Saturday, January 25, 2020

Thompson Endorsement Could Affect Democrats' District 97 Race

Posted By on Sat, Jan 25, 2020 at 2:51 PM

Rep. Dwayne Thompson making his endorsement at a  fund-raiser for House District 97 candidate Allan Creasy. - JB
  • JB
  • Rep. Dwayne Thompson making his endorsement at a fund-raiser for House District 97 candidate Allan Creasy.

One of the facts of life for Democrats, in Shelby County as elsewhere in Republican-dominated Tennessee, is that their primaries for state-government offices have tended to be lonely affairs, usually with only a single significant candidate, if any at all. Oh, Democrats may vie in an occasional intra-party contest for U.S. senator or governor, but most of the real competition, certainly in legislative races, has generally taken place on the other side, in GOP primaries. Once upon a time, that was the Democrats; now, unmistakably, it's the Republicans.

Except that, more and more often, there is a bona fide Democratic contest — as there was, for example, in 2018 between David Witherspoon and Gabby Salinas, a scientific researcher and former St. Jude patient, for the right to oppose Republican incumbent Brian Kelsey in a much-watched state Senate race. Salinas won that primary and went on to give Kelsey a serious challenge.

The same year, Allan Creasy, a manager and bartender at the Celtic Crossing Restaurant, ran a spirited race against GOP incumbent Jim Coley in state House District 97. Coley is retiring, and Creasy is taking another shot at the seat this year. But he has a primary opponent — the demonstrably formidable Salinas.

The showdown between two strong Democratic candidates from 2018 races makes the District 97 primary one of the most intriguing races in the state in 2020. To compound the watchability, two Republicans, Brandon Weise and John Gillespie, will simultaneously be competing in the GOP primary.

The intensity of the competition made it all the more interesting Thursday night when an established Democratic legislator, state Representative Dwayne Thompson, decided to cast his lot with one of his party's two entries. Appearing at a Creasy fund-raiser at the Starlight Event Center in East Memphis, Thompson stood alongside the candidate onstage and extended his endorsement.

Such intra-party endorsements are relatively uncommon, especially in primary races deemed as competitive as this one (although Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton is methodically racking up endorsements from fellow Democrats in his primary race for General Sessions Court Clerk).

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Commission Stalemates on MATA

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2020 at 10:27 PM


The question of whether — or how — Shelby County government should reinforce and expand MATA (Memphis Area Transit Authority) was no
Amy Spicer, on hand on Wednesday to present local GOP's objection to the wheel-tax proposal, chats with audience member and frequent commission attendee Joe  B. Kent. - JB
  • JB
  • Amy Spicer, on hand on Wednesday to present local GOP's objection to the wheel-tax proposal, chats with audience member and frequent commission attendee Joe B. Kent.
t resolved during an extended committee session on Wednesday morning.

The meeting, held in the first-floor auditorium of the Vasco Smith County Building, flowed this way and that, but never in the direction of a settled point of view.

Indeed, when discussion of the MATA issue finally subsided in the early afternoon of a meeting day that began at 8:30 a.m., all the commissioners had managed to agree on was that they could not agree, and the residue of that disunity was embodied in a substitute proposal from a bipartisan group of commissioners.

That proposal, which allowed for a bifurcation of funds taxed under the rubric of the county’s long-controversial wheel tax, would allocate roughly $9 million of the funds raised from a new $20 surcharge to MATA, along with a stipulation for expanded routing, while another $3 million would go to pay the salaries of new sheriff’s deputies in the freshly de-annexed portions of former Memphis suburban areas.

But the proposal — an obvious effort to allay the reservations of suburban members — did not gain approval per se as a finished proposition. It was merely remanded to the attention of a new ad hoc task force created by commission chairman Mark Billingsley for the purpose of re-examining the larger matter of transportation policy in Shelby County.

And the effect of the substitute was undermined by an add-on resolution from Brandon Morrison, a customarily low-profile Republican first-termer who was the only GOP member to be numbered among the sponsors of the original bifurcation proposal and was the sole author of the final substitute. Morrison’s add-on — presented as a companion measure and offering a recipe for reducing the presumably unpopular wheel tax by $5 — would necessitate eliminating the commission’s community grant funds, by means of which each commissioner has the discretion to endow projects considered desirable to his or her district.

Though it was defeated, the add-on will be voted on again during the commission’s regularly scheduled public meeting on Monday, and by drawing forth the votes of several Republicans, exposed the enduring polarities of a legislative body that generally aspires to bipartisanship.

The same underlying cleavage was revealed by the 2-7 rejection of a proposal to abolish county-residence requirements for Shelby County employees. That resolution, proposed by GOP member Mick Wright, was scuttled by uniform opposition from the commission’s city residents. But it, too, will get another vote on Monday.

A third matter of potential controversy (but one generally lacking partisan outlines) — that of new paper-trial voting machines involving hand-cast ballots versus machine-case ballots — was deferred for lack of time, though Bennie Smith, a member of the Shelby County Election Commision, was on hand to make the cast for voting by hand.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Pence, in Memphis, Pays Homage to MLK and Touts Trump Accomplishments

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 11:46 AM

Vice President Pence at Holy City Church of God in Christ - JB
  • JB
  • Vice President Pence at Holy City Church of God in Christ
It is now a matter of history that, on Sunday, January 19th, the eve of the Martin Luther King holiday in the election year 2020 of the Trump years, the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, came to Memphis to pay homage.

Pence’s first visit on Sunday morning was to the National Civil Rights Museum, where — as he would recall to his hearers at his next venue, the Holy City Church of God in Christ on James Road — “They pointed out to me that in photographs replicated on the wall, they want to make sure that the American flag was in color to know that this movement was about holding up the ideals and values of every American.”

A Church official, Bishop Vincent Mathews, Jr., introduced Pence as “a brother in Christ,” who, among other things, respected his marriage by refusing to “meet women alone” in public and “didn’t come here to campaign, but to honor his hero and brother, Dr. Martin Luther King.”

Pence began his message by invoking a memory of the King statue on the Mall in Washington, the one that stands impressively across the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Park, just across the street from the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. “And rightly so,” said Pence. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. belongs in that Pantheon of American heroes. Dr. King was one of the heroes of my youth, as you already know.”

He proceeded:
“I’m here to pay a debt of honor and respect to the man who, walking the dirt roads of the Deep South and speaking to hundreds of thousands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, touched the hearts of the American people, and led the civil rights movement to triumph over Jim Crow. Tomorrow all across America, millions of citizens will celebrate his life and his legacy. And we honor him by remembering his work, his courage, his sacrifice. We honor him by teaching our children and our children's children."

