September 2009 Archives

Memphis mayoral candidates will be grilled on their plans for turning Memphis into a greener, more sustainable community at a candidate forum on Thursday.

Greening Greater Memphis, a nonprofit dedicated to making Memphis green, will host the forum at 6 p.m. at the University of Memphis' Panhellenic Building, 384 Patterson Street.

The candidates will be asked questions related to quality of life, health and the environment, including the preservation of the city's rivers, parks, greenlines, air quality and outdoor activities.

All of the mayoral candidates were invited to participate in the forum, which will last about 90 minutes.

The event is free and open to the public.

UPDATE: Confirmed for the event are attorney Charles Carpenter, former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery and Memphis City School board member Kenneth Whalum.

Chumney says she is not opposed to Godwin


Carol Chumney objects to a story that ran this morning describing where mayoral candidates stand when it comes to Memphis Police Department director Larry Godwin and the department's intense data-driven Operation Blue Crush initiative it says has reduced crime by 17 percent since 2006.

We put Chumney into the category of those "opposed" to Godwin, but Chumney points out she has been very careful to never voice a specific opinion on whether Godwin should be retained or replaced. While Godwin and Chumney have waged more than a few wars of words going back to her time as City Councilwoman and 2007 mayoral candidate, Chumney also says she has never said whether she would continue pursuing the Blue Crush strategy.

Though she has called for management changes with MPD, she emphatically states that "Larry Godwin can put his resume on my desk just like anybody else."

On Blue Crush, she said she would evaluate it with the police director she does hire.

Godwin clearly believes Chumney would not retain him, and minces no words in firing back at her consistent criticisms that "crime is out of control."

At the WMC-TV Channel 5 debate in August, Chumney said: "Clearly the department is not managed properly and I will make sure it is managed properly."

In that debate, she also said that Memphis was ranked second in the nation in crime, referring to rankings compiled by CQ Press based upon 2007 crime numbers cities across the nation provided to the FBI.

In fact, those rankings refer to the eight-county Memphis metropolitan statistical area, and FBI considers such rankings invalid because of the many differences in how cities report and track crime. New York, for instance, admits it does not report as crime to the FBI larceny thefts of less than $1,000, while a recent Memphis crime report involved the theft of 10 rolls of pennies.

"They lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents," the FBI says on its Website.

Godwin does not hide his disdain for Chumney, who was very critical about a Downtown incident on the Fourth of July involving what she said were "100 teenagers roaming and unsupervised" and throwing fireworks into crowds.

"She really does not have a clue about what we do," Godwin said Monday.

Chumney said she plans to call Godwin "to make sure he is aware of my position."

Wharton outscores rivals in new rating


Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton outscored his rivals in a new rating of candidates.

Coalition for a Better Memphis - a nonpartisan group made up of local businesses and nonprofit organizations -- rated 10 of the candidates for Memphis mayor, giving Wharton a score of 90 out of 100, followed by attorney Charles Carpenter with an 83 and former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney with an 82.

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery received a 79 while former Shelby County Commissioner John Willingham scored an 80.

Information from participating candidates was used to compile numerical ratings in a number of categories and to calculate an overall score. The ratings are not considered endorsements.

To see a complete list of the ratings, click here. To read the candidate questionnaires, click here.

All other information is available at

Has anything meaningful come out of the debates and forums?


The top candidates for Memphis mayor have sparred in close to half a dozen forums and debates.

Two of the debates have been televised. The first featured nine candidates and aired on WMC-TV Channel 5. The second, sponsored WREG-TV Channel 3 and The Commercial Appeal, featured only Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, former mayoral candidate Carol Chumney and attorney Charles Carpenter.

There's another debate tonight hosted by the Cordova Leadership Council, although staff reporter Don Wade writes Wharton is not expected to attend.

While these forums and debates are billed as a chance for voters to see where the candidates stand on issues, this Eye on City Hall blogger wonders whether candidates are able to get beyond platitudes convey the kind of leader they'd make.

What do you think?

Jefferson pleads council to keep job; now asks for sick leave


Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery has been criticized for trying to fire embattled city attorney Elbert Jefferson.

But Jefferson fought for his job, basically telling the city council he's done nothing to warrant being terminiated.

But as City Hall reporter Amos Maki is reporting, Jefferson isn't showing up to work, claiming he's too sick. He's a diabetic.

What do you think: Should the council have honored Lowery's request to terminate Jefferson? Or do you think the attorney deserved a second chance?

Lowery's fist-bump makes Jay Leno


Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery is making the rounds on late-night comedy.

Following his cameo on Conan O'Brien's "The Tonight Show," Lowery's infamous fist bump also got a mention from Jay Leno on Thursday.

On "The Jay Leno Show," Leno shows a doctored clip of the bump in which the Tibetan spiritual leader punches out Lowery.

Check it out below at the 4-minute mark:

Wharton going after the Hee Haw vote?


With all the attention focused on Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's unique greeting of the Dalai Lama, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton's reaction to meeting him has been overshadowed.

Here is what Wharton said afterward: "This is big stuff for a guy from Lebanon, Tennessee. The greatest person I ever met was Minnie Pearl from the Grand Ole Opry ... I'm in high cotton, so to speak."

With Wharton running in the special election for Memphis mayor, one has to wonder exactly where he was going with those comments. While it is true that Wharton talks often of how he grew up a big fan of the Grand Ole Opry, dropping a Minnie Pearl reference during a televised interview seems a curious choice.

How about this theory? Maybe Wharton is feeling so good about his lead that he's going after some of Chumney's base, older white voters who still live in Memphis long after their children have moved.

That or maybe "Hee Haw" goes over big in Whitehaven and Hickory Hill?

It also makes you wonder how the Dalai Lama would have reacted if Mayor Wharton had offered him a big, shrill Minnie Pearl "HOW-DEEE!"

Lowery's CNN column among most read

lowery-most-read-image.jpgMemphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's guest column on -- "Why I fist-bumped the Dalai Lama" -- is among the most read stories on the national new organization's Web site right now.

