Political Shorts, 9-12: Paul Shanklin; 9th District Race; Balloon-Grabbers 

  • Sarah Palin wasn't the only relative unknown whose visibility was enhanced by the recent Republican National Convention held in St. Paul, Minnesota . Delegate Paul Shanklin, whose day job is that of a financial manager, was standing in a slow-moving line at a fast-food stall inside the Xcel Energy Center with other Memphians when someone said to him, "Hey, Paul, why don't you do 'Barack the Magic Negro' for the folks?"

    At that point , several heads turned and people began saying to each other, "Is that Paul Shanklin?" Shanklin is, of course, the impressionist who does multiple voices and recorded riffs for the Rush Limbaugh radio show. He's been doing that, under contract with Limbaugh, since 1992, when he did such voices as Ross Perot and, of course, Bill Clinton. He's kept pace with political change, and his Obama and McCain are spot-on. (The "Magic Negro" bit, to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," became controversial last year but was never intended to have racist overtones, contends Shanklin, who says it was merely a take-off on an adulatory newspaper column by an Obama supporter.)

    click to enlarge Conrad and Flinn at fundraiser - JB
    • jb
    • Conrad and Flinn at fundraiser

    The bottom line of Shanklin's being ID'd in the fast-food queue: He had to give an impromptu concert, using several of his voices - including McCain, Pat Buchanan, and John Edwards.

    The impressionist, who has brought out several CD's, advises (or warns) fans to expect another later this year.

  • The challenge to Memphis city council candidate Paul Shaffer, business manager of an IBEW local, was dropped late last week by Republican Election Commission member Robert Meyers when Shaffer was able to demonstrate that he both lived at and was registered to vote at an address in District 9, an at-large district which takes in half the city.

    That leaves Shaffer, who has considerable Democratic support, as the main challenger to businessman Kemp Conrad, who is supported by the Shelby County Republicans. Two other candidates are not expected to figure in the outcome of the special election, set for November 4. Former councilman Jack Sammons was named by the council this week as interim council member for the District 9, Position 1 seat, vacated at the end of August by former chairman Scott McCormick, who became president of the philanthropic Plough Foundation.

    While this is Shaffer’s first major bid for office, Conrad ran for a different council seat only last year, losing to current council member Shea Flinn. As a sign of Conrad’s improved prospects, Flinn’s father, Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn hosted a fundraiser for his son’s erstwhile opponent this past week.

    At that fundraiser, Conrad focused on a series of talking points, with public safety predominating as his core issue. But he ad-libbed an attack on Shaffer as a “union boss” and suggested that resisting union pressures might become an issue in his campaign.

    For his part, Shaffer put out an all-points email seeking volunteers and announcing that he intended to campaign at this weekend’s Cooper-Young festival.

    click to enlarge PAUL SHANKLIN
    • Paul Shanklin

  • The RNC affair in St. Paul ended with the traditional acceptance address by GOP nominee McCain, of course. But that was not the true end. The actual finale came afterward, during an extended bit of hoopla that included an equally traditional balloon drop.

    Otherwise well-behaved Memphians competed like bandits for this manna dropping from the ceiling of the Xcel Energy Center. This shot captures Beale Street impresario John Elkington (at left) and District Attorney General Bill Gibbons (dead center) in the act of vying with other Tennessee delegates.

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