Thursday, October 29, 2015

Carson, Clinton On the Way to Memphis

Sanders organizing committee to meet, as well.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 10:53 PM

Clinton in Memphis last year - JB
  • JB
  • Clinton in Memphis last year

Climaxing a period in which Hillary Clinton seems to have significantly strengthened her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and the GOP candidates had at each other in yet another televised battle royal, Memphis finds itself in line for some direct contemplation of some main contenders.

Dr. Ben Carson, currently leading longtime Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in Iowa, site of next February’s first votes for the record, will hold a rally on Friday night at West Memphis High School’s Lehr arena, from 6 to 8 p.m., with doors opening at 4 p.m.

Former Secretary of State Clinton, two weeks after a strong debate performance and mere days after confronting her Republican critics on a special House Benghazi committee, will be in Memphis for an appearance on November 20, her campaign announced. Details will follow.

Meanwhile, on Monday night, a local organizing committee for Clinton’s chief Democratic competitor, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, will meet at Newk’s Restaurant in Cordova.

Monday, October 26, 2015

McConnell's Status Secure as GOP Senate Head, Says Alexander

Despite attacks from Republican right wing, Kentuckian's leadership rated as "excellent" by Tennessee's senior Senator, in town to promote bills on behalf of medical devices.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2015 at 2:12 PM

Alexander at Smith & Nephew - JB
  • JB
  • Alexander at Smith & Nephew

Even as a scramble for leadership persists upon Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, where hard-pressed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has announced he will step down, the position of Boehner’s counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell (R-Kentucky) remains secure.

That’s the judgment anyhow of Tennessee’s senior Republican Senator, Lamar Alexander, who said in Memphis on Monday that McConnell has been an “excellent” leader who has accomplished much and would have accomplished more, but for the obstinance of the Democratic minority.

McConnell has been elected to his successive terms as Republican leader “unanimously,” up to this point, noted Alexander, who estimated that at least “80 percent” of the party membership in the Senate continue to support the Kentuckian despite open attacks on McConnell as unreliably conservative from such GOP right-wingers as Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Persistent attacks on Boehner from “Freedom Caucus” GOP House members with views similar to those of Cruz are credited with forcing the departure from his leadership post by Boehner, who remains in office during a so far inconclusive search for a successor.

Alexander, as he pointed out Monday, is one of five Senate Republicans appointed by McConnell to look into a revision of the Senate’s procedural rules.

After completing a tour of the Brooks Road plant of Smith & Nephew, characterized by the Senator as makers of innovative medical device products, Alexander called for the passage of legislation to facilitate public accessibility for such products — including the “Patient Access to Disposable Medical Technology Act of 2015,” which would expand Medicare coverage for them, and the “Medical Device Access and Innovation Protection Act” to repeal the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device manufacturers.

Alexander is a co-sponsor of both pieces of legislation.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

So What Comes Next?

In Mayor-elect Jim Strickland's case, the man may be the mandate.

Posted By on Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 3:58 PM

Mayor-elect Jim Strickland - JB
  • JB
  • Mayor-elect Jim Strickland

Rather strangely, not one but two TV reporters — one of them in a one-on-one election night interview with mayoral winner Jim Strickland in the flush of his victory — made the point of declaring that Strickland goes into office “without a mandate.”

The strange part of that is that Councilman Strickland had a 20-point edge on incumbent Mayor A C Wharton. And, at 42 percent, Strickland’s share of the dissenting vote was clearly the predominating one when compared to those of Councilman Harold Collins (18 percent) and Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams (16 percent).

So there was — and is — clearly a mandate for change in the abstract (given the remarkably slim vote total of only 22 percent for the Mayor!), and Strickland can surely claim that.

But a mandate to do what? The key to that surely lies within the winner’s incessantly reiterated triad of bullet points. In every speech, public statement, interview, and ad Strickland essentially limited himself to promises of remedial action on public safety, blight, and accountability of public officials.

