Like all of you, I have pondered the offerings of the candidates in the special election to choose a new Mayor for Memphis.
I have not dug to find out what every one of the 25 candidates left in the race after the withdrawal deadline wants to do if elected. In my defense, it is their job to get their message out in ways effective to reach any voter in the city who reads, watches television, or listens to the radio. However, I wouldn't dream of using my humble position in the media to discourage any candidate from running, as I seem to recall at least one so-called "professional" journalist has done.
Nonetheless, I can only give a few of the candidates serious consideration: the ones who have given competent and honorable public service in previous positions in which they acquired sufficient experience to qualify them for a job as big as being the "strong" Mayor of a large city.
Unfortunately, that eliminates one candidate with some fresh ideas and a fresh approach: a very likeable, down-to-earth, sincere yet charismatic, and intelligent friend of a recently deceased friend of mine, Jim Dickinson. And that would be Jerry Lawler. Had he served even one term on the City Council, I would not be hearing echoes of my thoughts on this matter from other citizens. There is nothing preventing Jerry from acquiring such experience and showing his mettle in another tough arena, Memphis politics, before asking for the top job in that arena. Jerry does do his own Tweets; and if he continues to communicate personally with Memphians in the years to come, he could become a future favorite for anything. I will say, if Lawler somehow sneaks in there, I will not lose any sleep election night. What I'm saying is that I trust his honesty and willingness to recruit competent help.
I have been acquainted with Carol Chumney ever since she showed up active in early Steve Cohen for State Senate campaigns. I still use the word "acquainted" because I have never succeeded in developing what I would consider a real friendship, let alone a warm one, with Carol after all these years. You can say that is my fault, but you need to know Carol before saying that. I did help her try to knock Herenton out the last time, but too many misguided Midtown white liberals lined up behind Hermann "Golden MLG&W Parachute, Drug Test" Morris and screwed the City up for several more years. I have called Carol out in public writings for being petty and shrill publicly and too quickly, but it hasn't sunk in. And coasting in a safe Tennessee House of Representatives seat for so long has not given her either the management or people skills to be Mayor. You'd think after all this time, and with some experience in City government, she could field a brilliant platform of ideas to make the city better, but no.... After serving in Cohen's shadow for so long, I think she got frustrated at advancing in the legislature and bolted for the Council, and ended up trying to be wine before its time in City government. Unfortunately, her wine hasn't gotten better with age; and gender, like race, is not a sufficient reason to vote or not vote for a candidate. However, if enough women mistakenly think they must vote for Carol because she wears the same kind of clothes they do, and she wins, then again, as in the case of Lawler, I won't lose sleep election night, because I know Carol is honest.
Myron Lowery does not do new media well. I suspect it is because he was part of the old media and doesn't really respect bloggers and online interaction. I don't know anyone, even of the ones I know in more traditional media, who has ever gotten an email from Myron, let alone a Tweet. In person, Myron can be very nice, but see the above. Lately, he has shown courage in trying to make needed changes, but he could have gotten some accurate legal advice before rocking the boat as interim Mayor. Earlier in his career on the Council, he was more "go along to get along"; and some people who remember him suing the local TV station who employed him for racial discrimination won't think that was warranted. I remain somewhat concerned about Myron's emotionality (see his 1978 assault case); but I believe this city can survive Myron as Mayor and even reap some benefit from changes he would make, so again I will be able to sleep on election night if Myron wins.
I wouldn't even be discussing Charles Carpenter here were it not for the self-financing made possible in his campaign by the incredible amounts of money he made as Willie Herenton's chosen sole bond counsel for the City of Memphis for years. Carpenter is trying to start at the top just because he was close to Herenton, without having held a previous elected office. He's not a stupid man; rather, he is articulate, well-educated, and less inclined to the macho bombast of the man he made his recent big money through. However, I have read his platform; and you would think, being such an insider the last umpteen years, he could have come up with some proposals more intelligent than being a hater of Police Director Larry Godwin. Perhaps he wouldn't let favored lawyers continue to slop at the trough of Memphis city government, but the revelations of all these excessive payments coming just now cannot help Carpenter. He should run for Council and show the people what he's got besides a big business-steering friend and some knowhow as a municipal bond counsel. He does appear to do his own Tweets and appears to be sincere in wanting to serve and be a friend to the people out here. I do not dislike this man (yet); he just seems to be too much business as usual to get my vote this time.
Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges brought us Willie Herenton in the first place, by draining votes from Dick Hackett. His mental act has gotten old but can't be easily forgotten, now that he may want to clean up his act and use his intelligence to clean up City government. People, if you want to protest, do it another way than voting for a spoiler who could create more chaos and bad publicity than even Herenton did.
Which brings me to AC Wharton. I met AC when Steve Cohen and I were doing a TV show on cable access. I thought AC was unique for Memphis with his Charley Pride-style accent and courtly speech and demeanor. I listened to what he said and experienced his attitudes and began to like AC. Later, when Pete Sisson tried to knock AC out as Chief Public Defender, I told Pete (an old family friend of my dad's) that that would be a mistake, that we needed a classy African-American man as a role model in our county; and Pete seemed to back off. AC survived. I became a lawyer and never heard any of the public defenders badmouth AC. I got on AC once in public when a U.S. Supreme Court case came down that I thought the Public Defender ought to enforce here. AC defended himself but did not display an arrogant temperament. AC accumulated enough support in all walks of life and among both races in Shelby County to get himself elected County Mayor, when the demographics still worked against a black man being elected countywide. AC quietly began running Shelby County government without drama or scandal, while the good news he was able to make was being overshadowed by controversy on the City side. I expect AC will run the City of Memphis executive branch the same way. After all the drama and divisive rhetoric generated by the City Mayor and his administration in recent years, that is exactly what I am ready for: several years in a row of honest, efficient, and totally fair-minded City government. As I finish out my work life in this city and county and decide if I want to stay here, I am most confident that AC Wharton can provide the peaceful and prosperous environment that we all want in this city.
For reasons given, I whole-heartedly endorse the candidacy of AC Wharton for Mayor of the City of Memphis.