The Vice President recalled the bloody, pivotal March on Selma in 1965 on behalf of voting rights. “10 years ago in Selma, Alabama, I had the great privilege of traveling in a pilgrimage led by Congressman John Lewis. We literally walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the anniversary. It was an extraordinary experience for me and for my wife, for our three children. We honor those who serve and honor Dr. King.

MLK Day, he said, would be “a day on, not a day off by giving back to their communities and coming alongside families in need. And I know full the city will be there every step of the way….

There was , it should be said, a bit of what was arguably politics: “‘We're showing you that under this administration, we've made every effort to open pathways to the American dream for every American, and we have stood strong for the values that we hope there. Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, we have created more than 8,700 opportunity zones, including many here in Tennessee, creating new investment and jobs to underserved communities across the nation. I'm proud to say that today, African-American unemployment is at the lowest level ever recorded. Not long ago, surrounded by university leaders, President Trump made the more than $250 million in annual funding to historically black colleges and universities permanent under federal law.”

The administration, Pence said, had pursued criminal justice reform, and “we have stood without apology for the sanctity of human life.’

“We made great progress as a nation but there's lots of work to be done.
I can promise you this president, this administration will always stand for the values that we share and the right of every American to live in American Dream regardless of race or creed, or color."

Returning to his tribute to King, the vice president said, “I think it's important to remember that Martin Luther King Jr. was also a Christian leader. Throughout my life, what has most inspired me about his example is that he was first and foremost a man of faith — a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a workman approved, rightly able to handle the word of truth.

“He said, ‘I may not be there with you, but I want you to know tonight ways people will get to the promised land.’ And so we did ...


“If we strive to open doors and opportunities for every American and if we more faithfully follow the One that he follows, we will see our way through these divided times.
And We'll do our part in our time to form a more perfect union in this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you very much.”

Before and during Pence’s participation in the ceremonies at Holy City, which included a lengthy testimonial to Bishop Jerry Taylor, the church’s founder, police cordoned off the church and the immediate surrounding area from a group of media and some demonstrators protesting what they regarded as Pence’s hijacking of the MLK remembrance.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Bloomberg Gets Key Boosts from Local Political Figures

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2020 at 10:09 AM

A weekend meet-and-greet in Memphis on behalf of the presidential campaign of Mike Bloomberg made obvious the all-purpose appeal of the former New York mayor as a focus of anti-Trump political sentiment, and boasted at least two major endorsements of Bloomberg by local political figures.
U.S. Rep. Cohen - JB
  • JB
  • U.S. Rep. Cohen

Attendees filled to capacity the Midtown law office of Mike Working in Cooper-Young on Saturday. They heard 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen extol Bloomberg’s efforts as a candidate willing to lend his efforts and his financial support to a campaign to defeat the re-election of President Donald Trump. While praising Bloomberg, Cohen said he was maintaining his option to support whatever presidential nominee the Democratic Party should ultimately produce.

On hand for the affair was Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, national chairman of Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, who repeated to the crowd what had been assurances of support for Bloomberg’s candidacy made the day before by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. Fischer said Strickland could not be present on Saturday because of his need to attend two funerals.

Another outright endorser was present, however, and willing to explain his reasons to the crowd. This was newly elected City Councilman Jeff Warren, a physician who explained his reasoning this way:


“... It's really very simple. I've been listening to try to see who is going to come up with the best possible solution for the health care that we need in our country. And I walked across the parking lot from my office and heard Mayor Bloomberg announce his strategy for how to do that. It makes perfect sense. You know, in red states, where we haven't advanced the Affordable Care Act for our poorest people, he wants to federalize that, and that makes perfect sense to me….

“ Medicare takes four cents on the dollar to administrate compared to most private insurances taking 30 to 40 cents on your health care dollar to do administration. If I could pay my money for my office and get Medicare for my employees, I would like to have that as an option as a businessman in this country. I think that's a brilliant idea.

“And if we can do that, and then work on lowering the violence that we have in our urban community and stop our young people from killing each other, which Bloomberg has developed ways to do and has done successfully in New York, we can see a blossoming of our urban communities. And I think he's the man to do that. So I endorse him wholeheartedly, and I really think his healthcare plan is the best thing we can see in our country ...”

Councilman Warren - JB
  • JB
  • Councilman Warren
In his own remarks, Fischer extolled Bloomberg Philanthropies, “operated over 500 cities, over 100 countries, where Mike is taking on issues that basically are getting in the way of people leaving living longer, healthier lives.”

On matters like “health care, gun safety, immigration, women's rights,” said Fischer, Bloomberg has “not only talked about it and funded it, he's done it.” And the Louisville Mayor pointed out the one aspect of the Bloomberg campaign most likely to appeal to Democrats at large.


"He's running, but at the same time, he's running 100 million dollars a day in the battleground states to make the case against Trump, not for Mike Bloomberg, for whomever the Democratic nominee is going to be. He's got $20 million to work in those states to increase voter registration, not for Mike Bloomberg. And he said I'm going to keep all my offices open across this country, regardless if I'm the candidate or not, because we gotta beat Donald Trump.

The Bloomberg campaign, in other words, exists for its own sake, but, also and ultimately, as a de facto auxiliary to the campaign of every other Democrat running for President, and, in particular, on behalf of the party’s nominee, whoever that happens to be, right up to election day. It’s an offer that’s hard to refuse."

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

County Mayor Harris Asserts 30-Day Goal for Passage of MATA Funding Proposal

Posted By on Sun, Jan 12, 2020 at 10:00 PM

At weekend gathering, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harri repeats vow to secure passage of wheel tax add-on to provide county funding for MATA. Also pictured are members of the Tommy Van family, hosts for the affair, and Lexie Carter, a co-sponsor of the event. - JB
  • JB
  • At weekend gathering, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harri repeats vow to secure passage of wheel tax add-on to provide county funding for MATA. Also pictured are members of the Tommy Van family, hosts for the affair, and Lexie Carter, a co-sponsor of the event.


At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, the Shelby County Commission will take one more crack — the crucial one — at adding $20 to the current county wheel tax in order to contribute roughly $10 million to the operation of the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA). On the eve of the vote, County Mayor Lee Harris set an informal deadline of 30 days to achieve a successful outcome for the proposal, which needs 9 votes and netted a maximum of 5 votes on Wednesday in preliminary voting in committee.

Harris mentioned the 30-day figure in conversation at a Saturday night fundraiser in his honor in Lakeland. “Either we pass it outright on Monday, or we’ll find a way to delay the final vote for 30 days,” the Mayor said. “But I predict we’ll get it done.”

