton for mayor — and was something less than flattering toward a man who, he said, was neither a leader nor a real mayor — Willie Herenton in effect called the October 15th special mayoral election for the county mayor, contending that Wharton might get as much as 65 percent of the vote in what is already a teeming field.

So, in the left-handed-compliment sense, A C came out ahead in the aftermath of former mayor Herenton’s three-hour talkfest with blogger/broadcaster Thaddeus Matthews on KWAM.

And so, oddly enough, did two other candidates not beloved of the ex-mayor. In a detailed accounting to Matthews of reasons why he reluctantly ran for a fifth mayoral term in 2007, Herenton listed as the most compelling reason this one: “Carol Chumney, had I not been in that race, would have been your mayor, and I felt that would have been disastrous for Memphis.”

Chumney may end up purchasing that sound bite and running it on radio and TV spots — “disastrous” or no “disastrous.” For the conventional wisdom is that the then maverick city council member owed her 35 percent second-place finish in 2007 to the incumbent mayor’s very presence in that race.

For years in the run-up to the 2007 race, Chumney had cast herself as Herenton’s chief nemesis in city government. (She also was something of a nemesis to many of her council-mates and to a staffer or two, but that’s another matter.) She was so clearly a foil to a mayor whose popularity was wearing thin that she, not former MLGW head Herman Morris, became the designated alternative.

Indeed, had Morris not been a candidate, Chumney might actually have had a chance at a majority. (To be sure, the same might have been said of Morris had he been able to run one-on-one.)

Absent Herenton to play off against, Chumney’s defiant — and somewhat abstract — insistence on change might not have resonated so well with the voters. She would have had to run a different sort of campaign, one more geared to positive assertions and specific proposals. And her history of clashing with colleagues might have come more to the fore.

So it was that the burden of having to run without Willie Herenton to do the dozens on was regarded by some as a serious problem for Chumney in this year’s special-election race, especially since acknowledged front-runner Wharton, whatever his derelictions might be, was too smooth and popular a figure to serve well as a substitute villain.

To the rescue Willie Herenton! The former mayor’s blanket assertion that he had run mainly to keep Chumney from winning in 2007 was pure gift, a wholly unexpected re-packaging of the Joan-of-Arc persona her supporters had draped around her two years ago.

There seems little doubt that the status of Lowery, who had plainly floundered during his first week in office, was elevated when Herenton chose, as an explanation for his picking up his own petition week before last, to re-cast the mayor pro tem as a menacing, almost irresistible force requiring nothing less than a maximum resistance effort by ex-mayor Herenton himself.

That gave Lowery renewed viability as the official anti-Willie of this year’s race, a potentially formidable role he earned not by making attacks but by being the object of them. Though still a long shot, Lowery actually benefited from Herenton’s public animosity (which continued in Monday’s Matthews interview).

Inadvertently or not, Herenton’s remarks on Monday enlarged Chumney in like manner. And this potential rejuvenation of her stature came at a time when former councilwoman Chumney had been largely absent from the public eye, a virtual non-presence for the last several weeks, with her campaign finances a question mark.

The other candidates in the mayoral field must be jealous. At least one of them, professional wrestling eminence Jerry Lawler, understands the value of grudge matches and polarized role-playing in the building of a gate and a following. He and several others would surely welcome being stigmatized by a similar intervention from Herenton.

It might be their best — indeed, their only — chance of dealing with professional good-guy Wharton.

And, by the way, longtime bad-guy wrestling manager Jimmy Hart, the Mouth of the South, was one of the well-wishers in attendance last month at Herenton’s official farewell ceremony. Was that coincidence or what?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Continuing Campaign Rollout, Wharton Opens HQ, Names Co-Chairs

Posted By on Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 2:03 AM

UPDATE: Four days after pulling his petition and two days after a ceremonial opening of his headquarters, A C Wharton planned to officially file his petition at the Election Commission Monday morning.

Continuing a roll-out week that began with his drawing a petition to run for Memphis mayor on Thursday, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton opened his campaign headquarters before a large crowd of supporters at the Eastgate shopping center on Saturday, simultaneously announcing six “co-chairs” of his campaign.