In fact, it's listed as No. 7 on the "Most Viewed" section of the site.

In the column, Lowery wrote of his encounter with the Dalai Lama: "He is about peace and harmony, and a fist bump is just another expression of warm friendship that he again returned to me before he left."

Lowery's fist bump included in Conan O'Brien monologue


Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's Dalai Lama fist bump has become fodder for at least one late-night comedian.

Conan O'Brien included the greeting in his monologue on Wednesday on the Tonight Show, telling his studio audience that the mayor of Memphis greeted the Dalai Lama earlier this week with a fist bump and a "Hello... Dalai."

"That's true," O'Brien said, to laughs.

O'Brien continued:

"When it came time to say goodbye, the mayor slapped the Dalai Lama on the ass and said, take it easy, Lama Lama Ding Dong!" Watch the clip below to see the monologue. The joke comes up at 7:35 minutes.

Lowery's Dalai Lama fist bump makes national media


Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery caught attention from the national media this week when he fist-bumped the Dalai Lama.

A video clip of Lowery greeting the spiritual leader has aired on The Today Show, CNN, FOX News and the Conan O'Brien Show.

Now Lowery has taken to to defend the greeting "heard round the world."

"Hello Dalai, Well, hello...Dalai!" Lowery begins in his column, which you can read by clicking here.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time. And with hindsight being 20/20; it still does. How often do you get to meet an international figure as captivating as the Dalai Lama? I wanted to make an impression, and break the ice, in my Southern hospitality sort of way."

Lowery writes that barely an hour had passed before reporters started calling his now infamous fist bump "disrespectful" and "inappropriate."

"It's unfortunate that not everyone could allow themselves to enjoy the moment, as we did," Lowery writes. Lowery explains that he started fist-bumping around Memphis amid growing concerns of catching the H1N1 flu. But that's not why he ultimately decided to fist bump with the Tibetan government's leader-in-exile.

"I greeted him this way because I'm a down to earth guy, who was raised by a single mother with four sons in public housing," Lowery writes. "I still tell everyone to call me Myron. I am now living a dream as the mayor of Memphis."

Lowery said in a statement released today that he's "thrilled that this warm, genuine moment between myself and the Dalai Lama has generated nothing but positive, worldwide attention for the City of Memphis from so many major news and entertainment programs."

Memphis mayoral candidate and pro wrestler Jerry Lawler put WREG-TV Channel 3 and The Commercial Appeal on notice this afternoon with a hand-delivered letter threatening legal action unless he's allowed to join a mayoral debate on Saturday.

Lawler, who doesn't agree with the selection process or the four candidates asked to participate, showed up at the Channel 3 and CA offices today with his attorney and delivered the letter threatening injunctive relief to stop the debate unless he's allowed in.


"We feel this is sending a message to the voters that certain candidates don't have a chance to win," Lawler said. "That hurts my campaign especially."

Lawler arrived in a black Cadillac and was egged on by a crowd of trailing supporters waving campaign signs - "Let's body slam the corrupt political system! Jerry Lawler is the man!" yelled supporter Doug Martin, 50, owner of Graceland Press, an Elvis Presley fan publication.

The debate will feature the top-four performing candidates based on the results of a recent Channel 3-CA poll. Those candidates include Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery and attorney Charles Carpenter.

In a letter to the CA and Channel 3, Lawler's attorney, Christine Stephens of Apperson, Crump & Maxwell, PLC, said Lawler's exclusion may be in violation of the Federal Communications Act because despite the "seriousness of Mr. Lawler's candidacy" the station and newspaper "unilaterally and capriciously decided to exclude him from the Debate."

In response to Lawler, Channel 3 issued a statement saying the debate will proceed Saturday as planned.

"It is not practical to include all the candidates," reads the statement released by Channel 3. "Candidates were selected based on the results of an independent poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, Inc., the premier pollster for state and local elections in the country. The poll was scientific and was conducted by standard, accepted methodology."

Mayoral candidate and pro wrestler Jerry Lawler will not let a local TV station exclude him from an upcoming mayoral debate without a fight.

Lawler is threatening legal action against WREG-TV Channel 3 unless the station allows him to participate in a televised debate Saturday, which is also sponsored by The Commercial Appeal. He's claiming his exclusion from the debate - which is open to only four top candidates -- "could result in permanent, irreparable damage to his mayoral campaign."

"The outrage has been overwhelming," Lawler said in a statement. "Our campaign headquarters has been flooded with phone calls and emails. People are upset, they feel like they are being ignored - their voice is being ignored by the media and by the status quo career politicians."

The debate will feature Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney and attorney Charles Carpenter - a decision made based on the results of last week's Mason-Dixon poll of 400 likely voters.

The poll, also sponsored by The CA, showed Wharton winning 45 percent of support from those "likely voters" surveyed. Chumney won 11 percent, followed by Lowery with 10 percent, Carpenter with 5 percent and 21 percent "undecided."

Lawler won support from 2 percent of those surveyed.

Prior to the poll, Channel 3 sent a letter to all 25 mayoral candidates letting them know that the two upcoming televised debates would be open to either the top four candidates in the poll or any candidate netting greater than 15 percent of support.

Lawler is claiming the poll is not demographically or geographically representative of the registered voter population and should not be the basis for the debate.

"It's just a complete slap in the face of the citizens of Memphis," Lawler said. "This is a very important election, and now just one poll that was conducted over a three-day period of just 400 people is going to determine who should have the opportunity to speak to the community? It's just a shame to see the people of our great city treated this way, having their vote disenfranchised. Every voting block has a voice and deserves to be heard."

Memphis Police Association backs Wharton, Lowery


While Eye on City Hall is not in the habit of printing all mayoral endorsements, the dual endorsement of Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery and Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton by the Memphis Police Association underscores some telling themes in the Oct. 15 election to replace Willie Herenton.