The fund-raiser was at the home of Tommy and Monica Van and was primarily a cooperative effort by members of the local Asian and African-American communities. In his remarks to attendees, Harris recapped his argument for the wheel tax add-on as follows:

“There was no more vivid example of the need for increased transit options than a guy named James, an ex-offender. He lives in Frayser, and he finally found a job but, of course, the buses don't run very frequently on the weekend. And on weekends, instead of missing his shift, he decides to sleep at his job so he can be there the next morning and not miss a shift. So James begged and pleaded that we invest more in transit so he could go home when his shift ends and come back to the job the next day and not have to sleep there.

“And I think about Miss Sarah who said transit is important to her, because she has not had ice cream for years. She says she can’t get ice cream from the grocery store to her house before the ice cream melts. And so she doesn't buy ice cream anymore.

“So it's about Miss Sarah and James and Frayser and all the folks who are trying to move around the community and trying to get access to jobs, and trying to create more opportunity for themselves and their family. And that's the kind of debate I want to have. That's why I ran for office in the first place. And I'm hopeful that we'll be able to persuade all parts of this community that these are the right kinds of conversations to have.”

Harris also made reference in his remarks to the currently controversial issue of providing haven for foreign refugees. The mayor held a press conference last week to make public his letter to the U.S. State Department in favor of providing such haven in Shelby County. As he said about that moment on Saturday night:



“We tried to drive a conversation that this community should continue to be a welcoming community for refugees. Refugees, by definition, are individuals who come to this country fleeing persecution, their lives are on the line, and we as a country have the ability to intervene and save families and save lives. And so we should do it. We can try. [Applause]

“Years ago, Shelby County accepted about 400 or so refugees a year that is now down to about three dozen refugees. The United States of America with this heritage of being a beacon of hope around the globe right now. We have around 1% of the world's refugees in the United States of America, I think we can do a lot better on that score as well. So these are the issues that I've talked about, since I've been in elected office. They’re not issues that win you a lot of, you know, big business donors per se, but they are issues that matter nonetheless. And so I'll continue to drive these kinds of conversations for as long as I'm in office.”

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Wheel Tax Solution for County MATA Funding Off to Shaky Start

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2020 at 8:21 AM



No piece of county legislation has had so checkered a history
County Mayor Lee Harris listens to County Commission's discussion of his funding proposal for MATA. - JB
  • JB
  • County Mayor Lee Harris listens to County Commission's discussion of his funding proposal for MATA.
as that which endowed the county’s wheel tax, originally created as a levy upon Shelby County motorists to pay for educational construction projects that the county’s budget lacked funding for.

The tax, originally $25 per motor vehicle and later doubled, was unpopular right away, but it became a dependable source of political controversy when the county commission, at regular intervals, began allocating portions of it for purposes other than schools — such as public housing, road construction, and debt retirement.

Now the tax may be subject to amendment again — as a source of funding for a new Shelby County contribution to the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA). The county input has been proposed by County Mayor Lee Harris for an expansion effort that would help bridge the distances from home to work for county residents lacking in their own means of transportation, and serve the ends of industrial and community development, in general.

Under the terms of an ordinance sponsored by Commissioners Willie Brooks, Van Turner, and Tami Sawyer and discussed at length in committee on Wednesday, the fee charged county car-owners would be raised from $50 per vehicle to $70, with the add-on $20 to be regarded as a separate fund earmarked for MATA purposes. The proposal was amended to exempt seniors and county residents with incomes less than $30,000 annually.

Among those testifying in favor of the ordinance were Chamber of Commerce CEO Beverly Robertson, Chamber board chair Willie Gregory, FedEx regional president Richard Smith, FedEx Express regional president, and Baptist Memorial Healthcare president and CEO Jason Little. Testimony on the ordinance’s behalf was also heard from numerous members of an overflow audience that required additional folding chairs in the commission’s 6th floor quarters at the Vasco Smith Building.

Not everyone was so enthusiastic, however. County Clerk Wanda Halbert pointed out that bookkeeping for the arrangement could become unwieldy, and several commissioners remained unconvinced. Those voting No were commission chair Mark Billingsley, David Bradford, Edmund Ford Jr., and Amber Mills, the latter, who represents suburban North Shelby County, dismissing the measure as an additional burden upon the taxpayer, calling it “pish posh.”

The five commissioners supporting the ordinance were Brooks, Turner, Sawyer, Mickell Lowery, and Eddie Jones. Commissioners Brandon Morrison and Michael Whaley abstained.

The 5-4-2 winning margin for the ordinance was hardly reassuring for supporters, since a supermajority of 9 Commission members will be required when the measure comes before the regular Commission meeting on Monday.

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Bobby Lanier, Pillar of Shelby County Government, Dies

Posted By on Sun, Dec 29, 2019 at 12:55 PM



Bobby Lanier, one of the most significant figures in Shelby
Bobby Lanier in 2015 - JB
  • JB
  • Bobby Lanier in 2015
County political history and one of the most personally revered as well, died on Saturday, December 28th, after several years of failing health (more to come). Hopefully, some measure of the man can be gained from this profile of Lanier in the Memphis Flyer issue of October 17, 2002:


The Man to See (published October 17, 2002)
by Jackson Baker

For decades, Bobby Lanier has been the preeminent behind-the-scenes presence in County government.

It is a small weekday luncheon in the Plaza Club, sponsored by the Greater Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce and featuring the still new mayor of Shelby County, A C Wharton. The audience of engineers, architects, and other construction-industry types listens attentively as the nattily dressed, crisp-looking Wharton expounds on the problems confronting him — a narrowed economy, the issue of school construction, the property-tax threshold, the issue of Interstate 69, what-have-you. After working down the list, he expresses confidence that, "with the help of people like Bobby Lanier," he can solve them.

This bouquet, he extends with a slight toss of his head toward a distinguished-looking white-haired man sitting at one of the round tables nearby, just to the left of the one seat — the mayor's — that is unoccupied. Lanier nods his acknowledgment of the compliment ever so slightly, the line of his mouth set tight but ready for mirth, the eyes possessing a watchful twinkle, his focus altogether on Wharton, as ready to indicate a dessert choice for the mayor (cheesecake) as to answer when the mayor wonders out loud which country club "out in Collierville" he had recently visited with 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr.

"Ridgeway," says Lanier definitively, and Wharton proceeds with a tale of that visit, the point of which is to express appreciation and awe that, in his and the audience's lifetime, two African-American officials, a mayor and a congressman, could be making such a joint appearance as the duly elected representatives of a predominantly white suburb.
Wharton does not spell it out, but as denizens of the world of politics know, this, too, was achieved with the help of Bobby Lanier. (In a piece of synchronicity which seems to underscore this fact, Mike Hankins, one of the construction executives attending the luncheon, puts a hand on Lanier's shoulder on his way out and says to Wharton, "Mayor, this guy has all the locks and all the keys.")