Wharton pitched to millennials and talked up bike lanes and futurist blueprints. Collins advocated a crash program on behalf of high-tech jobs. Even Williams evolved rapidly from his original incarnation as a one-issue candidate (restoration of lost employee benefits) and proposed strategies involving solar panels and transportation reform.

With the regularity of a metronome, Strickland stuck to his triad of safety, blight, and accountability. These are all valid problem areas — or would seem to have been so regarded by the voters, but they are all basically managerial, even housekeeping, matters.

This is not to say that Strickland didn’t espouse a few new wrinkles, mostly incremental in nature. He suggested using private funds to help reformed felons pay for expunging their records, liaising with Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs, and offering financial incentives (residential PILOTs, he called them) to help out with inner-city infill.

But no grand, sweeping vision, no recasting of the city’s basic identity or structure.

And there was one important component of his legislative persona that Strickland left unsaid — his longstanding history as a budget-cutter and apostle of fiscal austerity, as the Councilman who in 2010 generated this headline: “Strickland Proposes City Employee Pay Cut.”

These were inconvenient matters to remind voters of at a time of palpable public resentment of benefit cuts and reduced core services. To be fair, Strickland later re-thought the pay-cut idea, but — unlike Collins, who seems to have split that part of his core protest vote with Williams — he signed on to most of the other economies which Wharton would ultimately embrace (and pay the political price for).

There is a reason why Strickland, who some 20 years ago served a term as Shelby County Democratic chairman, had virtually wall-to-wall support this year from the city’s Republican voters and from other conservatives as well and why, for that matter, GOP rank-and-filers from the county’s suburban municipalities were always to be found at his fundraisers and rallies.

But safety-blight-accountability as a platform was sufficiently non-partisan to work as well with many of Strickland’s erstwhile Democratic mates, and the first two points of that triad had figured large in polls commissioned by chief Strickland strategist Steven Reid, resonating strongly even — or perhaps even especially — with inner-city blacks, whose encounters with violence and environmental squalor have been longstanding.

(To give David Upton his due, that veteran Democratic operative — neutral in this campaign — has always maintained that concern over the crime rate has been more significant and politically charged in the inner city than elsewhere.)

Though only a handful of African Americans had been among the white throngs at Strickland’s Poplar Plaza headquarters opening in July, and an early Commercial Appeal poll had the District 5 Councilman in single digits with blacks, Strickland was, in the late stages of the race, doing significant under-the-radar outreach, and he was privately claiming to have as much as 20 percent of the black vote.

It will be interesting to see how closely a demographic accounting of the final vote totals will come to bearing that out.)

During the campaign, Strickland pointedly refrained from endorsing the crime-fighting efforts of Police Director Toney Armstrong at a time when Wharton was hailing the chief and both Collins and Williams were speaking well of him.

A change in police administration therefore seems a high probability in the new mayoral regime, along with an aggressive return to Blue Crush or data-driven concentration of police efforts. Strickland has also promised to reactivate civilian auxiliary (PST) units to attend to traffic matters, dog retrievals, and suchlike, allowing police regulars to focus on violent crime. He had also said he will impose — and enforce — curfews when necessary.

His real challenge will be to find ways of off-setting the benefit reductions that have allegedly caused several hundred force reductions from the desired peak of 2500 officers.

The new mayor also hopes to get legislative approval of (and possible funding for) several of his blight proposals, including the aforesaid residential PILOTs. Having often decried what he described as over-billeting and cronyism in Wharton’s administration, Strickland will undoubtedly do some judicious pruning and consolidation of the city rolls.

Early in the coming week Strickland will name a transition team, which in turn will help him decide on his administrative core unit.

There are more I’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed, but, consistent with the bare bones of Strickland’s campaign appeal, the syllabary of the new mayor’s agenda will be a lean one, limited by the relative scarcity of available resources and focused on a few carefully chosen target areas.