The Memphis Police Association, the union representing Memphis police, has never in its history endorsed two candidates. But union members were split between Lowery and Wharton, so union president J.D. Sewell said they decided to back both.

Officers have been happy with Lowery, Sewell said. While on the City Council, he's routinely supported Memphis police and earlier this year voted to let officers keep a negotiated 3 percent raise threatened by budget cuts. As mayor, officers have also been impressed with Lowery's openness and transparency, Sewell said.

But Wharton - the favored frontrunner in this race -- was not to be ignored. He's been "working hard to get our endorsement and telling us his ideas," Sewell said.

"And so to not lose either one, I thought why not endorse both?" Sewell said.

While Lowery has said as mayor he has no plans to get rid of police director Larry Godwin, Wharton has said he would find the most qualified person for the job, even if that means conducting a national search.

Sewell said he's told both candidates the association wants a police director who will work well with the candidates. Asked about the association's relationship with Godwin, Sewell said only that "it could be better."

This endorsement could also be interpreted to reveal the waning strength of candidate Carol Chumney, a former City Councilwoman.

Chumney received the association's mayoral endorsement in 2007 because she was perceived as the candidate most able to defeat Herenton, the incumbent, Sewell said.

Two years later, Chumney's strength as a candidate appears to have waned, at least in the eyes of some.

"She was up there but she didn't make the top two." Sewell said. "We just believe Myron and AC are a little bit better than Carol."

Wharton, Carpenter and "Herentonism"


Charles Carpenter makes the fair point in today's paper that while he is painted with brush of what he calls "Herentonism", that Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton gets a pass. This may qualify as another example of where timing is everything.

One reason the shorthand label is applied to Carpenter -- fair or unfair -- is becase this is his first foray into politics as a candidate. When someone asks, "Who is Charles Carpenter?" -- the first answer is that Carpenter is the guy who managed former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton's campaigns going back to the beginning, in 1991. Another answer is that he is a very successful attorney who grew his business tremendoulsy executing public bond deals during Herenton's tenure. Carpenter's challenge from the very beginning has been to find ways to bring his compelling personal story front and center -- from growing up modestly in South Memphis to graduating from prestigious institutions like Howard University and Notre Dame Law and eventually putting his office in an historic Beale Steet building across from Church Park. The very abbreviated nature of this special mayoral election makes Carpenter's challenge even more difficult; in a regular campaign, Carpenter could have spent the first few months distancing himself from Herenton and the next several months distinguishing himself as a candidate.

It is true that Wharton was Herenton's campaign manager in 1995 and 1999. In those years, multiple people would stand up and be counted as leaders of Herenton's campaigns -- not least, in 1999, one Gayle Rose. But for Wharton, the association arguably helped him when he first came forward to run for county mayor.

In 2002, the perception of local government was such that the City of Memphis was largely considered more fiscally sound, better run and less associated with corruption probes than Shelby County government at the time. Indeed, Herenton would win the 2003 city election with 70 percent of the vote, an even wider margin than the one Wharton ran up in the 2002 county mayoral elections (after crushing Carol Chumney in the 2002 Democratic primary with 80 percent of the vote, Wharton got 61 percent in the general election vs. Republican George Flinn's $1 million-plus campaign).

Seven years later, that dynamic has flipped. It is county government where there appears to be more efficiency and less drama and the city where dysfunction and inefficiency seem to reign. And no matter how much candidates choose to spend their valuable campaign time trying to remind people of Wharton's ties to Herenton, voters have had more than seven years now to judge for themselves what effect it should or should not have on Wharton's reputation. Indeed, Wharton is so confident that voters view him as independent that he felt free to lavish Herenton with praise and offer a strong defense of his 17-plus years as mayor when Herenton left office for good on July 30.

Carpenter has not said and surely would not say whether he intends on also running for mayor in 2011, should he fail in his bid in the special election. But one could imagine him running then without Herenton's tenure looming so large over everything. That or maybe Carpenter could stir things up and run for County mayor in 2010, pointing to his extensive experience with and knowledge of public financing.

Thoughts on the mayoral poll


As the reporter tasked with getting reactions from candidates to the Mason Dixon Polling & Research snapshot of the state of the City of Memphis's special mayoral election, there was one easy call to make -- to Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, who showed support from 45 percent of likely voters.

For everyone else, it meant delivering a difficult message -- a nationally-respected polling company had some deflating numbers for them. All took it like professionals, but there was discernible disappointment. However they chose to then interpret the poll of 400 likely voters, it was clear they had hoped the poll would affirm their electoral ambitions.

Former state legislator and City Councilwoman Carol Chumney (11 percent) rejected the poll outright and called for voters to show up "en masse" to elect a candidate "independent of the status quo." Chumney has not hidden her disgust at a poll commissioned by The Commercial Appeal two weeks before the 2007 election that showed her tied with Herman Morris at 19 percent and with Willie Herenton at 24 percent.

A close reading of that poll, however, showed a huge number of undecideds -- nearly 25 percent -- as well as a huge number of likely African-American voters who refused to participate. Steven Ethridge, a well-respected local pollster, had surmised that many of those not responding were likely Herenton voters and the undecideds were some mix of likely Herenton voters or voters waiting to decide whether Morris or Chumney had the best chance of beating Herenton.

As it turned out, Herenton got 42 percent of the vote to around 35 percent for Chumney -- expanding on the 5-percent advantage in the poll by 2 more points.

Charles Carpenter (5 percent), who managed that Herenton campaign, has a point that there is a not insignificant pocket of voters in Memphis that polls sometimes fail to account. Whether it is enough for him to erase a 40-point deficit is another matter, though Carpenter believes that Wharton's support is "soft" and that the Carpenter campaign is building momentum now that it has worked hard to achieve some name recognition.

Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr. (3 percent) and his supporters could certainly lay claim to some of those voters the poll may have missed, though his youth-oriented campaign is targeting a young demographic notorious for not being reliable when it comes to showing up to vote.