In a sense, as Wharton had confided to a reporter early this year, Lanier had been the architect of his candidacy and the prime mover of his campaign. "He's the one who urged me to run," said the then-Shelby County Public Defender, detailing the several phone calls that passed between the two in the early summer of 2001 as it became obvious to Lanier that incumbent mayor Jim Rout would not be seeking reelection.

Lanier was then serving Rout as executive assistant, a title he held during the several terms of Rout's predecessor, Bill Morris, and the title he holds today. "He's the glue," as mayoral legal counsel Kelly Rayne puts it. "He got things done," says Morris. "I take care of problems," says Lanier. In an almost archetypal sense, he's the man to see in Shelby County government, and he has been since the day in 1978 when Morris invited Lanier, then serving as a Germantown alderman and nearing retirement as a 25-year employee of Memphis Light Gas & Water, into his mayoral campaign as an all-purpose aide and factotum, then, as now, first among equals. (Arguably, he had a peer in the currently embattled Tom Jones, the communications-and-policy aide for Morris and Rout.)

"I remember when Mayor Rout made his announcement in July 2001," Lanier says. "I took John Bakke aside and said, 'I'll tell you who the next mayor's going to be.'" Bakke, of course, is the communications guru who has had a hand in an astonishing array of successful election efforts, ranging from those of U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr. in the '70s to those of former 7th District congressman and current Tennessee governor Don Sundquist in the '80s and '90s. "I can work with him," Lanier quotes Bakke as saying about Wharton, and so Bakke would.

On the same day that he had that conversation with Bakke, Lanier accompanied Rout to an affair at the Homebuilders headquarters building in Cordova, where, before a large and festive crowd composed largely of political allies and developers, Rout repeated the formal withdrawal announcement he'd already made in the boardroom of his mayoral office.

Lanier recalls, "One of the developers said to me, 'I guess Harold Byrd's going to be the next mayor,' and I said, 'No, the next mayor hasn't announced yet.'"

At the time, Bartlett banker Byrd, a Democrat and former state representative and congressional candidate, was already in the field raising money and developing a head of steam as Rout's putative successor. Not long after Rout had withdrawn, Byrd made a fund-raising call on Millington's W.S. "Babe" Howard, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist and a pillar of the county Democratic establishment.

"I'd like to help you," Byrd was reportedly told by Howard, "but I owe Bobby too many times." Byrd started getting the same message in other places, and he would later, in an agonizing decision made on the eve of the withdrawal deadline earlier this year, be compelled to withdraw, as another prime prospect, state Senator Jim Kyle, had earlier. Wharton would go on to beat easily both state Representative Carol Chumney in the Democratic primary and radiologist/radio magnate George Flinn, the surprise Republican nominee, in the general election.


Though Byrd declines to speak for the record about the matter, his bitterness is well known concerning both Lanier and Wharton, who he believes misled him about his ultimate intentions of running. Lanier gives a different interpretation to the actions of Wharton, who served as Shelby County Public Defender under both Morris and Rout. "He just didn't want to run against his boss," as Lanier puts it.

Lawyer Jim Strickland, the former Democratic Party chairman who served as Byrd's campaign manager, remembers telling his candidate long before Wharton's entry, when it was assumed that Rout would still be running, "Gee, Bobby's such a nice guy and so effective. We ought to consider keeping him on after you're elected."

But after Lanier, still serving as an aide to Rout, came front and center as Wharton's chief backer, Strickland and another Byrd supporter, lawyer Richard Fields, charged that Lanier was violating county ethics codes by making fund-raising calls from his office in the county administration building.

During the resultant brouhaha, Lanier chose to resign and work full-time in Wharton's campaign. "I didn't want to cause any problems for the mayor [Rout]," he says. It was the first break in his county employment since 1978, when he first occupied the eighth-floor office adjacent to the mayor's. For the duration of the campaign, he was replaced as a mayoral aide by Rout ally Ron Banks (now working as an administrator in the Juvenile Court office).

This week, Lanier sat in the office chair he was restored to by Wharton and recalled, of the charges made by Strickland and Fields, "I made some calls from here. Sure, I did, but I didn't raise any money up here." He shrugged. "I don't know many politicians that don't make calls from their office."

As Rayne said, Bobby Lanier is the glue. Extending that metaphor, she says, "He's invisible most of the time and keeps things together. He's also the sander. He smoothes out the rough edges. They don't know me. I'm just a bureaucrat downtown. They know him, however. He works things out."

Case in point: Her observation had been preceded by a conversation with Lanier over a vexing land-use issue involving the municipalities of Memphis and Germantown. The two of them had discussed the case at length, and Lanier had evinced not only an understanding of the details, some of them highly technical, but gave her elaborate advice concerning which officials to put in touch with which others to sand out the edges.

"I believe in getting people together to work out things. I always have and always will," says Lanier, not, by his own testimony, a policy-maker per se but one who can do what it takes to implement a policy, once it's been decided on. When there was an impasse on the Public Building Authority several months ago as to which contractors should be employed on the city's new NBA arena, it was Lanier who stepped in, blandishing here and coaxing there, getting the right people together to work things out to the end of an eventual compromise.

Though little seems to vex the mild-mannered Lanier, he is plainly regretful in discussing somebody's negative reaction to him, whether it be Byrd's passing by him without speaking at a recent Peabody luncheon for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen or the outburst of Criminal Court clerk Bill Key during the campaign, when Key, then the target of some unfriendly yard signs tripling the initial of his last name, pointed at Lanier's "A C" button and made some disparaging remark about "you Democrats."

Says Lanier, "I told him, 'Don't be accusing me of being a Democrat. I'm for A C Wharton.' And I told him, 'Bill, you've got to stop acting like you're mad at everybody. You'll get beat. You can catch more flies with sugar than you can with vinegar.'"

Lanier's equanimity has also been tested by the reaction of some Shelby County Republicans who, like newly elected county commissioner John Willingham, believe, as Byrd and some other Democrats did, that Lanier is the prime Good Ole Boy in a veritable G.O.B. network that has extended from mayoral regime to mayoral regime, always including the same contractors and developers, the same financial donors, and the same financial beneficiaries.

Willingham and other members of the G.O.P. populist right believe that Wharton was the handpicked candidate of this network and that Lanier was the Machiavelli who made sure he ended up being mayor. They also are convinced that Rout, who publicly endorsed the mayoral candidacy of then-state Representative Larry Scroggs in the Republican primary and was cool to the candidacy of eventual Republican nominee George Flinn, was in on the Wharton plan and that the mayor's other campaign moves were merely diversionary.
Rout has denied this, as does Lanier, and he maintains about Willingham, "John and I get along fine. If John's going to pop off, that's fine, but I make it a point to get along with all the commissioners."