The real change is the fact of Strickland himself, a bluff, hearty, but competent and calculating man whose mayoral ambitions had been of long standing but whose pathway to power and margin of victory both remain something of an astonishment — with the latter fact allowing him whatever mandate he can make of the means at hand.

Friday, October 9, 2015

UPDATED: Strickland Wins Mayoral Race, faces new council

Wharton concedes early on. New mayor will have a largely new Council to deal with as well.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 1:54 AM

Mayor-Elect Jim Strickland at his victory celebration - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Mayor-Elect Jim Strickland at his victory celebration

No one is going to concentrate on this, but, for the — what, 5th?, 6th?, 7th ? election in a row, there were obvious glitches in the Election Commission’s vote reporting.

At various TV stations—including FOX 13, where I was privileged to be sitting with anchors Mearl Purvis and Darrell Greene trying to process returns — the tote board was showing less than 1 percent of the vote total, but there was Mayor A C Wharton on the feed from the Universiry of Memphis Holiday Inn standing at a dais and offering a concession of the 2015 mayoral election to Councilman Jim Strickland.

It was only somewhere around 10 o’clock, but the Mayor was offering Strickland his “heartfelt congratulations” for a “great campaign.:”   A sad but game Wharton began addressing what was obviously, from the video that Flyer editor Bruce van Wyngarden would email later, a crowd of dejected followers as the strains of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” began to die down.

Said the Mayor: “This is Memphis, Tennessee, known for its graciousness and its hospitality. And I’ve tried to epitomize that through all my public service. And nothing is fgoing to change. That’s just the way I roll.’

It had been, said the defeated Mayor, “a good run.” By which he must have meant his tenure in office, not the rather incoherent and uncertain campaign he had just concluded.

Here's another look at that sayonara from Flyer writer Chris Davis:

Mayor AC Wharton made concession look easy. His smile was broad, and his manner even more relaxed than it was following his special election victory in Oct., 2009, when he was serenaded by rapper Jay Smooth at Minglewood Hall, and spoke to an adoring crowd about the merits of running a clean campaign. When he won applause with his description of a Memphis, where people are more interested in, “what they can give than what they can get.”

Wharton didn’t hurry onto the stage, but took his time. The band that had been performing classic soul covers put down their instruments and a recording of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow,” blared ftom the PA, giving the affair a decidedly Clintonesque tone. Then the Mayor waved his hands and did something he’s always been very good at doing. He calmly delivered bad news wrapped in enthusiasm and hope. He’d already called his opponent, and the presumed mayor elect Jim Strickland and congratulated him on what looked to be a decisive victory. It was time to tell his supporters the contest had ended and it was time for everybody to start working together again. For Memphis.

“I’ve never been one for making excuses,” Wharton said. “What I want to focus on is the future of our city… This is a time for all of us to pull together.”

On two occasions the mayor stopped his speech to comfort his most disappointed supporters. “I hope those are tears of joy,” he told them before continuing with his speech.

“I came in under the theme of ‘one Memphis’ and I still feel that way about our great city,” Wharton said, recalling the political message he crafted in the shadow of Mayor W.W. Herenton’s divisiveness. “You have my commitment and my family’s commitment to keep aspiring and reaching toward that one Memphis of which we all dream. It is a just dream, and a just vision. The only thing that keeps us from fulfilling that dream are the limitations we place on ourselves.”

“Don’t worry about me,” he concluded, removing his glasses with a showman’s flourish, just to prove his eyes were dry. “I’ll be just fine… We’re all gonna be fine.

It had not even really been close. Strickland won with only a plurality but with what his own and Strickland’s precinct checks were indicating to be a double-digit margin.