As described in Wharton’s accompanying press release, they are:

- Darrell Cobbins - owner of Universal Commercial and community volunteer
and activist.

- Tomeka Hart - Memphis City School Board Commissioner (District 7) and
President/CEO of the Memphis Urban League.

- Ray Peterson, Sr. - minister of South Parkway Church of Christ.

- Lois Stockton - owner of the Nail Station and community volunteer and

- Jim Strickland - Memphis city councilman (District 5) and local attorney.

- Jose Velazquez - former executive director of Latino Memphis and deputy
director of national council of La Raza's affiliate services.

Departing from his usual low-key manner, Wharton worked up to a passionate conclusion of his remarks to a large crowd of supporters at his Eastgate headquarters opening on Saturday.

Pakis-Gillon to Seek Democratic Nomination for Right to Succeed Stanley

Posted By on Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 1:25 AM

Adrienne Pakis-Gillon
  • JB
  • Adrienne Pakis-Gillon
Although Republican state Representative Brian Kelsey of Germantown would seem to be the likely successor to former state Senator Paul Stanley in District 31, he’ll have competition from at least one Democrat, activist Adrienne Pakis-Gillon.

Kelsey’s main potential competitors, county school board president David Pickler and fellow state Rep. Steve McManus, opted not to compete in the forthcoming October 15th Republican primary. As a result, Kelsey looks to be home free in GOP ranks and will almost certainly be the Republican nominee to succeed Stanley, who was forced to resign this month after becoming involved in a highly public sex-and-blackmail scandal.

In fact, Kelsey is even now under pressure from party mates to resign his House seat now, so as to facilitate an early special election for his own seat and prevent the Democratic majority on the Shelby County commission from appointing a Democratic successor to start the 2010 legislative session as interim House member from District 83, which Kelsey has represented.

Although, as the likely GOP nominee, Kelsey will be heavily favored to win the state Senate seat in the heavily Republican area of district 31, which comprises parts of East Memphis, Cordova, and Germantown, Pakis-Gillon has served notice she’ll offer competition on the December 1st general election.

Pakis-Gillon is a member of the Shelby County Democratic executive committee. A graduate of Mississippi State University with a degree in political science, she was a delegate to the 2008 Democratic national convention and has worked in several political campaigns, including those of Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bredesen Sets District 31 Election Dates to Coincide With Mayoral Election

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Governor Phil Bredesen has issued a writ for the special election in state Senate District 31, vacated recently by embattled incumbent Paul Stanley. Except for the general election, to be held on December 1, the election dates will coincide with those for the special Memphis mayoral election, announced Blake Fontenay, spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office.

Filing deadline for District 31 will be September 3, withdrawal deadline September 10, with the party primaries to be held on October 15, the date of the mayoral election.

Amid Festiveness, Presumed Frontrunner Wharton Pulls His Mayoral Petition

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 1:15 AM

A C signs for his petition - JB
  • JB
  • A C signs for his petition

What many people imagine to be the pivotal event of the mayoral-campaign season so far — at least symbolically — occurred Thursday.

No, not the photo-op in City Hall, where Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery used the big pull-down screen in the 7th-floor conference room and tuned in a nationwide “video conference” on health care presided over by President Obama.

And no, not the pulling of petitions by one Roderick Ford, unrelated to the famous Fords of political provenance, or by city councilman Joe Brown, unrelated to the famous Joe Brown of TV jurisprudence.

Thursday was the day that designated mayoral frontrunner A C Wharton led a parade of supporters to the new offices of the Election Commission at 3rd and Washington and pulled his petition. It was an event that attracted only slightly less attention from the media than the current Shelby County mayor will merit if, as many expect, he is sworn in as city mayor at some point after the forthcoming special election of October 15th.