Bobby Lanier has always got along. Before Morris tapped him for campaign duty in 1978 — on the basis of his experience working with Lanier in the Jaycees — Lanier had served several terms as a Germantown alderman, finishing always at the top of the vote slate. He was head of the city's volunteer Fire Department and was, as he still is, president of the Germantown Charity Horse Show — one of three nongovernmental institutions (the others being the Mid-South Fair and Germantown Presbyterian Church) that he has always made time for.

Not bad for a dairy farmer's son who never attended college (though, in adulthood, he took some evening classes offered by the University of Tennessee here). As Morris says, however, "He was a football hero," the captain of his 1947 Germantown High School team who averaged five yards a carry during his senior year and whose stern mien in his vintage football pictures is some indication, perhaps, of the iron will that some say lies beneath the easy-going exterior.

"All I wanted to do was be a dairy farmer like my father," says Lanier, who in the aftermath of his father's death found himself working with MLGW, doing — what else? — community-relations work. He was also a fixture at Germantown City Hall, arriving early in the morning for coffee and staying until late at night, learning what he could about government and not being bashful about giving advice. Black-haired and crew-cut in those days, he soon made himself indispensable.

For all the long hours, though, he never stinted on his family, he and friends say. "I never missed a single one of my son's football games," Lanier says of Robert Cox Lanier the Second (that's how he was christened), now a funeral director in Alabama. And Morris recalls Lanier spending considerable time each day dressing his wife Pat, who was crippled by arthritis and had a long, lingering illness that ended with her death in 1999, one year after the couple's 50th wedding anniversary. The enormous crowd that filled Memphis Funeral Home in East Memphis on that occasion included a virtual who's who in Shelby County politics and government.

Wharton is unstinted in his praise of Lanier, both the governmental aide and the campaign guru: "He was invaluable in the campaign, especially in Shelby County, which he knows like the back of his hand. He knew exactly who might be for us and where we'd be wasting our time. He was a perfect liaison to the outer county, and he dispelled everyone's fears. He told me when he first started talking to me about running that I would end up with 60 percent of the vote, and he knew just how that would come about."

An aide in one of the other mayoral campaigns saw things from a slightly different angle. "Bobby's the go-to guy, and that includes the financial end. All those people who have to see him to get things done, he makes a list of, and later on, he calls them and hits them up for campaign money."

In the 73-year-old Lanier's own reckoning, he is just a public servant, content to do what he does out of the limelight, the benevolent white-haired presence who has always been just a step behind the mayor of Shelby County, just an office removed. "I've heard people say, 'Why are you, a white man, at your age, working for a little black man?' The only reason I helped A C Wharton was because I thought he was the best man for Shelby County, the man who can bring us all together."

Everything he does is just, says Lanier, a continuation of the habits he formed as a county agent for MLGW, when he was on the same kind of 24-hour call as he is today. "People still call me about Light, Gas & Water problems right now," he says. "Everybody seems to think I can do anything. Well, I do try to help." During the 1994 ice storm, he recalls, he asked then-MLGW director Bill Crawford for some repair personnel. "I said, 'Bill, you give me a crew, and I'll get these lights on out there in Collierville and the suburbs. And he did, and I did. In three or four days."

Lanier's willingness to be of help had sometimes caused him some grief, as when he was indicted along with then-Mayor Morris, during the latter's 1994 gubernatorial run, for improper use of prison inmates to serve meals at campaign functions. In the shakeout of that scandal — prompted, it was always said, by partisans of rival candidate Phil Bredesen — Lanier ended up the fall guy, with an eventual misdemeanor conviction, which was probated.

He was on the prong of another controversy just last year, when Shelby County Commissioner Michael Hooks was found, by sheriff's deputies investigating a traffic mishap, to have cocaine paraphernalia in his home. In the fallout, it developed that Hooks had called Lanier, who in turn called then-Chief Deputy Don Wright, who had a misdemeanor citation issued for Hooks, who was spared the embarrassment of arrest. (The commissioner has since staged an apparent full recovery from his acknowledged cocaine addiction.)

Lanier professes the most innocent of motives. "I didn't even know what it was all about," he says. "Michael just called me and, without telling me anything, asked for Don Wright's phone number. Instead of just giving it to him, I called Don and asked him to call Michael, but I never knew what was going on."
That may strain the credulity of some, but Bobby Lanier seems utterly sincere in the telling of this version.
Lanier has made many an admirer for his willingness to be at the beck and call of Shelby County's chief executives, picking them up at their homes and personally driving them to their destinations. But all is not self-sacrifice in the saga of Bobby Lanier. His political connections have been useful to him in landing some investment opportunities, most notable in 1973 when he and a number of other local civic and political figures founded the Community Bank of Germantown. Lanier and the others, who included congressman-to-be Sundquist, made what everybody acknowledges was a considerable fortune when they sold the bank in the '90s to the First Tennessee Corporation.

Septuagenarian Bobby Lanier intends to keep on keeping on, presumably for two full terms of Mayor A C Wharton. And who knows beyond that? Though he rarely has time to do any recreation beyond an occasional charity round of golf, he looks remarkably fit. And he probably hasn't lost the nerve that once prompted him, for reasons he can't explain, to stand atop the fiberglass roof of a fire truck and touch two live wires overhead, letting 500,000 volts pass right through him. "You see, I wasn't grounded," he says.

His once and future job as right-hand man to the mayors of Shelby County does ground him, of course. "As I tell people, the door's open all the time. It's very seldom otherwise. People come up to see the mayor, and when they can't, I go out to see 'em. They need to see somebody."

For now, both Bobby Lanier and A C Wharton are quite comfortable with Lanier's being that somebody.

Go here for original online article.

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Bloomberg in Memphis: A Good Start

In general, the multi-billionaire Mayor from New York came across as a very serious presidential candidate indeed.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2019 at 5:16 PM



He came, he was seen, and, if he didn’t conquer right away,
New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg
  • New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg
New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose widely seen TV advertising had already given him a good head start on the attention of Memphians, may yet have a decent chance to finish the job.

Because his plane was delayed, Bloomberg’s hastily arranged speech in Memphis got started late, but a sizable crowd of flash-mob dimensions was on hand to greet him at the Benjamin Hooks Public Library on Poplar. Among them were several young aides, like state Representative London Lamar, part of a campaign structure that, like Bloomberg’s campaign itself, seems to have materialized virtually overnight.