Make no mistake: This was as much a Strickland victory as a Wharton loss. When Strickland, just before his celebration party at the Botanic Gardens was breaking up, said matter-of-factly, "We ran a perfect campaign," he wasn't blowing smoke. He and ace strategist Steven Reid stuck very carefully to a game plan  — focusing ad infinitum on three key points: public safety, blight, and 
The mayor at his concession - CHRIS DAVIS
  • Chris Davis
  • The mayor at his concession

Those were not grand visionary goals. They were simply reassurances that a city administration that had begun to seem rudderless would see order restored under new management. This was, as it turned out, enough, particularly when a series of badly handled mayoral snafus — the Robert Lipscomb firing and the Deidre Malone contract brouhaha notable among them  — gave volume to  that third point, "accountability," in Strickland's triad of issues.

So Strickland is right to feel justified — even a tad smug — in his recollections of a well-run campaign. His 42 percent of the total, compared to the defeated incumbent's astonishing low total of 22 percent,  was impressive indeed — especially for a white candidate running to lead an electorate that is two-thirds African-American.

But the fact is that the votes garnered by third and fourth-place finishers Harold Collins, Strickland's Council mate, and Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams added up to a full third of the total vote — 18 and 16 percent, respectively. Had either one of these candidates not been on the ballot, the other might have proved stout competition for the lead.

Awareness of that fact showed up clearly in the face of a dejected Collins in the aftermath — almost as disappointed-looking as the defeated Mayor had been.

All was joy, however, for winner Strickland. Here’s a report from the winner’s celebration at the Botanic Gardens from Flyer reporter Toby Sells:

The scene at Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland’s election party was upbeat but not electric at the Memphis Botanical Garden.

The crowd mostly old and mostly white but an optimism was in the air, the kind you didn’t want to talk about because you might jinx it.

At around 10 p.m., Memphis Mayor A C Wharton appeared on one of the two huge television screens that bookended Strickland’s stage. Wharton smiled and looked into the television cameras but at the Strickland party, Wharton’s voice was muted on the television.

Few knew what Wharton was saying but many crowded around the screens. Then a whoop went up and someone in the back of the huge hall cried, “Wharton’s conceding!” At that, the room erupted in cheers, applause, and laughter and hugs were given all around.

After a few moments, Strickland appeared on the stage, hugging his closest associates on stage to a hail of applause.

His speech was pre-empted by a prayer that asked for God to help inspire the people of Memphis and to help them all come together. The prayer asked God for help as Strickland fought crime and poverty and for the city’s “wound of division” to be healed.

Strickland’s campaign co-chairman Ken Moody said his election was “historical.” Strickland took the podium to chants of “Jim, Jim, Jim.”

Strickland said the election results showed that the city asked for change and that it got it.

“You said that Memphis can be a better place and it can be,” Strickland said. “We must address it challenges with urgency.

“I heard you. The establishment heard you. And I think by tomorrow morning, the whole country will have heard you.”

Strickland said his work was just beginning. He said it was “unacceptable” that half of Memphis children live in poverty and that “thousands” of men and women are out of work.

He promised that he’d start a new administration from the “top down.”

He also praised Wharton’s work for the city and said “we are all grateful for his service.”


Asked what he would be doing on the morrow of his remarkable victory, Strickland was vague. "I'll be planning the next move," he said, either being purposely coy or inadvertently echoing that famous line of Robert Redford's in the '70s movie The Candidate: "Now, what do we do?"

Whatever it is he will do will be at the helm of a transformed city government. Although several of the single-district City Council seats are, as was anticipated, still to be resolved in runoff elections culminating on November 19, Strickland will be dealing with a Council with a significantly newer and younger cast to it.

NEWBIES: One newcomer is FedEx sales executive Philip Spinosa, whose well-financed maiden race in Super District 9, Position 2, netted him 49 percent of the vote in a crowded field. Another is former School Board member Martavius Jones, whose narrow, stealth victory in Super District 9, Position 3, over Mickell Lowery, son of outgoing incumbent Myron Lowery, had the look of an upset.

Jones’ former School Board mate Patrice Robinson barely missed an outright win in District 3 but will face former Memphis Education Association president Keith Williams in a runoff. Yet another newbie will be either Worth Morgan or Dan Springer, runoff opponents and survivors of another seriously populated race in District 5. Frank Colvett Jr. barely missed winning in District 2 without a runoff but will need to deal with another new face, Rachel Knox, on November 19.