Professional wrestler Jerry Lawler (2 percent), who has worked at presenting himself as a serious and eager candidate, found the numbers hard to square with the support he said he receives in the community. After all, he did receive 11 percent of the vote in a 1999 run in which Herenton and Joe Ford waged a memorable battle.

"Apparently the political machine that runs Memphis has already decided who they want down at City Hall," Lawler responded via email. "This is the same old political spin that disenfranchises voters. It's how people are manipulated into voting for the same old career politicians. I've talked to more than 400 people myself and I can tell you that this poll is not a true sampling of the citizens of Memphis."

Wharton, by the way, felt the numbers undercounted his true support, too. He said he is confident he'll pull a big portion of the 21 percent of undecided voters and receive more than 50 percent of the vote. He says his campaign has not yet hit top speed, and he fully expects other candidates to go very negative on him in the coming days and weeks.

On that score, Wharton pointed out that the final poll of his 2002 county mayor campaign showed him with 45 percent of the vote, at which point his opponent, Republican George Flinn, amplified attacks on Wharton -- who ended up with 61 percent of the vote.

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery (10 percent) did not reject the poll, and seemed confident that he can do more to close the gap than any other candidate. Time is running out, however -- early voting for the Oct. 15 election begins next Friday.

Commercial Appeal mayor's poll results to be published at 10 p.m.

The Commercial Appeal has commissioned a poll predicting a winner in the Oct. 15 Memphis mayor's race to replace Willie Herenton.
The results will be released tonight at 10 p.m. at Stop by tonight to find out the predicted pick for Memphis mayor.

Does Malone v. Byrd = city vs. county?


Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone announced her campaign for the 2010 Shelby County mayor's race on Wednesday at the Orange Mound house her grandparents bought in the 1930s. Although Malone did not grow up in Memphis, she wanted to make the point that her roots in the city run deep, and begin at that house, where she spent many of her childhood summers (she grew up in Chicago and Utica, Miss.).

The only other declared candidate for the May 2010 primary is fellow Democrat Harold Byrd, the Bank of Bartlett president who is waiting to have a similar "grand opening" sort of campaign event. In an interview on Tuesday, Byrd repeatedly referred to his roots growing up in Bartlett and how that will help him foster cooperation and trust with Shelby County municipalities outside of Memphis.

Whether that contrast between city and county will define the contest between Byrd and Malone over the next 33 weeks of campaigning remains to be seen. Byrd will certainly tout his strength among voters outside the city, but he also will lean heavily on the relationships he has built in Memphis as a prominent University of Memphis booster and friend and supporter of many influential Memphis politicians (not least his long friendship with County Commissioner Sidney Chism).

Malone, a public relations business owner, will rely on the political base she built going back to a 1995 run for Memphis City Schools board, but points to her two terms on County Commission, including a year as the chairwoman, as evidence of her ability to work with leaders outside of Memphis and understand the concerns of county residents.

Malone, by the way, said she fully expects more candidates to get into the Democratic primary, including some who are now running in the City of Memphis's special election.

Whalum blocks unfriendly Twitterers


Memphis mayoral candidate Kenneth Whalum, a Memphis City School Board member, is blocking certain users on Twitter.

Twitter account holder Shane Adams, who goes by the alias "ShaneofMemphis" and who describes himself on Twitter as a "liberal rabblerouser living in a conservative town," earlier today took to his Twitter page to lament being blocked by Whalum, Twitter alias "KWHALUM."

"obviously @kwhalum does not like dissent. I was blocked. That's stupid," he wrote.

Whalum has also blocked @vibinc and @peskyfly.

Whalum responded to ShaneofMemphis' Tweets: "and i'll block you again @shaneofmemphis."

Judging by ShaneofMemphis' page, he's taken a few digs at Whalum, saying he "prob has people anoint his feet with oil."

Being blocked means those Twitter users will not see Whalum's tweets in their timeline, even though they can still access all of Whalum's tweets by going directly to his Twitter page.

Whalum uses his page primarily as a campaign tool. He shares updates from the campaign trail and riffs on the election: "the status quo is scared to death. don't worry, though, real Memphians aren't as vindictive as you think. Peace," he wrote earlier today.

He also uses Twitter to dialogue with members of the media: "welcome to @kwhalum, commercial appeal. what took you so long? New Movement New Mayor New Memphis Vote WHALUM!"

When asked about blocking certain Twitter users, Whalum responded today in an e-mail: "I think people are allowed to block whoever they want to block. Somebody complained??? ROTFLOL! It's not that crucial!!!!!! :-D"

Whalum isn't the only mayoral candidate with Twitter page. Candidates including attorney Charles Carpenter, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, professional wrestler Jerry Lawler and former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney have all relied on Twitter to spread their campaign whereabouts and their message.

Mayoral candidates will face-off in two upcoming forums


Candidates for Memphis mayor will get a chance to face off in two upcoming mayoral forums.

The Coalition for a Better Memphis will host a forum at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 at Christian Brothers University. is sponsoring another forum at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21 at the Breath of Life Christian Center.

Byrd, Malone opening bids for county mayor


After flirting with the notion for the last several months, Deidre Malone and Harold Byrd are finally making official their competing bids for Shelby County mayor.

Both will be running in the county Democratic primary, scheduled for early next May. No Republicans have yet indicated strong interest in running. The general election is in August of 2010.

Malone, a 46-year-old County Commissioner completing her second term, will have a press conference Wednesday morning at the Orange Mound home of her grandparents and then hold a fundraiser Wednesday night celebrating her campaign moving into fulltime mode.

Byrd, 59-year-old president of Bartlett Bank and a former state legislator, said he gave permission for a group of supporters to send around an email on Tuesday announcing that he had decided to commit to a run. He stopped short of calling it an official launch, but his website,, makes his intentions very clear.

"Now is the time to move forward," it says at the top, and in a video message, Byrd says, "I am Harold Byrd and I want to be your Shelby County mayor."