Another young Memphian, Elijah Tyler of Rhodes College, spoke of the hardships visited upon his family by unexpected medical emergencies and introduced the Mayor as “someone who has experience in business, government and doing good that prepares him to lead.” That set up Bloomberg for his "subject of the day,” and he spent the entirety of his speaking time on his plan for an intensified version of former President Obama’s Affordable Care Plan.

Not that Bloomerg overlooked such other subjects as the unsuitability of Donald J. Trump to remain as President of the United States, the job Bloomberg now seeks. Early in his remarks, not long after paying homage to Memphis’ reputation for good barbecue, Bloomberg said, “Back in 2016 I warned that ifTrump ran our country like he ran his companies, we'd be in a whole lot of trouble. And I'm sorry to say that's exactly what has happened.” He added, “And the House I think has done its constitutional duty by impeaching him yesterday.”

Other criticisms of the incumbent President were employed in tandem with further grace notes paid to his local hosts. Bloomberg concluded one barrage against Trump by noting, “A famous resident of Memphis of my generation reportedly once said, truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for time, but it ain't going away. Elvis, just in case you don’t remember.” And he recalled that another Memphis Hero, Penny Hardaway of the Memphis Tigers, once played for the Memphis Tigers by saying, “It was only in my second term back then and Donald Trump was only on his fifth bankruptcy.”

The mega-billionaire candidate, owner of a media empire and a company whose employees possess a hefty benefits package, raised the specter that Trump, if reelected, would keep on trying to purge the ACA without offering anything in its place, especially for those Americans with prior, potentially disqualifying health conditions.

In embracing the Affordable Care Act, Bloomberg cautioned against pursuing “‘Medicare for All’ proposals that are more likely to reelect Donald Trump than to expand coverage,” and he proposed some significant improvements in the ACA, including a guarantee of universal medical coverage, including, where necessary or desirable, via a public option offered by the government. He suggested tax credits as an aid to those who remained on private insurance, ceilings on medical charges keyed to Medicare normas, and automatic eligibility for enhanced Medicaid services, regardless of the attitudes of state governments.

Apropos his bona fides, Bloomberg said, “ I don't take a penny from any company that has any connection with any health care whatsoever. You know how certain I am with this? Because I don't take a penny from anybody.”

In fact, Bloomberg’s virtually unlimited wealth, and his willingness to spend it on his campaign, are clearly part of his appeal to various Democrats, hopeful of defeating Trump and, like Bloomberg himself, not altogether sure that other Democrats running can guarantee such an outcome.

Not everybody who heard Bloomberg’s remarks at the Hooks Library was converted to the idea of supporting the Mayor as a candidate, but at a Christmas party later on at the funeral home of former Congressman Harold Ford, one heavily attended by people in the political game, respect for Bloomberg’s potential was much more obvious.

And, given the fact that the New York Mayor only scratched the surface of his issue repertory while in Memphis, there is obviously more to come, and Bloomberg just as obviously is going to make sure that people have a chance to be exposed to it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Memphis Biden Backers Gather in Cooper-Young

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 2:05 PM

Memphis won't get a chance to express a presidential preference until Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020. But various groups in favor of one candidate or another coalesce locally from time to time to urge potential voters to consider their choice.

Such was the case on Tuesday evening, when backers of former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination gathered a crowd at Epicenter Memphis in Cooper-Young.

Among those making the case for Democratic prospects at large, or for Biden in particular, were (left to right) state Senator Raumesh Akbari, Chip Forrester of Nashville, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, and veteran Democratic activist David Upton.
biden_backers_2.jpg

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Monday, November 18, 2019

John Ford, Reginald Milton, Eddie Jones, Others to Battle for General Sessions Clerk

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2019 at 7:07 PM

John Ford (l); Reginald Milton (r) - JB
  • JB
  • John Ford (l); Reginald Milton (r)

The 2019 Memphis city election may have come to a finish with the conclusion of last Thursday’s runoff elections for two city council positions in District 1 and District 7, won by Rhonda Logan and Michalyn Easter-Thomas, respectively.

But 2020, which will be chock-full of elections, is just two flips of the calendar away, and one of the races sure to drawn much attention will be that for the position of General Sessions Court clerk, which will be vacated by current longtime clerk Ed Stanton Jr. (father of former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton III).

Three of the known contenders for the clerkship are like Stanton, Democrats, and well known
Eddie Jones - JB
  • JB
  • Eddie Jones
to followers of local politics. The first name in the hat was that of Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones, who filed two weeks ago. At about the same time Commiss9oner Reginald Milton began informing people of his interest in the race .
The two Commisdsioners were just joined on the ballot by former longtime state Senator John Ford, who filed for the race on Monday. Yes, that John Ford, the controversial member of the local Ford political clan who ran afoul of the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz sting in 2005, was convicted of bribery, and served a term in state prison.

Ford formerly served a term as General Sessions Clerk, simultaneous with holding his Senate seat. Having long since regained his citizenship rights, Ford aims to re-establish himself as a public official. Despite his notoriety, he was regarded as someone with an in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of state government, and as a go-to legislator for mental health and various other public issues.

Milton, a community organizer and chairman of the commission’s community grants committee, which he brought into being, was a veteran of several political races before his 2014 election to the commission and his 2018 reelection. He greeted the news of Ford’s filing by saying, “I’ve never run an easy race. I’m used to it.”

Confiding that he would make a formal announcement next week, Milton said, “I appreciate those willing to offer themselves for public office, and I look forward to sharing with the public why I feel I would be best suited for this position. UPDATE: Other candidates for General Sessions Clerrk who have filed or requested petitions though Thursday, November 19, are: Democrats Deirdre V. Fisher, Gortria Anderson Banks, Rheunte E. Benson, and Thomas E. Long; and Republican Paul Boyd.

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Challengers Logan, Easter-Thomas Win Council Runoffs

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 11:00 PM

Logan; Easter-Thomas
  • Logan; Easter-Thomas
The 2019 Memphis city election finally concluded Thursday with the ouster of the incumbents in two runoff elections. In District 1  (Frayser,  Raleigh) challenger Rhonda Logan, president of the Raleigh Community Development Corporation, edged interim incumbent Sherman Greer. And, in District 7 (North Memphis, Downtown, riverfront) newcomer Michalyn Easter-Thomas handily defeated longtime incumbent Berlin Boyd.

Final vote totals were: Logan, 1034; Greer, 802; in District 1, and Easter-Thomas, 2036; Boyd, 665 in District 7.