Jamita Swearengen and Doris DeBerry-Bradshaw will vie for the right to be the new occupant of the District 4 seat.

That’s six newcomers so far, and if you factor in the ultimate winner of a runoff contest in District 7 between interim seat-holder Berlin Boyd and Anthony Anderson, you could consider the new Council to be shaping up with a majority of new faces — a fresh cast for Mayor Strickland to deal with.

Returning members of the Council, all reelected with relative ease, are Bill Morrison in District 1, Edmond Ford Jr. in District 2, Joe Brown in Super district 8, Position 1, Janis Fullilove in Super District 8, Position 2, Kemp Conrad in Super District 9, Position 1, and Reid Hedgepeth in Super District 9, Position 3.

RANDOM NOTES: *One piece of unexpected possible fallout from the election was a sense, bruited about surprisingly often in conversations among the Botanic Gardens crowd, that 9th District congressman Steve Cohen might be facing a stiffer than usual challenge next year, partly as a reaction among African Americans that, with Cohen and two white mayors, Strickland and County Mayor Mark Luttrell, at the head of the local political pyramid, blacks are once again arguably under-represented.

Cohen has easily turned aside all previous challenges, however — many from ballyhooed name candidates. indeed, his steady success at the polls might be regarded as encouragement to Strickland, inasmuch as Cohen's first win, in 2006, was, like Strickland's.  by virtue of a plurality.

*The emergence of Spinosa and Morgan is an obvious commentary on the effectiveness of big money in politics. Neither candidate had any kind of political profile in the community before the election, and both bested initially better-known (and more publicly accessible) opponents largely on the strength of abundant yard signs, mailouts, and electronic advertising — all paid for, essentially, by a highly activated business community.

*Maybe all candidates for political office should be required to pass an arithmetic exam before being allowed to complete their petitions. It was a matter of of simple mathematics, for example, that in Council District 5, the progressive trio of Mary Wilder, Chooch Pickard and John Marek, all well-credentialed, would have to split their basde constituency three ways, while conservative candidates Morgan and Springer faced only a two-way division.

Similarly, former Judge Kay Robilio was a shoo-in for City Court Clerk once it became obvious that every name black candidate not running elsewhere on the ballot was engaged in the clerk's race.

*Springer, by the way, made a wise move in his post-election statement, making a point of praising the efforts of the aforementioned three white progressives, whose supporters he clearly hopes to acquire in the runoff.

*Yes, it's true that businessman Karl Schledwitz's prematurely released memo (first noted in the Flyer),  admitting that his candidate, Mayor Wharton, was a goner, played only an incidental role, if that,  in the Mayor's defeat. It is true as well that Schledwitz's efforts on Wharton's behalf  were the primary reason for the Mayor's healthy, million-dollar war-chest, and hjis ability to wage as aggressive a campaign as he did.  And it's also true that Schledwitz's often blunt reasoning in the memo was more or less on target. It's still a mystery, however,  as to why he should have felt compelled to say anything at all — early, late, or whenever.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Wharton Backer Schledwitz Issues Election-Day Letter Conceding Strickland Victory

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 12:22 PM

Councilman Jim Strickland and Mayor AC Wharton in chummier times. - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Councilman Jim Strickland and Mayor AC Wharton in chummier times.

File this in the "holy crap" folder.

Prominent business leader, Karl Schledwitz, one of Mayor AC Wharton's major backers, has issued a long and rambling letter that basically declares Councilman Jim Strickland the winner of Thursday's Memphis mayoral election.

...and on election day - JB
  • JB
  • ...and on election day

When asked about the letter by this reporter as he was about to cast his vote just before noon at Rozelle School Thursday morning, Wharton said he'd not heard of it, but that he "still remained optimistic."