Malone said she always intended to run for County mayor but wanted to wait until after her stint as Commission chairwoman had been completed. She officially handed over the reins to Commissioner Joyce Avery -- who she had also challenged in seeking a second one-year term as chairwoman -- on Monday, and said she would have held her events Tuesday if Condeleeza Rice had not been in town for an event.

"It was important to me to try and make a concerted effort to spend a great deal of my time focused on Commission business," said Malone, who added that she also needed to put someone in place to run daily operations at the public relations she owns.

"After tomorrow (Wednesday), I will be full-fledged running," she said.

Byrd, who withdrew from Shelby County's Democratic mayoral primary in 2002 shortly after A C Wharton entered, said he had been receiving a huge outpouring of support since his email went out on Tuesday.

"Over the past few months, interacting with friends and community leaders, I have been heartened by the support I have received from them saying, 'We want you to run for Shelby County mayor because you can make a difference,' " Byrd said.

Malone said Tuesday that if current Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton does win the City of Memphis's special mayoral election, she would not seek to become interim mayor. Byrd said he believes the Commission would choose to limit any candidates for the interim post to those not planning to run in 2010.

Because of term limits, Wharton would leave office in 2010 no matter what happens in the October city election.

Search salaries of Memphis city employees

The salaries of City of Memphis employees are now available in a searchable database on The Commercial Appeal's online Data Center. The database includes all city salaries as of Aug. 12, so the database does reflect some of the personnel changes made by Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery. On an annual basis, Lowery would make $185,791.84, according to the data.

Salaries of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division employees are also available at the Data Center, as well as University of Tennessee, Tennessee Board of Regents and Shelby County Schools salaries.

The controversy surrounding embattled city attorney Elbert Jefferson could reach its climax today at City Hall.

Jefferson is under fire for picking up former Mayor Willie Herenton's legal tab. He's become the target of a federal investigation for authorizing a $55,000 payment to Herenton's private attorney, Robert Spence, who was hired to represent the former mayor in a criminal probe.

A showdown between Jefferson, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery and members of the Memphis City Council is anticipated today at 3:30 p.m. That's when council members are expected to vote on a resolution terminating the city's top attorney.

Earlier today, a crowd of reporters bearing microphones, notebooks and video cameras followed Jefferson out of a committee room on the fifth floor of City Hall, but he didn't stop to talk, and disappeared into a secured area for officials while reporters lingered outside. Most of them left when he didn't emerge for a long time.

Jefferson is talking with council members about his situation in advance of a vote to terminate him.

Read more about this situation from CA reporter Daniel Connolly.

New York Times explores Herenton's racial campaign for Congress


Willie Herenton's race-baiting strategy to clinch a Congressional seat has garnered him attention in the New York Times.

In today's Times, reporter Robbie Brown explores Herenton's campaign for Rep. Steve Cohen's 9th Congressional District seat and describes how the former mayor is running a "blistering campaign" against Cohen, a fellow Democrat, with a "precarious hold on the majority black district."

Brown writes that the primary election in August 2010 "pits an unlikely officeholder -- a Jew in a deeply Christian region, a middle-age white man known for fighting for blacks and women -- against a prominent challenger. Already, the campaign has proved how deeply race still infuses much of politics in the South, even after the election of a black president."

The article quotes Herenton on a KWAM radio interview saying to "know Steve Cohen is to know that he really does not think much of African-Americans. He's played the black community well."

Brown also quotes Herenton's campaign manager, County Commissioner Sidney Chism, saying this is a seat "set aside for people who look like me."

"It wasn't set aside for a Jew or a Christian. It was set aside so that blacks could have representation," Chism says.

The blogosphere has already fired off reactions to the piece.

Matthew Yglesias, a fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and a blogger on, writes that while Cohen is always vulnerable as a white politician representing a majority-black district, overt appeals to racial solidarity find more success as a subtext rather than the text.

"Foregrounding the race issue so explicitly tends, I think, to make it seem as if you don't have a real rationale for your campaign," Yglesias writes.

What do you think, will Herenton's campaign strategy win votes given the district's demographics? Or, is the race-baiting just a cover-up for a campaign short on substance?

Chumney to open campaign headquarters


Mayoral candidate Carol Chumney will open her campaign's headquarters at 3179 Poplar Ave on Sunday at 3 p.m., according to a campaign press release.

Interestingly, at the bottom it says "paid for by Carol Chumney for Mayor, Carol Chumney, treasurer."

What do you think, is it unusual for a candidate to double as a campaign treasurer?

Carpenter's voluntary drug test comes back clean


Following the lead of past mayoral candidates, attorney Charles Carpenter voluntarily underwent a drug test this week.

The candidate - who is drug-free, by the way - is calling on all serious candidates to also submit to drug testing.

He said for the sake of accountability, a drug-free work place is essential.

His drug test, performed by OccuMed of Memphis, came back negative. You can see the results by clicking here.

Carpenter isn't the first candidate to voluntarily opt for a screening. In 2007, mayoral candidate Herman Morris went on the offensive and challenged incumbent Willie Herenton to testing.

Morris' test also came back negative, but Herenton, whose campaign was being managed by Carpenter at the time, never took the bait.

Halbert, Godwin letters available for view

On Thursday, Eye on City Hall reported an ongoing feud between Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert. The two officials exchanged angry letters, which you can read by clicking the following links:


Actually, 25 candidates in the Memphis mayor's race


Make that 25 candidates for Memphis mayor.

The Shelby County Election Commission released a list this afternoon showing real estate broker Harrel C. Moore has also withdrawn from the Memphis mayor's race today. The other candidates to withdraw earlier were City Councilman Joe Brown and attorney Kenneth E. Baroff.