The Whartons, with supporters, arrive at the Election Commission Thursday - JB
  • JB
  • The Whartons, with supporters, arrive at the Election Commission Thursday

The atmosphere at the Election Commission was almost giddy, as Wharton and his wife Ruby, all grins, entered amid a chorus of cheers, and continued so as the county mayor sat down before a clerk at the glass window and did all the elaborate signing required merely to receive a petition. (Detail buffs will be interested to know that front-runner Wharton is left-handed, as is Obama, as — for that matter — is Bill Clinton.)

Afterward, he did his best to suppress what seemed to be his own natural high and promised not to be “distracted” by trivia like whether former Mayor — and possible candidate — Willie Herenton should take a drug test, as suggested by Lowery (in a throwaway line that the acting mayor indicated Thursday he maybe regretted). Or whether there are too many candidates in the mayoral race (something that, a month ago, had seemed to vex Wharton, who saw the phenomenon leading to possible “flukes” in the outcome).

All that was for “less disciplined folks,” who might “become distracted,” not for someone like himself who had “spent a lot of time in courtrooms,” said the longtime Public Defender. Nor was he worried about being sandbagged by opponents in the various debates he has already agreed to.

“What people are looking for in the roughest of times is someone who can maintain a good demeanor,” Wharton said, doing his best to so maintain and manfully trying to put away the optimistic grin that kept sprouting on his face.

He got some late help on that from Bill Dries of the Daily News, who put forth a string of wonky process questions concerning the recently proposed city/county consolidation commission. The most tantalizing of those asked Wharton to ponder whether he might end up by virtue of the election results appointing the 10 county members as well as the five city members.

A C allowed as how he didn’t think so. But even if it did work out that way, people would still be well served by the commission. “Anytime people are asked to focus on the form of their government, it’s a good thing,” he suggested.

As soon as the impromptu press conference was over, Wharton’s sizeable entourage gave up another collective whoop, and the whole ensemble left the building the way they had entered it, in a mood to celebrate.

Meanwhile, acting mayor Lowery logged some video time with Obama - JB
  • JB
  • Meanwhile, acting mayor Lowery logged some video time with Obama

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Everything There Is to Know About Bill Haslam's Attitude Toward Health Care?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2009 at 10:51 PM

Well, not really. And health-care policy isn't quite the issue for state-government candidates right now that it is for federal ones. But it's still an issue. So we were there at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women last Friday when Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, a Republican candidate for governor, met with BMHW physicians for a self-introduction, followed by some extended give-and-take on the matter of health care.

This is C-SPANish material. So only the seriously wonkish among us need apply:

Haslam at BMHW: Part One:

Haslam at BMHW: Part Two:

Haslam at BMHW: Part Three:

Monday, August 17, 2009

McManus Decides Against Race; Ergo Senator Kelsey?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 17, 2009 at 1:02 PM

Brian Kelsey
  • Brian Kelsey
After weighing his options, which included what he already had said were favorable House committee assignments and may also have included Monday's endorsement by six Republican state senators of his House colleague Brian Kelsey, state Rep. Steve McManus has decided not to contest the forthcoming special election for state Senate District 31.

Steve McManus
  • Steve McManus

After a similar decision over the weekend by Shelby County school board chairman David Pickler, that leaves the way uncontested so far for state Rep. Kelsey, as the only Republican running for the seat left vacant by the resignation of Paul Stanley.

The Election Commission, awaiting a formal writ of election from Governor Phil Bredesen, has not yet set an election date, nor deadline dates for candidate filing and withdrawal, but commission members have voted unanimously to schedule the party primaries for the special state Senate election, if possible, for October 15, the same date as the scheduled special election for Memphis mayor.

District 31 votes overwhelmingly Republican in contested elections, so that whoever wins the GOP primary would be expected to take the general election as well.

Ex-Legislator Kathryn Bowers is Back After Completing Prison Term

Posted By on Mon, Aug 17, 2009 at 5:57 AM

  • JB
Kathryn Bowers, the diminutive former Shelby County state representative and state senator who was one of several legislators indicted and convicted in the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting of 2005, has completed her prison term and is back home at her former Timothy Drive address.