Moments later, after going to his vehicle for several minutes and then exiting the car, Wharton was asked if he had spoken to Schledwitz. "Just briefly," he said, "but didn't get into any details."

About Schledwitz's contention that he would lose, the Mayor said, "That’s one person’s judgment. I have not seen the letter. We’re going to win this race, and that’s it."

The Mayor and his party then returned to their vehicle and departed.

Wharton's headquarters would subsequently, later in the afternoon,  issue this statement:

Mayor Wharton became aware of Mr. Karl Schledwitz’s letter regarding this election when the media approached him after he voted at noon today. Mr. Schledwitz has every right to his opinion, but it’s just that, his opinion and not Mayor Wharton’s or the supporters who believe in his vision for this great city.

Mayor Wharton continues to be optimistic about the voters re-electing him as Mayor for the next 4 years and realizes that this election is in the hands of the voters and the decision will be made today. The Mayor is running on his record and will campaign until the polls close at 7 p.m. tonight. 

For his part, Strickland was contacting arriving voters at Trinity United Methodist Church, just after noon, when was asked to comment on the letter. "I first heard of it about 11 or 12," he said. "And, even though it benefits me, I'm still disappointed. I just don’t think anybody should do that. Never. That’s who you’re supporting, so you need to stay with them."

Schledwitz shortly contacted this reporter by telephone to say that he had not intended for the letter to be released "so early in the day," but only later, to a network of friends, nearer to when the polls might be closing. He said, he "very much regretted" the fact that the text had gotten out earlier.

The letter, in its entirety, is below:

2015 Election Predictions and Analysis By Karl Schledwitz

I am dictating this memo on Monday, October 05, 2015 prior to the Thursday election with plans to circulate on Election Day.

A year ago I told several people that I did not see a path to victory for Jim Strickland or any white candidate for Memphis Mayor. I was wrong. I now predict that not only will Jim Strickland win, he will win by a comfortable margin. Please note that this is solely based on my political intuition and no recent polls and obviously without the benefit of knowing Election Day turnout.

I’ll explain. The last poll of the Wharton campaign was conducted during the first week of September, the same time frame that The Commercial Appeal conducted a poll. I believe the Strickland campaign had told people they did a poll the week before that and that their poll showed Jim up by 5 points. The Commercial Appeal poll showed Wharton up by 5 points, and the Wharton poll showed Wharton up by 2 points. Bottom line is 5 to 6 weeks ago this race was still undecided and very close.

There was however, a compelling statistic in Wharton's poll. It showed that only 36% of the people had firmly made up their mind on a candidate and that they would not change. Strickland 14%, Wharton 13%, Collins 4% and Williams 5%. This meant that 5 weeks from the election, 64% of the electorate had either not made up their mind and/or were soft on who they intended to vote for.

Wharton’s poll also showed that a little over 61% of the voting population was dissatisfied with the direction of the city. Although it was slightly higher among whites, there was a strong dissatisfaction across all economic stratospheres and all races and ages. Bottom line, although the poll numbers showed Wharton with a narrow lead inside the margin of error, 5 weeks out, it clearly showed that for him to win, he had to thread the needle and finish extremely strong. Now, think back about the last 5 weeks.

The Robert Lipscomb mess definitely tainted City Hall. Various high profile crime incidents and new crime statistics were equally devastating. Clearly the most devastating news was the Deidre Malone fiasco, which dominated the news for over a week during the heart of early voting, while swing voters and undecided voters were making their final decision. It could not have been worse. Even if all of this bad news had not happened over the past 5 weeks, Jim probably would have beaten the Mayor, but it would have been much closer.

Here’s why:

1. The anger at the political establishment across this country is deep and pervasive. The mood of the national electorate parallels that of Memphis and has created an environment that is making entrenched incumbents vulnerable(60% of Republican voters are backing outsiders Trump, Carson, or Fiorina, and even Bernie Sanders is doing well among Democrats).