Following is a list of all 25 declared candidates: Leo Awgowhat, Randy Cagle, Charles Carpenter, Carol Chumney, Dewey Clark, James Clingan, Menelik Fombi, Wanda Halbert, Johnny Hatcher, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, Constance Houston, Dewayne Jones, E.C. Jones, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Ernest Lunati, Mary Taylor-Shelby Wright, Detric Stigall, Thomas "Silky" Sullivan, David Vinciarelli, Vuong Vaughn Vo, Sharon Webb, Kenneth Whalum Jr., A C Wharton, John Willingham

Halbert and Godwin exchange harsh words in ongoing feud


In the latest development of an ongoing and contentious feud between Memphis City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert and Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin, Halbert issued a statement today blasting the "bully-pulpit tactics" of city employees and pledging to stand firm against "manipulation of public perception as a method to hide injustices."

The feud appears to stem from a June disturbance involving Halbert's 24-year-old son, Kelvin Burrus, who was stopped by police and later issued a misdemeanor citation for marijuana possession. Although he allegedly quarreled, Burrus was not arrested or charged with resisting arrest.

Halbert, who is also a candidate in the Memphis mayor's race, had shown up to the scene that night and Godwin later ordered an investigation to determine if Halbert influenced the investigation and whether his officers acted properly.

In the end, the officers involved were both demoted one rank and suspended for 20 days.

Although police found Halbert had not influenced the investigation, the ordeal incensed Halbert, who called it "retaliation" for her criticism of the police department.

Earlier this week, Commercial Appeal reporter Marc Perrusquia mentioned the incident in a Sunday article about open records, in which he wrote: "As it turned out, the data showed most suspects were treated in the exact manner as Halbert's son -- they were given a citation, not jail. She didn't get any special treatment."

The article appeared to open old wounds because on Tuesday, Halbert fired off an angry letter to Godwin, criticizing the handling of the investigation and calling Godwin's decisions the kind of "behavior that creates a sense of perceived racism, fear, and/or retaliation by many citizens of those who are hired to protect and serve."

"If an elected representative and his/her family experiences this kind of rogue behavior, God forbid what may be happening to the everyday citizen of Memphis?" she wrote.

Godwin responded with a four-page, equally angry letter.

"Frankly, your attempt to influence in this community with false accusations against the Memphis Police department is both appalling and irresponsible," he fired back.

He responded to each of her attacks point by point and concluded by saying he has spent the last five years as police director bringing a culture of integrity, accountability and leadership to MPD.

"I refuse to sit back any longer and allow you to destroy the hard work of Memphis Finest because you have this notion that someone is after you and your family. Your accusations and attacks come without the facts to the support them and it is an embarrassment to this city."

Neither Halbert nor Godwin were immediately available for comment.

What do you think, did Godwin overreact by launching an investigation into the handling of Burrus' citation?

Two withdraw name from mayor's race; 26 candidates remain


By the noon deadline, only two candidates had withdrawn their name from the Memphis mayor's race, according to the Shelby County Election Commission.

City Councilman Joe Brown and attorney Kenneth E. Baroff removed their names from the ballot.

That leaves 26 candidates in the Oct. 15 special election to replace Willie Herenton.

That number could change this afternoon, however, when the Election Commission meets at 4:30 p.m. today to certify the ballot.

According to the Election Commission, the following is the list of 26 names still on the ballot for Memphis mayor:

Leo Awgowhat, Randy Cagle, Charles Carpenter, Carol Chumney, Dewey Clark, James Clingan, Menelik Fombi, Wanda Halbert, Johnny Hatcher, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, Constance Houston, Dewayne Jones, E.C. Jones, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Ernest Lunati, Harrel C. Moore, Mary Taylor-Shelby Wright, Detric Stigall, Thomas "Silky" Sullivan, David Vinciarelli, Vuong Vaughn Vo, Sharon Webb, Kenneth Whalum Jr., A C Wharton, John Willingham

Mayoral candidate Carol Chumney is calling on Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton to drop out of the Memphis mayor's race.

Chumney's campaign issued a press release this morning blasting Wharton for his lack of accomplishments during his seven years as county mayor.

"During Wharton's past seven years, we've seen no reduction in infant mortality; no results on consolidation of the city/county governments; no results on securing adequate funding for the Regional Medical Center," Chumney said. "Let's see some results from our County Mayor, before he tries to quit."

When reached by phone, Chumney said The Med, which has for years struggled to cover expenses, is the safety net for the community. To learn that it might have to shut down except for essential services is "really an emergency situation," she said.

"The county mayor under county charter is required to devote full time and attention to duties. By running for city mayor, he's not fulfilling his obligation under the county charter. Nor is he doing the job of making sure that The Regional Medical Center doors stay open for the public," Chumney said.

"I'm calling on him to get the job done that the people elected him to do before he tries to jump ship and abandon these citizens and seek another public position," she added.

Chumney is the second mayoral candidate to attack Wharton's record this week. On Wednesday candidate Charles Carpenter challenged Wharton to a one-on-one debate so the citizens could hear Wharton defend his record.

Wharton was not immediately available for comment.

Brown drops out of mayor's race, bringing roster to 26


The roster of candidates for Memphis mayor is down to 26 as of this morning, according to the Shelby County Election Commission.

City Councilman Joe Brown and Anthony Guess have dropped out of the Oct. 15 special election to replace Willie Herenton.

Noon today is the withdraw deadline. The Election Commission meets today at 4:30 p.m. to certify the ballot.

UPDATE: Incorrect information was provided by the Election Commission this morning. Guess had already been disqualified from the race for not having the required number of signatures. He did not withdraw his name.

Wharton in DC for Infant Mortality Awareness event


Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton found time this week, in the midst of campaigning for Memphis mayor, to visit Washington, DC for an infant mortality awareness event at the National Press Club.

As Washington correspondent Bartholomew Sullivan reported today, Wharton and State Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, attended the screening of a documentary about the Office of Minority Health's outreach efforts filmed in Memphis by the wife of director Spike Lee.

Wharton, who has made infant mortality awareness a priority during his seven years as county mayor, is featured in the film.

According to Sullivan, the film opens at the Shelby County Cemetery where, at the time of the documentary, 402 babies who never made it to their first birthdays are buried.