That's the message she sent out this weekend to friends and supporters along with her thanks "for your prayers, concerns, letters and support...during these trying months." Bowers, who ended her email note with the statement "I am a firm believer where one chapter ends another begins," is working with C & W Records, helping "market our new single 'Til the Morning Comes' by Sylvester Burks.'"

As the Flyer reported in May, Bowers had been finishing up her term in a local halfway house and doing volunteer work on behalf of the Memphis Center for Independent Living.

Bowers, who served several terms in the state House, had just won a special election to the state Senate and had barely been seated when she was arrested in May 2005 and charged with receiving money from FBI agents posing as computer entrepreneurs and promising them legislative favors. After a period of protesting her innocence, Bowers would later plead guilty to one count of bribery and receive a sentence of 16 months.

At the time of her arrest, Bowers was aserving as chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party but stepped down under pressure.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pickler Takes Himself Out of State Senate District 31 Race

Posted By on Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 11:43 AM

David Pickler, the financial services adviser and longtime chairman of the Shelby County School Board, has decided against making a race for the District 31 state Senate seat recently vacated by the scandal-plagued Paul Stanley.

“I just decided I didn’t have the right degree of passion," said Pickler by telephone from California, where he was traveling. “I’ve decided to recommit myself to another term on the board. There’s a lot of work yet to be done.”

Pickler’s departure from the race leaves an apparent field of two in the Republican primary — state Representative Brian Kelsey, the brash Germantown conservative who is already campaigning vigorously for the position, with prominent signs on Germantown Parkway; and state Representative Steve McManus, who has not yet launched a campaign effort as such but acknowledges he is under pressure to run and has met with prospective campaign personnel. "But I'm on good committees in the House; so that's a factor, too," he said, promising a decision within the week.

Given the preponderance of Republican sentiment in the district in past elections, the winner of the GOP primary is almost certain to be the ultimate victor.

Given that reality, either Kelsey or McManus would be likely to resign from the House of Representatives upon winning the primary. That would hasten the way for an early special election in the vacated House district — something Republicans would push for so as to have a new GOP representative in place for as much of the 2010 legislative session as possible.

The Democratic-controlled Shelby County Commission would probably be inclined to appoint a Democrat in the vacated district to begin the session.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Former councilman E.C. Jones Declares for Mayor After Son's Sentencing

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Former city councilman E.C. Jones, immediately after hearing his son Chris Jones sentenced to 23 years for second-degree murder for a night-club shooting death last year, emerged from the Criminal Court courtroom, faced TV cameras and declared, “I am going to the election commission to pull a petition to run for City Mayor.”

Reportedly, Jones did indeed secure the petition. More news as it develops.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Caustic Fields Letter to Herenton Signals Return of Would-Be Muckraker

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 10:02 AM

“Dear Ex-Mayor Herenton:/ As a former friend and unjustly accused citizen, I was heartened by your resignation but saddened by the mess you have left behind. The City of Memphis is bankrupt. The pension plan is 50 % of its value to cover all of the people who will be eligible soon. You have 500 people employed who are not doing anything and should be fired….”

This is the beginning of a relatively brief two-page letter, dated July 30, to the freshly resigned Willie Herenton from Richard Fields, the lawyer who had been friend and confidante to Herenton as candidate and then mayor for years until their highly public falling-out in 2007.

Though the tone of the first paragraph of that missive (which has had an extensive underground circulation of late) is caustic enough, it gets worse from there, going downhill both in civility and, alas, in quotability (short of a full and careful vetting by a libel attorney).

In the body of the letter Fields makes a number of accusations against the former mayor, his family members, and his closest aides, alleging a full catalogue of sexual irregularities and, as described, patently criminal activities. Indeed, Fields employs the word “criminality” as a catch-all phrase for his allegations.

Among the few passages that are quotable without legal risk is this statement: “Your friends that you hired will desert you because there is nothing you can do for them. Without being mayor, you have no power.”

