Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How It Looks at the Finish Line

Posted By on Tue, Nov 2, 2010 at 6:36 AM

Haslam presides over wife Crissys birthday at Memphis  Patrick Restaurant on Monday.
  • JB
  • Haslam presides over wife Crissy's birthday at Memphis' Patrick Restaurant on Monday.

All's well that ends well.

Well, not really. All have not won, and all will not have prizes. But all — or most — of the candidates seeking to gain or retain public office with the help of Shelby County voters ended up their campaign efforts in good style. And that's something.

Mike McWherter, the Democratic nominee whose run for governor often had an indifferent, say-what feel to it, proved in a couple of late speeches — notably one last Friday before the members of the Central Rotary Club in Memphis —that he had the know-how, the drive, and the internal coherence to serve as Tennessee's chief executive officer in the unlikely event he got a chance to.

Bill Haslam, the Republican gubernatorial nominee who seemingly had earned a lock on the office after two years of a skillful, tireless, and, to be sure, well-financed effort up and down the length of Tennessee, recouped somewhat from his one egregious lapse — a cave-in to gun activists on the issue of abolishing carry permits — and vowed in Memphis on election eve that he would do what he could to dissuade the legislature from even taking up such a measure.

Roy Herron, the respected state Senator from Dresden and would-be 8th District congressman who, like fellow Democrat Travis Childers in Mississippi's 1st District, crawfished on his party label and tried to win on cosmetics and political skills alone, came on strong at the end with a few reminders of his own accomplishments and some unresolved mysteries concerning his elusive opponent, Republican Stephen Fincher.

Even Charlotte Bergmann, a preordained loser in the 9th District congressional race — for arithmetical reasons if nothing else — had managed, within the campaign's last month, to transform herself from a fringe candidate of uncertain provenance to a legitimate representative of the Republican Party. Something of the same could be said — with labels reversed, to be sure — for Democrat Greg Rabidoux, the Austin Peay political scientist whose challenge to 7th District Republican incumbent Marsha Blackburn was fundamentally as hopeless as Bergmann's to incumbent Democrat Steve Cohen.

All these are subjective judgments, of course — that being the kind that pundits, along with voters themselves, normally make, and for that matter, the only kind of judgment that was destined to have any relevance at all in the doomed referendum on consolidation.

Proponents of the proposed Metro Charter were, at the end as at the beginning, inclined to belabor the fact that, as they saw it, people should vote for consolidation. Opponents, for the most part, based their strategies on the way voters actually did feel and on the stubborn doubts and turf fears that no amount of rational pleading could make go away — increasingly in the city as well as in the county.

Somewhat under the radar battles were going on for a few legislative positions.

Republican Tim Cook was making yet another try at grabbing off the 93rd state House district in Southeast Memphis from veteran Democrat Mike Kernell. (Redistricting by a triumphant GOP may eventually accomplish, perhaps in two years' time, what no Kernell opponent, Democrat or Republican, has yet been able to do.) For the time being, Kernell is — and should be — more concerned about the sentence his son David will receive for famously hacking Sarah Palin's email account in 2008.

And, though Democrat Jeanne Richardson is working as though she had a neck-and-neck challenge on her hands from Republican newcomer Clay Shelton in District 89 (Midtown), the outcome is likely to be two-to-one in her favor. Richardson, whose first name has been mispronounced “Jeanie” so consistently in her life that she answers to it, got off one of the best lines of the campaign. When daughter Danielle complained at Shelton's attempt to paint the incumbent as “the most liberal member of the legislature,” Richardson (a sponsor of a medical marijuana bill and much else) replied reassuringly, “Darling, I am the most liberal member of the legislature.”

The race of likable eccentric Arnold Weiner, a Republican, against ultra-respected Democrat Lois DeBerry, the House Speaker Pro Tem, is mainly an exercise in chutzpah.(Just now friends are cheering DeBerry's plucky battle in another contest — to regain full health after a serious illness.)

Under the heading “Fahgetaboutit!”: Republican Edgar Babian vs. Democratic incumbent Johnnie Turner in House District 85; Republican Harold Baker vs. incumbent Democrat Barbara Cooper in district 86; independent Christian Johnson vs. GOP incumbent Curry Todd in House District 95; Democratic challenger Ivon Faulkner vs. Republican state Senator Brian Kelsey in Senate 31; and the GOP's Robert Hill and independent Herman Sawyer against Democratic incumbent Ophelia Ford in Senate District 29.

(A necessary caveat in all legislative races: Once again, as was the case with the August 5 election, white Republican turnout was stout (motivated this time mainly by consolidation), and Democratic catchup efforts depended on election-day efforts. If these don't come about, there could be some surprising consequendces.)

Incumbent Kenneth T. Whalum seemingly has things under control against challengers Bob Morgan and Richard B. Fields in the Memphis school board's At Large Position 2, while there's a free-for-all going on in MCS District 6, with Sara Lewis, Cherry Davis, and incumbent Sharon Webb the main contenders.

A constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to hunt and fish is your proverbial lead pipe cinch, while city ordinances to repeal staggered terms for city council members and to allow city employees to live within greater Shelby County may be more problematic.

Oh, and did we say all's well that ends well? With the announcement Monday by U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton Jr. that federal officers will monitor voting in Shelby County precincts, the chances for a glitch-free election locally are actually on the upsurge. (But don't hold your breath.)

Democrats McWherter and Herron wish each other well at Saturday rally in Raleigh.
  • JB
  • Democrats McWherter and Herron wish each other well at Saturday rally in Raleigh.

U.S. Rep. Cohen with Dutch and Mary Sandridge on Rev. Sandridge's 34th anniversary celebration as pastor of Thomas Chapel Missionary Baptist Church; Sandridge is a core member of the congressman's African-American support base.
  • U.S. Rep. Cohen with Dutch and Mary Sandridge on Rev. Sandridge's 34th anniversary celebration as pastor of Thomas Chapel Missionary Baptist Church; Sandridge is a core member of the congressman's African-American support base.

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