Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Race Is On, and Some Council Candidates Are Getting a Lucrative Head Start

District 1 incumbent Bill Morrison scores with high-stakes fundraiser; newcomers Worth Morgan and Philip Spinosa set for big start-ups, too.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 10:55 PM


No doubt about it: The city of Memphis campaign season of 2015 is well under way, and the old expression “Devil take the hindmost” is beginning to apply big time.

Take the fundraiser for District 1 Councilman Bill Morrison held Thursday night at the home of Jack and Jennifer Sammons on St. Alban’s Fairway. (Yes, that Jack Sammons). Rather than attempt a complete list of the influential Memphians present — they are literally too numerous to mention — let the picture below serve as a sample of the whole.


click to enlarge Convention and Visitors Bureau president/CEO Kevin Kane; Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce president Phil Trenary; Ron Belz, president and CEO of Belz Investco; and Pitt Hyde, founder of AutoZone and the Hyde Foundation. - JB
  • JB
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau president/CEO Kevin Kane; Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce president Phil Trenary; Ron Belz, president and CEO of Belz Investco; and Pitt Hyde, founder of AutoZone and the Hyde Foundation.




It was a big-ticket affair, with donors’ checks in the $500 to $1000 range. And with a house as commodious as the Sammonses’ filled to capacity with types like the above, the affair has, quite obviously, to be reckoned as a good payday.

Fundraisers on this scale at this early stage of things serve multiple purposes. One of them is to send a signal to would-be opponents. Former state Senator (later Juvenile Court Judge) Curtis Person was a master of this kind of message. For something like 30 years he ran unopposed for his legislative seat, essentially by rounding up all the money early with big affairs like the one just held for Morrison., Anyone thinking of filing against the District 1 incumbent has been similarly warned.

Thursday night’s affair was not the only large-scale blowout held this week. On Wednesday night, a sizeable— and deep-pocketed — crowd assembled at the East Memphis Oaksedge facility owned by entrepreneur (and recent University of Memphis interim president) Brad Martin. The beneficiary of that fundraiser — on a scale that one attendee called “epic” — was political newcomer Worth Morgan, who has announced as a candidate for the District 5 Council position vacated by mayoral candidate Jim Strickland.

This is not to say that the advantage in this multi-candidate race belongs to young Morgan —a game and serious-minded lad who may be lucky in his relationships but who, over the years, has had to fight through several fearsome illnesses merely to be in a position to make this race. It is, however, to suggest that he begins with distinct advantages, including the financial.

Besides benefiting Morrison, Thursday night’s affair at the Sammonses also served to showcase both Morgan and another new political entry, FedEx service sales manager Philip Spinosa Jr., who intends to seek the Super-District 9 seat being vacated by two-term incumbent Shea Flinn.

At one point in the proceedings, host Sammons and former City Council colleague Tom Marshall — grizzled types now but, once upon a time, the Council’s Young Turks — called over Morgan and Spinosa for a group photograph designed to indicate — what? — a passing of the generational baton, it would seem.


click to enlarge New Council candidates Worth Morgan (far left) and Philip Spinosa (far right) flank former Council members Jack Sammons and Tom Marshall. - JB
  • JB
  • New Council candidates Worth Morgan (far left) and Philip Spinosa (far right) flank former Council members Jack Sammons and Tom Marshall.




Maybe. It should be pointed out, one more time, that the election will take place in the future, with the final votes being cast on October 8. The Election Commission won’t even be issuing candidate petitions until April 17.
Lots of other no doubt meritorious candidates with deserving  constituencies will surely materialize to  contest the issue with the worthies mentioned above. But these others had better get started.

click to enlarge At the end of a rewarding evening, Councilman Morrison bids farewell to departing attendee Jenifer Timmons. - GENE BRYAN
  • Gene Bryan
  • At the end of a rewarding evening, Councilman Morrison bids farewell to departing attendee Jenifer Timmons.

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