Another relatively tame broadside, coupled with a threat: “The infamous annual Christmas party was a bold faced lie. No one who paid $1,000 per person knew you were receiving funds personally. I am filing a class action lawsuit for you to refund personally all monies you received from the party donations.”

And there is this spiteful and, to Fields’ remaining friends who know of the letter, troubling conclusion: “I am so glad you resigned. We will see each other in court many times over and I will look down upon your sufferings in the hereafter. Yes, I do pray, and God has answered my prayers.”

As recently as the middle years of the current decade, Fields appeared to be riding high. The California native, who arrived in Memphis in the ‘60s as an anti-poverty activist and ultimately became a well-known civil rights attorney, had launched a new career as a political arbiter of sorts, disseminating widely read open letters at election time which praised selected candidates and damned selected others — in the case of the latter, freely citing details of known or alleged personal and professional failings.

The would-be kingmaker, who had been an early supporter of mayoral candidate Herenton in 1991, had evolved into a kingbreaker by 2007, or so alleged the mayor, who accused Fields, whom he termed a “snake,” of orchestrating a blackmail plot against him.

As Herenton outlined things at a well-attended press conference, Fields had allegedly conspired to coax a sometime topless dancer named Gwendolyn Smith to attempt a sexual liaison with the mayor, the threatened exposure of which might force Herenton to resign his office or, at the very least, quit his reelection campaign. The plot was aborted, in Herenton’s version, when Smith came to him instead and revealed the intent of it.

No legal action was taken against Fields, though he was later censured by the state Supreme Court for alleged dereliction toward a client in another matter. (He later had the censure reversed.)

But Fields saw his reputation take a nose-dive that has continued right up until the present. He had already been expelled once from the Shelby County Democratic executive committee for his collaboration with state Republican Party lawyers in making the case against the legality of Democratic state senator Ophelia Ford’s suspect first election.

In the wake of Herenton’s accusations, Fields, who had managed to get himself reelected to the committee, was forced to resign once again, at the insistence of then party chairman Keith Norman.

Fields had led a relatively low-profile existence the last two years, but he surfaced unexpectedly at a recent meeting of the Shelby County Commission, where he interrupted a routine commission vote to adjourn, asking to be allowed to speak.

Permitted to do so, he began a rambling discourse in a quavering voice. He began with an attack on the Alabama law firm Beasley Allen, which had been hired by the commission to counter firms thought to be abusing their foreclosure options against local property owners.

Fields then began to justify himself as the victim of “false” accusations of being “off the wall” and concluded his remarks to the commission with a vow to “start again,” as he had with his earlier election interventions, to “scour the earth for the kinds of things that we don’t need in our politics.”

More recently, Fields turned up, clad in polo shirt and Bermuda shorts, in the courtroom of Chancellor Walter Evans to audit testimony during the hearing of city attorney Elbert Jefferson's successful suit against mayor pro tem Myron Lowery's attempting firing of Jefferson.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kyle Announces for Governor, Promises a Focus on Higher Education

Posted By on Wed, Aug 12, 2009 at 1:37 AM

Kyle with family members at Monday's announcement - JB
  • JB
  • Kyle with family members at Monday's announcement

Ending a prolonged waiting period of some months, during which it became ever more obvious that state Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis intended to run for governor, Kyle made it formal on Tuesday, opening his campaign before a supportive crowd in front of the McWherter Library at the University of Memphis.

That structure was named, of course, for former governor Ned Ray McWherter, whose son Mike McWherter, a Jackson businessman, may be Kyle’s most formidable rival for the Democratic nomination.

That bit of symbolism no doubt figured in Kyle’s choice of venue, but so did the fact that candidate Kyle, whose son and three daughters were in attendance for his announcement, clearly intends to make a strong pitch for youthful voters. The part of his brief speech that won the most applause concerned the following promise to college students:

“So long as you are making sufficient progress towards obtaining your degree, we will never, never raise your tuition. What you pay as a freshman you will pay as a senior!” Kyle also promised to tap reserves from the state lottery fund to create “an incentive scholarship program” for students who, presumably for financial reasons, have had to interrupt their education.