2. There is a fatigue factor with Mayor Wharton. He has been in high-profile offices, County Mayor and City Mayor, now for 15 years. The message of "time for a change", coupled with his age, was an easy sell.

3. Mayors of cities with large minority populations across America are having trouble getting re-elected. Memphis is not alone with its deteriorating infrastructure, shrinking tax base, rising crime issues and education challenges. In fact, one could argue that Memphis, with the highest poverty rate in the country, has problems even more exasperated. Rightly or wrongly, Wharton gets most of the blame and Strickland, Collins, and Williams all effectively ganged up on Wharton. In return, Wharton and his administration, and later the campaign, did a poor job of communicating all of the good things going on and articulating a plan for getting things better. Bottom line is few city mayors today are enjoying high positive numbers.

4. There is also no doubt that Mayor Wharton’s popularity suffered from the tough decisions he led on pension reform and employee benefit reduction. All of this happened on his watch and his popularity literally dropped by more than 35 points After the pension reform decisions, Strickland, who supported the cuts, was able to avoid much of this criticism and, although he never backtracked from his position that it was the right thing to do, he was able to step back from the fight and allow the anger and focus to remain targeted on Wharton.

5. I think you also must tip your hat to the Jim Strickland campaign. They were very disciplined. Not only did they raise over $600,000 against an incumbent, they spent their money wisely. For example, the Mayor's campaign had a healthy number of people on the payroll and I imagine Jim's was mostly volunteers.

6. Jim's TV and messaging was also better. The Mayor, who may be the hardest-working candidate and elected official I have ever encountered, has a leaderless campaign team. Ruby runs as tight of controls as I have ever seen to make sure no money is wasted, but her style does not lend itself to collaboration or inspiration.

The Mayor will end up raising and spending about $950,000, 30% more than Jim, but Jim leveled the playing field by getting far more bang out of his bucks.

The Mayor's pollster and professional campaign manager warned everyone early on that the Mayor needed to get his campaign out early and address his image problems before his opponent did and try to better frame his opposition. This did not happen. All of the polling I saw showed that the City Council was the only body that may have been more unpopular than the Mayor. Yet, Strickland was able to run as the outsider and the Mayor never successfully boxed him in as the insider responsible for part of the city’s problems.

The Mayor's campaign started way too late, was not focused and the longer time went on the more vulnerable he got. Early in the campaign I thought it would take a white voter insurgency for Jim to win. Once again, I was wrong. It is hard to accurately read early voting because so many people are classified as other, but it appears that the white voter turnout was only marginally larger than the black vote. Typically, Election Day turnout mirrors early voting.

The last poll we had showed AC with 20% of the white vote and 20-some percent undecided. I will now not be surprised if the Mayor doesn’t get much more than 15%. The Deidre Malone fiasco clearly undermined his credibility and any momentum. Assuming that the black vote constitutes 60% of the total vote (estimated to be 63% of the registered vote) then the Mayor will need to get somewhere between 50 and 55% of the black vote to win. This is assuming that Jim is held to 10% or less of the black vote. I am now predicting that the Mayor will get less than 50% of the black vote and Jim will likely get over 10% of the black vote.

Assuming Jim wins, he clearly will owe a big thank you to the Republican Party. Unlike Democrats, Republicans stick together and it is clear they put significant money behind Jim. He was also able to pull off gathering the Republican support in a way that didn't alienate white and black Democrats. Not an easy thing to do.

As I write this I obviously hope I am wrong, but I am comforted to know that if I am not, we will have a capable person who has integrity and love for this city as our next Mayor. Regardless of who is elected Mayor, Wharton or Strickland, either will need a physically (sic) responsible, moderate City Council and I cannot emphasize enough that the 4 to 5 run-off elections that will be held in 3 weeks are almost as critical as the Mayor's race.

