Some significant names were added to the A C Wharton campaign at a rally Saturday at its Eastgate headquarters. City Councilman Jim Strickland and Memphis City Schools board member Tomeka Hart were among six people announced as chairpersons in the county mayor's bid to win the City of Memphis's special mayoral election.
Strickland, a lawyer, had made serious noise about possibly making his own bid, and the first-term Councilman attracted more than 1,000 followers on a Facebook page dedicated to drafting him to run for mayor. Strickland would have emphasized public safety and budgetary issues as a candidate, but a poll commissioned by his exploratory committee indicated Wharton's electoral support would be too much to overcome.
Strickland's addition adds more fundraising firepower to an already formidable organization that has seen Wharton raise exponentially more money than other declared candidates. About a dozen people have said they are committed to running in the Oct. 15 special election, although nearly three dozen people have pulled petitions from the Shelby County Election Commission to become candidates.
Hart, the 2008 schools board president, serves as president and chief executive officer of the Memphis Urban League.
Four others were also announced: Darrell Cobbins, owner of Universal Commercial Real Estate; Ray Peterson Sr., Wharton's pastor at South Parkway Church of Christ; Lois Stockton, owner of Nail Station and a community activist; and, Jose Velazquez, former executive director of Latino Memphis and now the deputy director of the National Council of La Raza's affiliate services.
The campaign's press release emphasized the "diverse group" of "faith, business, volunteer communities" represented in the announcement.
"They represent a wonderfully diverse cross-section of our community and they share my view for Memphis' future: making sure that all of our citizens have good jobs, safe neighborhoods,
and an effective, efficient City Hall to serve them," Wharton said in a statement.