In answer to questions from reporters, Kyle said that his plan for education would require some restructuring of the state budget, but he made no mention of needing to raise taxes. His only remark in that regard was a vow to veto any proposal for a state income tax, effectively reversing his position of 10 years ago when he was one of he supporters in the legislature for an income tax.

Explaining the reversal, Kyle, who has worked closely with Democratic governor Phil Bredesen, said, “Governor Bredesen convinced me it was wrong and showed me how to govern without it.”

Kyle, whose appearance was preceded on the dais by supportive remarks from both Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton and current city mayor pro tem Myron Lowery, was introduced by wife Sara Kyle, a member of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority who had previously won several elections as a Memphis city judge and as a member of the old Public Service Commission.

Numerous members of the legislature and other local political figures of consequence attended Kyle’s announcement. He has made no secret of the fact that his strategy for winning depends on beginning with a solid base of support in Shelby County.

Following are Senator Kyle's prepared announcement remarks:

I’d like to thank Bill Morris, Regina Newman and Gale Jones Carson, my Shelby County co-chairmen who I know will help make sure Shelby County is Kyle County in August and in November next year.

Also, thanks to Matt Kuhn, my statewide campaign manager. Matt is on one leg today, but he will be up and running soon just like I am up and running today.

Thanks to the University of Memphis for allowing us to use this beautiful venue in the center of a great university, which is in the center of a great city.

I would like to thank each of you for being here today, particularly my brother, sister, sister-in-law, Betty Belle and her children, Belle and Rachel Peery, and other dear friends and supporters.

My children are here and I appreciate them for being so supportive and involved in this event and for being the kind of kids that put up with a senator daddy. Would you please give my daughters Sarah, Mary and Caroline, as well as my son Jim a round of applause?

And last but not least, my wife Sara, what can I say, isn’t it great to see her on the campaign trail and wasn’t that a great introduction! She is truly the best.

While I was born in Memphis, I grew up in Capleville, which at that time was a rural community closer to Mississippi than Memphis. My dad, the late Jimmy Kyle, returned to the family homestead when my sister Pam was born, and on Highway 78, near Shelby Drive, I spent my childhood, across from the school yard and baseball field which were the centers of our community life. Dad drove a truck for railway express and my mother,

Louise Kyle, helped build tires at the Firestone tire factory in north Memphis. My mother will be 90 years old in October. She doesn’t handle the heat very well these days and isn’t here, but she has never lost a box for me and will be out in force next November.

My parents’ jobs were physical jobs, and both my parents worked hard. The values of being frugal, being honest, and being trusted were engrained in me early by depression-era parents who wanted more for their children.

My life has led me to lead many roles: college student, law student, husband, lawyer, senator, democrat leader, and chairman of the Shelby County delegation. But the role that has defined me more than any other isthat of a parent, who like Jimmy and Louise Kyle wants a better world for our children and laments the opportunities we fail to capture.

You know, the man who got me into the senate is here today. He is my brother, Mike. You can thank him or blame him, but in 1980 we were living together in a small house in north Memphis when one morning after hearing me comment about our current senator for what he thought too many times, screamed at me “I am sick and tired of hearing you complain, either run against him or quit” to which I replied, “Okay, I will.”

So I started that campaign that afternoon with two votes – mine and his. And his was soft.

That morning ultimately led to my election on June 10, 1983 and since that day I have been involved in the issues of the day in Tennessee. From “master teacher” to “bicentennial highway”; from “B.E.P.” to “prison reform”; from fiscal crisis to budget surplus; from B.E.P. 2.0 to pre-k funding.

I have been tested by the issues of the day, elected 8 times by those who know me best, and trusted by my fellow democrat senators as their leader since 2005.

Now what I learned from reforming our prison system, to reforming public education, to sponsoring and passing seven consecutive balanced budgets is that you plan for the long term. I have worked in partnership with our current governor Phil Bredesen to pass his legislative initiatives and I have been trusted to sponsor and pass every major initiative of his administration.