For Logan, who was backed by state Representative Antonio Parkinson, former City Councilman Rickey Peete, and other northside figures, the outcome amounted to delayed gratification, in that she had failed by a single vote to garner enough votes of then-Council incumbents to fill the vacancy left by departing incumbent Bill Morrison in 2018.

Ironically, Boyd was one of the holdouts in that fill-in election, which was ultimately won by Greer, a longtime aide for two 9th District Congressmen, Harold Ford Jr. and Steve Cohen.

Boyd’s own case for retention by the voters was undermined by an imperious personal attitude and by publicity regarding his own apparent involvement in projects he was advancing, several of which seemed commendable in their own right. Beginning with her endorsement last summer by the resurgent People’s Convention, Easter-Thomas successfully knit together a supportive network of several civic groups.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Is Berlin Boyd Using a 2015 Robocall?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 8:46 PM

robocall.jpg
With a week left in the runoff elections for the two remaining undecided Memphis City Council seats, the incumbent in the District 1 race, Berlin Boyd, who is opposed by Michalyn Easter-Thomas, is pursuing an unusual and all-out advertising campaign.

One deviation from the norm is the fact that the Boyd campaign has purchased some large billboards on major thoroughfares in the city’s far eastern precincts. Billboards are an uncommon medium for a district race, and these are many miles away from Boyd’s District 7 bailiwick. Perhaps Boyd, one of the financially better endowed council candidates, figures he can afford it, and he — or his advisers at Caissa Public Strategies — believe in using all the means at one’s disposal. Another Caissa runoff candidate, District 1 incumbent Sherman Greer, who is opposed by Rhonda Logan, is also using large billboard signs.

But what’s the idea behind another, odder advertising stratagem that’s been linked to Boyd? Here’s how it was described in a Facebook post on last Friday by Jeffrey Lichtenstein of the AFL-CIO:

I was just got a really concerning automated phone call.

It first seemed like a live poll, but eventually it was clear I was talking to a sophisticated recording. This is the number that called: (901) 245-4604.

It said “Hi this is Becky Spray, calling from Memphis Brighter Future Political Action Committee. Can I ask you about the city council election? This will take 90 seconds.
Do you plan on voting in the upcoming city council election?

If the election was today, would you vote for Anthony Anderson, Berlin Boyd, or unsure?
Do you need a ride to the polls?”

This is push polling. It seems clearly designed to confuse people and discourage us from voting for Michalyn Easter-Thomas. This kind of shady political game is shocking.
When I called back, it said “extension 370 is not available. Leave a message.”

Moments later, the same number called my friend Thomas Wayne Walker, and it was the same call. We were able to record it. I’ll try and figure out how to post that....


As a reminder, Anthony Anderson was Boyd’s runoff opponent in the 2015 City Council race, but was not a candidate for the District 7 position this year. Lichtenstein seems convinced that the robocall is intended to “confuse” and “discourage” potential voters for Michalyn Easter-Thomas, the runoff opponent to incumbent Councilman Berlin Boyd in District 7.

The robocall is obviously confusing and it definitely does Easter-Thomas no favor by leaving her out of the question.

But, on the discouragement front, the robocall — and publicity given it — could have a boomerang effect. Anderson, for example, has responded to the robocall and its use of his name by posting an online endorsement of Easter-Thomas.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Memphis Suffers Loss of Two Former Legislators

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 9:05 AM




Former State Rep. Jones
  • Former State Rep. Jones
Even a
Former State Sen. Tate
  • Former State Sen. Tate
s members of Shelby County’s political community, Democrats and Republicans alike, were mourning the death on Sunday of one former legislator, Rufus Jones, a member of the state House of Representatives from 1980 to 1996, they found themselves having to deal with the loss of another on Monday, former state Senator Reginald Tate, whose tenure in the state Senate ran from 2006 to 2018.

Both Jones and Tate served as Democrats — Jones during a period in which his party commanded a comfortable majority in his chamber and in the legislature at large, Tate during an era of Republican control of both the Senate and the General Assembly. Both Jones and Tate had business backgrounds, Jones as a member of a South Memphis family with grocery interests, Tate as president/CEO of an architectural firm.

Each of them was personally popular on both sides of the aisle, and each served during period of political controversy that tested their commitment to pure partisanship. Jones’ case was less demanding in that regard. Along with a majority of other legislative Democrats, he found himself working in harmony with Republican Governor Don Sundquist in an effort, ultimately unsuccessful, to pass a state income tax.

Representative G.A. Hardaway, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus and often a Democratic spokesman at large, sized things up this way: “Rufus E. Jones served as a ready and willing source of reliable and sound advice for myself and other legislators. Our families were close, and that allowed me to personally witness and learn from an excellent exemplar of personal conduct, professional success and civic leadership.”

Tate’s situation was different. Lacking any party background as such, he had the support of his neighbor Sidney Chism, an influential Democrat and sometime party chairman, when the county Democratic Committee had to find a substitute nominee in 2006 for the Senate seat vacated by incumbent Kathryn Bowers, who would be tried as a suspect in the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz corruption sting.

Tate was nominated and won. He entered the Senate during a time when control of that body was swinging from Democrats to Republicans, and he seems to have perceived his duty, both to himself and to his district, as that of maintaining good relations with the soon-to-be dominant GOP. Legislative Republicans, for their part, made sure to get him aboard key committees. Increasingly, he was seen by fellow Democrats to be over-stepping political boundaries — even to the point of becoming a board member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a right-wing mill for ultra-conservative state legislation.

Matters came to a head in 2018, when Tate was up for reelection to a fourth four-year term. Not only had he aroused the ire of his party mates with his ever-increasing number of conservative votes, he was overheard on a hot microphone apparently uttering profane criticism of his fellow Democrats.It was less a judgment on his part than a sign of frustration as he saw one after another member of his party caucus side openly with his Democratic primary opponent in 2018, Katrina Robinson, an accomplished newcomer and proprietor of a nursing school.

It cost him; Tate would go down to defeat by a 2 to 1 margin, Robinson polling 14,140 votes to his 6,464, and she would go on to serve effectively as a member of the Senate Democratic minority.

Still, there was little rejoicing in party ranks at Tate’s defeat. Even those who were opposed to his politics remained personally fond of the man whose people skills were of the highest order. Karen Camper, the Democrats’ House Leader, was a particular friend, as was Democratic caucus chair Raumesh Akbari, who said, “No matter what the legislative issue was, he found a way to work with folks from both sides of the aisle and always thought of Memphis first. Senator Tate had a way of always making you smile and I know he’s smiling down on all of us today.”

Shelby delegation chair Antonio Parkinson noted, “Senator Tate left an indelible mark on the state of Tennessee and its citizens through legislation that he sponsored and cosponsored over his many years at the Tennessee Legislature.”