If you use the pension reform vote as a litmus test, it appears there is an opportunity to increase 7 yes votes to potentially 11. Conversely it is possible that it reverts to 6. Here is my math. Janis Fullilove and Joe Brown voted no and will continue to vote no. The other super 8 District will go between Mickell Lowery and Martavius Jones. Assuming Mickell Lowery wins, he will likely vote like his father. Jones is more of an unknown and this race may be a lot closer than people think.

In the Super District 9 races, it would be a shocker if Conrad and Hedgepeth didn't win easily. The other Super District will likely go to Phil Spinosa or possibly Kenneth Whalum, although I think Kenneth is more of an extreme longshot. Everyone can predict how the two of them will vote.

The battleground is the seven District races and if no one gets 50% these are the races subject to a run-off. Fortunately two of the yes votes, Ed Ford and Bill Morrison, are headed for easy re-election. The only other District race I see that possibly could end without a run-off is Frank Colvett, and that would be a yes vote replacing Bill Boyd’s no vote.

The other four council district races are almost certain to go into a run-off. One of them, District 5 — Strickland's former district — will likely have either Dan Springer or Worth Morgan in one of the run-off spots likely against Mary Wilder. Mary Wilder, with her strong union backing and Democratic leaning, could undo the yes vote that Jim Strickland had before. Morgan and Springer would continue to support fiscal responsibility.

District 3, Harold Collins old district, also will likely go into a run-off and Patrice Robinson is most likely to be one of the candidates in that run-off. If she is elected she would reverse Harold Collins’ no vote, her opponent likely would not.

The other open seat is Wanda Halbert's District 4. This too is likely to be a run-off, probably between Donnell Cobbins and Anita Swearengen. Cobbins would be a strong vote to maintain pension reform; Swearengin would not. The last race is District 7, the seat Berlin Boyd filled after Lee Harris left for the State Senate. Berlin likely will be in a run-off. If he is re-elected, he would be a positive vote replacing Lee Harris’s no vote, and his opponent likely would be otherwise.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Strickland Camp Feeling Late ‘Mo’

Candidate sees shift his way in black vote, detects imminent win.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 8:27 AM

Mayoral candidate Jim Streickland greets well-wishers Deni Hirsch and Cindy Tucker at a Tuesday night fundraiser on a Front St. rooftop. - JB
  • JB
  • Mayoral candidate Jim Streickland greets well-wishers Deni Hirsch and Cindy Tucker at a Tuesday night fundraiser on a Front St. rooftop.

As the four major mayoral campaigns headed into the race’s last day, there was no doubt which candidate was exuding the most confidence about Thursday’s final outcome.

City Councilman Jim Strickland was the beneficiary of one last fundraiser Tuesday night on a Front St. rooftop, sponsored by Bank of Bartlett president Harold Byrd and a host of others, and the talk, on Strickland’s part, as well as others, was all about what they saw as a virtually tectonic shift of voter sentiment Strickland’s way.

It was already a given that Strickland would command the lion’s share of the city’s white vote. What he and others present at Tuesday night’s affair were talking about was a late surge of black votes toward the Councilman. “He’ll get 20 percent,” said an aide. Asked about it, a confident-looking Strickland confirmed there was that possibility.

Asked what he wanted to say about incumbent Mayor A C Wharton’s late tribulations regarding the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t P.R. contract of his campaign manager, Deidre Malone, with the company whose body cameras were selected by the city for use by Memphis police, Strickland shrugged and said, “I don’t really need to say anything.”

The now canceled Malone contract, widely considered a conflict-of-interest situation, was a crucial late embarrassment for the Mayor in his reelection campaign, and, from Strickland’s point of view, was the gift that kept on giving — yielding such further dividends as an eyebrow-raising call-in by the Mayor to radio host Ben Ferguson in an attempt to defend his position.

What would he doing with this last-minute money, Strickland was asked. “The same thing we’ve been doing every day,” he answered. “Fueling our phone bank, calling, calling, calling, getting our signs out, standing on street corners, keeping our broadcast spots going. Anything and everything.”


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