I am proud to be from Tennessee. We have a beautiful state and we are still the “volunteer state” as many charities will attest. We have a culture of self-reliance and friendliness unparalleled in this country. We can all be proud of our state and its people.

But Tennessee has some things we should not be proud of: First, our unemployment rate is one of the nation’s top ten. Over 10%! To put it another way, one of every ten people you see today will be unemployed.

But wages of those other nine with jobs aren’t doing that great because wages in Tennessee rank in the lower third of our country.

Finally, Tennessee lags behind other states when it comes to what the census bureau calls “educational attainment”, and by that I mean the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees. Only 23 % have a college degree. 42 states are doing better. This is the reason we are paid less and have fewer job opportunities.

We can do better. Our children are trusting us to do better. That unemployed Tennessean trusts us to do better.

Ladies and gentlemen I have been tested by this life of mine. And trusted my whole life to strive to make things better. And I tell you today: We can compete and we can win!

This is how we will change our state and change our community. We start by taking a long-term view to higher education. We are going to have a higher education system focused on graduating students, not enrolling them.

We are going to tear down the barriers preventing our citizens from getting a college degree.

In the coming months I will put forward an education plan that will help more Tennesseans afford college in two different but very important ways.

We are going to start with those who have been frustrated by our current system and who couldn’t finish. As I understand it, there are over 30,000 Tennesseans who are one year from graduation and have stopped their education.

I am going to make them an offer they can’t refuse. We will use some of the reserves from the lottery and we are going create an incentive scholarship program that will help students return to college and finish their degree.

When this happens, overnight, we will increase our education attainment percentage and make our state more competitive for the high wage recession-proof jobs going elsewhere today.

And second, I make this promise to every Tennessean who enrolls in a higher education institution in Tennessee. So long as you are making sufficient progress towards obtaining your degree, we will never, never, raise your tuition. What you pay as a freshman you will pay as a senior!

We will take higher education to a higher place. We will restructure and refocus and build upon the progress Governor Bredesen has made. We will recharge our colleges and universities to make them economic engines for our state workforce.

A better Tennessee is a smarter Tennessee…But to do this, I need you. It’s hot today but it will be hotter before this election is over. Please… stand with me…walk with me…do it for yourself and your family.

In the height of the depression, my daddy had to borrow a pair of trousers to attend his high school graduation. But friends, he graduated…and I’m standing here today because he graduated!...

Let’s make a government that measures its success one citizen at a time.

And now…

At this time…

At this place…

In this moment…

For these reasons…

With you people…

For our people…

With the tests of my life…

With the trust you have given me…

I hereby declare my candidacy to be the 49th governor of great state of Tennessee.

Thank you, and god bless Tennessee and the United States of America.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Paul Stanley: Other Politicians Falling Short of Moral Perfection

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 10:58 AM

Paul Stanley
  • Paul Stanley

On Monday, his last official day as state senator from District 31, Paul Stanley shared some of his thinking about the foibles of public life with a small group of established local political and governmental figures. The occasion, at the Crescent Club in East Memphis, was not political; rather, it was spiritual — this month’s installment of the prayer breakfasts held monthly by Dave Perdue, a CPA who has been a player in several major local politicians' campaigns.

According to reports from those who were there, Stanley, who was this month’s keynote speaker at the breakfast, spoke on the theme that human conduct consistently falls short of Biblical ideals but that it is important all the same to pursue those ideals. The former senator was pressured to resign from the senate following disclosures of a blackmail plot relating to his sexual relationship with a legislative intern.

Owning up to his own shortcomings, Stanley reportedly said that politicians as a group are all “only an eighth of an inch from ending up in the newspapers” for this or that moral imperfection.

Among those attending this month’s gathering were state Representative Brian Kelsey and financial adviser/county school board president David Pickler, two of the declared candidates in the forthcoming special election to succeed Stanley in a Senate district that includes portions of East Memphis, Cordova, and Germantown.

Other attendees included state Representative Ron Lollar, Shelby County commissioners Mike Carpenter and George Flinn, and Memphis mayor pro tem Myron Lowery.

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