"Each marker," Wharton says in the film, "represents grief."

Memphis mayoral candidate Charles Carpenter said today if elected he would fire Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and transition crime-fighting to a community-based approach.

"We're going to change the strategy and philosophy for dealing with crime," Carpenter said on a morning interview with WHBQ Fox-13 Memphis.

Carpenter, a private attorney who managed three of Willie Herenton's mayoral campaigns, said this means moving toward a community policing model. People in the neighborhoods often know who committed crimes in their area, but those citizens aren't getting the respect or the cooperation from many officers in the Memphis Police Department, he said. He'd get the police officers out of special units so could get to know residents in their area.

"Once the community knows who the officers are and the officers know the community, I think we'll be more effective at dealing with crime," he said.

In the five-minute sit-down interview, Carpenter also touched on why he's the best choice for mayor, saying he's one of the few non-career politicians in the race.

"We're tired of the same politicians, the same political thought," he said. "If we keep doing the same, we'll keep getting the same mediocre results."

But Carpenter isn't exactly a green thumb at city politics. A longtime confidante of Herenton, Carpenter was hired as outside bond council for the city of Memphis for 17 years, handling complex legal and finance matters for the city.

His campaign slogan is "A New Beginning."

Wharton unveils 33-point platform


Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton has unveiled a 33-point platform in his bid for Memphis mayor.

Unveiled earlier this week on his Web site, the plan outlines Wharton's priorities if elected, including opening satellite offices for the city's divisions, developing a safe streets program, and creating a comprehensive plan to move the city forward.

The platform seems to involve the creation of lots of offices - the Memphis office of Talent and Human Capital, the Memphis Office of Innovation and the Office of Strategic Technology, among them. It also calls for the strengthening of neighborhoods, the development of a sustainable urban design and a Better Parks and Trails program.

Read details on the whole 33-point plan by clicking here.

Carpenter challenges Wharton to a one-on-one debate


Memphis mayoral candidate Charles Carpenter is challenging his opponent Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton to a one-on-one debate.

Wharton has said he'll be careful about the debates he chooses to participate. Although he appeared in a debate two weeks ago, he declined an invitation to speak at a forum Tuesday sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Carpenter said Wednesday it's not right because the public won't get a chance to hear Wharton answer tough questions about his legislative accomplishments after seven years as county mayor.

"All he's doing is issuing sound bites to cover up the fact that he's done little to move our county forward," Carpenter said. "Now he's refusing to debate that issue or even show up. He's trying to keep these issues from coming out to the public so he can be a politician and put pretty imagines and sound bites before the people to keep them from focusing on the real issues. We're not going to allow them to get away with it."

Carpenter said he's approaching Wharton through the media because he expects Wharton to refuse a one-on-one debate.

"But I'm encouraging the public to demand the debate," Carpenter said.

Whalum canvasses city's parks with 50-car entourage


whalum-blog-1.jpgwhalum-blog-2.jpgMemphis mayoral candidate Kenneth Whalum Jr. wasted no time on the campaign trail on Labor Day.

Starting at 11 a.m., he and a caravan of as many as 50 cars hit up parks around the city.

At a Manassas High School reunion and picnic at the Bickford Community Center in North Memphis, Whalum was approached by a 57-year-old sanitation worker, who did not want to be named. The sanitation worker said his division was badly in need of new and safer trucks. He asked Whalum what he'd do for sanitation workers if elected.

"I'll help you get benefits... one of the top priorities is to make sure you get benefits," Whalum said. "I will also help you file a lawsuit. It's not safe to have no trucks and faulty trucks."

Custodian torn between Wharton and Chumney



William Alexander, 36, showed up to the Workers Interfaith Network’s picnic and fundraiser on Labor Day and bumped into mayoral candidates A C Wharton and Carol Chumney.

He likes them both, he said, and he remains undecided about who will get his vote for mayor on Oct. 15.

“I know A C Wharton is doing a good job but I know that Carol Chumney is trying to do a good job,” he said. “I’m stuck between both of them. I like A C, but I haven’t taken my eye off Carol.”

Demonstrating his indecision, Alexander wore buttons for both candidates, in addition to a Teamster’s union button.

Alexander is a custodian at the Trinity United Methodist Church, where the picnic was hosted.

Workers Interfaith Picnic draws mayoral candidates



Labor Day became a full day of campaigning for many of the candidates for Memphis mayor, including Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton (pictured at left, top), former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney (pictured at left, bottom) and Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery.

All three rolled through the Workers Interfaith Network’s Faith and Labor Picnic in Midtown, where many other local politicians were already busy shaking hands.

Picnic organizer and Workers Interfaith Network executive director Rev. Rebekah Gienapp said the annual picnic attracts a lot of union workers (a big voting bloc) and the politically involved.

Lowery: City Atty. Jefferson's actions may be illegal


Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery said today that City Atty. Elbert Jefferson may have made some illegal decisions as the city's chief legal officer and he's glad the FBI is investigating.

Lowery joined the morning show on WHBQ Fox-13 Memphis and answered five minutes of questions, mainly about his relationship with Jefferson.

Following the July 30 retirement of former Mayor Willie Herenton, Lowery weathered criticism during his first week as interim mayor for trying to fire Jefferson without first receiving City Council approval.

Jefferson, who had a few months earlier tried to resign but later changed his mind at Herenton's request, refused to quit when Lowery asked for his resignation.

But now that Jefferson has come under scrutiny for potentially authorizing city payment of Herenton's private legal bills, Lowery said his attempt to fire Jefferson was to protect the city.

"My only concern was the legal department," Lowery said of making personnel changes upon taking office. "Once again, (Jefferson) offered to resign. Why does he want to stay? Is he trying to protect something for the former mayor? These questions have to be asked and I'm grateful that the FBI is now investigating."

Lowery reiterated previous statements made about his amicable working relationship with Jefferson. But he added that those relations may sour if Jefferson continues to block his access to critical contracts.