Senator Sara Kyle, who had been an explicit critic of Tate, said “Senator Tate did many good things for the citizens of Shelby County during his time in the General Assembly and I was shocked and saddened to learn of his passing. We will all miss his smile and good sense of humor.” And Robinson, his electoral conqueror, also weighed in: “This is a sad day for Shelby County and our entire state. Thanks for 12 years of service to District 33.”

Funeral arrangements had not been announced at press time.

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Anatomy of a "News Tip"

Posted By on Sun, Oct 20, 2019 at 1:41 PM

The first of our "news tips" — from September
  • The first of our "news tips" — from September
The Commercial Appeal, for which all of us in the local media have such affection and respect, chose — shades of yesteryear — to blow out a big expose on Sunday (for subscribers only) on the subject of "bogus ballots." This is the practice of several entrepreneurs at election time to hit up political candidates for stiff payments, in return for which the aforesaid candidates have their names and likenesses put on sample ballots that are passed out to unwitting voters as being legitimate expressions from organizations that sound like real— rather than fictitious — political organizations.

The CA's story was produced by no less than three authors and three editors and was generated, we are told in a footnote, by a "news tip" — further instances of which are solicited in the end note.

We'd like to be helpful with more tips, but, hey, we've already supplied at least four (listed below) — all of which appeared in the week or so before the October 3rd election, not on a slow-news Sunday, several weeks later.

For the record, the Flyer's stories on the subject are in "related stories" below this post. Here the direct links:

https://www.memphisflyer.com/JacksonBaker/archives/2019/09/22/the-bogus-ballot-syndrome-again

https://www.memphisflyer.com/JacksonBaker/archives/2019/10/03/judge-declares-halt-to-distribution-of-for-profit-sample-ballots-in-city-election

https://www.memphisflyer.com/JacksonBaker/archives/2019/09/26/if-at-first-you-dont-succeed

https://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/modernizing-the-vote-bogus-ballots-and-a-judgeship-kerfuffle/Content?oid=21475572

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Friday, October 4, 2019

Strickland Takes Easy Win for Mayor; Most Favorites Win Council Seats

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 7:30 AM

There were few surprises in the major races. All the favorites won or led when the counting was done. Mayor Jim Strickland won reelection, going away, hitting his goal of 60 percent of the vote, with points to spare. Former Mayor Willie Herenton finished far behind in second, and County Commissioner Tami Sawyer was an even more distant third. Vote totals were Strickland: 59,886; Herenton, 27,694; Sawyer, 6,666.
Mayor Strickland receives congratulations by phone from runner-up Herenton at Botanic Gardens, as aide Ken Moody looks on.
  • Mayor Strickland receives congratulations by phone from runner-up Herenton at Botanic Gardens, as aide Ken Moody looks on.

Overall, suspense was hard to find in the results — though it existed here and there, notably in the neck-and-neck contest in Super District 9, Position 1, between Chase Carlisle, 23,421, and Erika Sugarmon, 22,890. Carlisle kept a slim lead all night, with Sugarmon edging up but just falling short.

If there was a major surprise, it was in the narrow victory of the half-cent sales tax referendum, destined to replenish the lost benefits of the city’s first responders. The vote was, For 49,676; Against, 44,948.

Other results; Rhonda Logan, the Raleigh CDC president who couldn’t get a Council majority last year to fill a vacancy in this North Memphis district, narrowly missed one Thursday, ending with a strong lead in a multi -candidate race over incumbent and second-place finisher Sherman Greer, who was the pick of the incumbent council members back then. She’ll take that edge into a runoff.Logan, 4,695; Greer, 3,684.

In District 2, Cordova and points east, incumbent Frank Colvett, 8,541, was a 2-1 victor over his closest challenger, Marvin White 5,295.

In District 3, Whitehaven, incumbent Patrice Robinson, 7,723, did even better, winning 3 -1 over Tanya Cooper, 2,634.

In District 4 — Orange Mound, Central Gardens — incumbent Jamita Swearengen, 7,151, was another winner, unexpectedly easily, over Britney Thornton, 3,194.

In District 5, Midtown and East Memphis, challenger John Marek, 7,572, had a last-minute win in court over a pair of pay-for-play sample ballots but lost at the polls to incumbent Worth Morgan, 11,397.

In District 6, South Memphis, riverfront, and Downtown, former seat-holder Edmond Ford Sr., 9,770, triumphed easily, as expected, over a large field, with Davon Clemons, 2,384, who was endorsed by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, finishing far back in second.

Also as expected, controversial incumbent Berlin Boyd, 2,877, fell far short of a majority in District 7, North Memphis, Frayser, and will face a runoff with Michalyn C.S. Easter, 1,959.

There won’t, however, be a runoff in the tight race for Super District 8, Position 1, where Gerrie Currie, a fill-in incumbent from District 6, chose to yield that race to Ed Ford Sr. and tried instead for this seat, one of the at-large ones where runoffs are not allowed, by judicial decree. Currie, 11,324, was trimmed by lawyer J.B. Smiley, 14,464, who’s been angling upward in politics for a while.

Position 2 in Super District 8, the western or predominantly African-American at-large area, was easily held by incumbent Cheyenne Johnson, 21, 853, over nearest competitor Craig Littles, 7,490. And incumbent Martavius Jones, 19,865, who is used to squeaker elections, ran away from several opponents to hold on to Position 3. Closest competitor was R.S. Ford Sr., 11,340.

As indicated, Erika Sugarmon came close to winner Carlisle but earned no cigar in Position 1 of Super District 9, which is racially fairly closely divided but which, geographically, was originally designed to take in the once predominantly white part of the city.

In the Position 2 race, incumbent Ford Canale, 27,051, was able to win a majority, with challengers Mauricio Calvo, 9,277, and Deanielle Jones, 9,096, in a dead heat for second place.

And Dr. Jeff Warren, 22,467, the former Memphis School Board member who got off to a head start in the Position 3 race both financially and organizationally, won easily over second-place challenger University of Memphis development specialist Cody Fletcher, 13,918.

In the contest for City Court Clerk, it was inevitable that the race would come down to the candidates with most name identification — former councilmen Myron Lowery and Joe Brown. Lowery emerging as the winner — 34,544 to Brown’s 24,548.

There were two contested races for Municipal Court Judge, with incumbent Teresa Jones, 52,691, winning easily over LaTrena Davis-Ingram, 19,703, in Division 1, and Division 3 incumbent Jayne Chandler, 49,217, holding off Magistrate David Pool, 32,127, in Division 3. Incumbent Tarik Sugarmon, 74,177, was unopposed in Division 3.

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