Doing It Again: The People's Convention; Casada Goes National 

As petitions for city offices continue to be pulled at the offices of the Shelby County Election Commission, attention this week focuses on the forthcoming People's Convention, scheduled for Saturday at the Paradise Entertainment Center. The affair is intended as a redo of sorts of the 1991 People's Convention that endorsed Willie Herenton as a consensus black candidate for that year's Memphis mayoral race.

While this convention, scheduled for an 11 a.m. kickoff, is also rooted to a large degree in concerns of black Memphians, it may be both wider and more constricted in its scope than the original — wider, in that it may also draw white Midtown supporters of mayoral candidate Tami Sawyer, narrower in that backers of Sawyer would seem to be more involved in the affair than those of the two other prominent candidates, current Mayor Jim Strickland and Herenton, who retired from the office of mayor in 2009 after serving 17-plus years and is making another bid for the office.

click to enlarge Host David Pool (l) welcomes former Judge Robert L. “Butch” Childers to his weekend event. - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Host David Pool (l) welcomes former Judge Robert L. “Butch” Childers to his weekend event.

Whatever the case, the Rev. Earle Fisher, a prominent ally of Sawyer, has been a major figure in organizing the convention, though numerous community organizations, including the AFSCME union and Black Lives Matter, are taking part, and the stated agenda includes such overriding issues as education, economic justice, and public safety.

• An annual event to which political candidates and pol-watchers are invited was held on Sunday at the site of a burned-out former residence on a high bluff in North Memphis overlooking the Mississippi River.

The residence was that of the late Charlie Pool, an eminent lawyer and longtime eminent member of the local Democratic Party establishment. More accurately, the house was to have been Pool's residence. Moved plank by plank from Downtown, where it had once belonged to former Congressman Frederick Stanton, it was destroyed in 1981 by a fire, presumably set by an arsonist, before it could be inhabited in its new location.

But the concrete base of the house remains, and it serves today as a stage for the annual summer crawfish feed and jamboree put on for all and sundry by the former owner's son David Pool, a guitarist and singer who has turned to the law as a career. The younger Pool is now serving as a Judicial Commissioner for Shelby County and is running this year for the Position 3 Memphis city judgeship now held by incumbent Jayne Chandler.

Chandler didn't make it to the crawfish feed, though she was invited to the event by Pool, who described her to attendees as a "wonderful lady." He added, "Of course, I'm wonderfuller."

Several other members of the county's judicial community were on hand, along with a smattering of candidates for the city election, for the opportunity on a fine summer day to schmooze, enjoy food and drink, and hear music performed by Pool and his informal band, the Risky Whiskey Boys.

• If Glen Casada, the presumably soon-to-be ex-speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, has kept to the schedule he announced in the wake of the scandal that forced his announced intention to resign, he is back in the state as of Monday after completing a long-planned post-session trip to Europe.

Before Casada left the country, he had announced his intent to get together on June 3rd and thereafter with members of the House Republican caucus, a majority of whom had given him a no-confidence vote, so as to map out plans for his resignation and replacement. The reasons for Casada's downfall were many — including public exposure of  an exchange of racist and misogynist emails between Casada and his youthful aide, Cade Cothren, suspicions that Casada and his aide had conducted electronic spying on members, and evidence that they may have forged the date of an email so as to make it appear that an anti-Casada protestor had defaulted on a court order.

So who is to succeed Casada as speaker? There are several candidates among House Republicans, including Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), who is next in the line of succession.

But state Representative Dwayne Thompson (D-Memphis) has an unorthodox proposal. Noting that all the hopefuls mentioned so far are members of the Republican supermajority that voted to make Casada speaker, either in a preliminary GOP caucus last November or on the floor of the House in January, Thompson suggests that, to ensure a genuine break with that now-tarnished outcome, the new speaker should be someone who did not participate in such voting.

Thompson further points out that nothing in the state Constitution mandates that the House speaker be an actual member of that body, only that the members of the House have the power to choose a qualified Tennessean to preside over their business as speaker. Conceding that the Republicans are now the majority party and should ideally have first dibs on the speakership, Thompson has a candidate in mind.

That would be Gerald McCormick, who was the GOP's House Majority Leader for several terms while a member representing a Chattanooga district, but who moved his residence to Nashville before the 2018 election and consequently did not run for reelection.

In the process, argues Thompson, McCormick became the ideal successor to represent Tennesseans as speaker of the House. As a native of Shelby County, where he attended Germantown High School, McCormick has familiarity with all three of Tennessee's grand districts — West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and East Tennessee. And his reputation, while serving in the House, was that of a fair-minded arbiter who, while representing the Republican majority, maintained good relations with the Democratic minority.

Thompson said on Monday that he has not yet discussed his proposal with McCormick himself but intends to.

Meanwhile, Casada's ignominy, which has dominated so much of the state's political news in the month since the legislative session ended, has now been broadcast, literally, from a national platform. The speaker's foibles became the subject this week of a segment of Last Week Tonight, the HBO satirical review of the news hosted by British-born comedian John Oliver. Focusing on such aspects of the scandal as the sexual peccadilloes of Cothren and that aide's admitted use of cocaine in a state office, Oliver said of the scandal, "While it may not be the most important thing in the world, every detail is spectacular."

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