"The picture that I wanted to paint is we are working together," Lowery said. "But at the same time he's giving me push back for releasing certain contracts. For example, we cannot find the contract for attorney Rickey Wilkins, who was paid $162,000 last month. If these contracts cannot be produced, then the arrangements currently going on may possibly be illegal."

The Fox interview also touched on another Herenton ally, attorney Charles Carpenter, who managed three of Herenton's campaigns for mayor. Carpenter, who is now running for Herenton's old seat, has recently said he intends to fire police director Larry Godwin if elected mayor.

When asked his plans, Lowery said he doesn't have any "changes on the table right now." Lowery then took some shots at Carpenter, saying he's trying to make a name for himself and reminding viewers that Carpenter is also on the city's payroll as a contract employee (he did legal work for the city).

"So, there may be some conflicts there as well for him," Lowery said.

Lowery, Halbert to open campaign headquarters Saturday


Memphis Mayoral Candidates Myron Lowery and Wanda Halbert are both opening campaign headquarters this weekend.

Mayor Pro Tem Lowery's campaign issued a statement today announcing the grand opening of his headquarters at 3254 Elvis Presley. The campaign will host an open-to-the-public event Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m.

At the bottom of the release, his campaign also printed what could be a new campaign slogan: "Mayor Myron Lowery: He's already doing what others are only promising to do!"

City Councilwoman Halbert's campaign will host a grand opening for her headquarters at 919 S. Highland on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Purging of inactive voters has some concerned about political bias


A decision by the Republican-controlled Shelby County Election Commission to purge inactive voters from the voter registration rolls has at least one local activist worried that certain Democratic voters will wind up disenfranchised.

The election commission has stripped close to 60,000 inactive registered voters from the books since January, a move election commission officials say is standard practice after a presidential election.

"After every presidential election, there are folks who have been inactive for two elections and they are purged," said election commission administrator Richard Holden. "It's just a normal cleaning of the rolls.... It's going on all over America in compliance with the laws."

Those laws, he said, guide the election commission to remove someone from the voter registration rolls if they don't vote in two consecutive presidential elections, or anytime between, and fail to communicate with the election commission about their inactivity.

Holden insists that purging doesn't target any particular demographic. Those inactive voters are also encouraged to re-register.

But Republicans hold a three-two majority on the Shelby County Election Commission, and some have complained that purging may disproportionately cut the number of Democratic and African-American voters eligible to cast a ballot in the special mayoral election Oct. 15.

Joseph Kyles, vice president of the Memphis chapter of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said "when a particular party gains access to an election commission, there have been examples where there are obstacles to the party of the opponent.

"The real question is, what's the criteria and how do they go about purging?" Kyles asked. "I don't know the benefits from purging directly after a presidential election.... Why were they purged directly after the historic election of Barack Obama?"

Kyles said his group is monitoring the election commission's removal of names from the books to make sure voters receive proper notification and don't "incur any obstacles" when they go to cast their ballot in October.

Candidates question Wharton's presumed lead in mayoral race


Local pundits and even other mayoral candidates have called Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton a frontrunner in this abbreviated campaign for Memphis mayor.

But with 28 candidates now vying for the seat, a few of Wharton's opponents have questioned Wharton's lead.

Candidate Carol Chumney, a former City Councilwoman, called Wharton's frontrunner status a flawed assessment.

"Why do you think that?" she asked a reporter. "The only poll I've seen is ... the Berje Yacoubian poll that he admitted wasn't a statistically accurate sample. So what's it based on?"

Memphis City Schools board commissioner Kenneth Whalum Jr. said it's absolutely true that people are calling Wharton the frontrunner at this point.

"And so was Hillary Clinton last April," he said, noting that even in a six-week election, it is too early to name a leader.

Meanwhile, candidate Charles Carpenter, Willie Herenton's longtime campaign manager, said Wharton is striking the wrong message. People want issues; Wharton is "running a popularity contest," he said.

"People know him," Carpenter said. "He makes a good image. He's a safe candidate, but he will not talk about the issues because his record won't support him talking about the issues. He will have a generic theme... You won't hear him talking about issues. The citizens of Memphis want to hear the issues."

As for Wharton, he said today that other candidates doubting his strength in the race "says more about their intelligence than it does me."

And he added that response to his campaign has been "overwhelmingly positive, more so than any race I've been in before. And I meant that, that's not just hype... You can feel it."

After participating in a debating free-for-all last week, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton said today he’ll think twice before agreeing to participate in another debate for Memphis mayor.

Speaking after an infant mortality event in Frayser, Wharton said he was disappointed last week when WMC-TV Channel 5 invited him to participate in a debate with other candidates and then changed the event’s rules at the last minute.

Prior to the debate, Wharton wrote a letter to WMC executives saying he was considering dropping out of the forum because he had accepted the invitation under the assumption that the debate would include “only serious candidates.”

When he learned of the other debaters - Robert “Prince Mongo Hodges” among them - Wharton said he was having second thoughts.

“I’m a lawyer and when you set the rules to a game, you follow them,” said Wharton today. 

Wharton, who wound up attending the debate anyway, denied that his protests had anything to do specifically with Hodges.

“I never singled out any particular candidate, that would be giving too much credence to anybody and I’ve been in politics long enough not to give anybody any credit,” he said. But the experience left a sour taste.

“I indicated in that letter that I was reassessing all these debates and forums,” Wharton said. “If I accepted every invitation, I wouldn’t have time to campaign, I wouldn’t have time to serve as mayor of Shelby County.”

Rather than participating in every candidate forum that comes along, Wharton said he needs to spend his time running the county and bringing in dollars from Washington and Nashville.

“I think I can better serve the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County by getting those funds in here to fight those causes than I can somewhere jibber-jabbering in some loose format called a debate,” he said.

Whalum unveils latest campaign commercial


Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton isn't the only Memphis mayoral candidate with a new campaign commercial.

Memphis City School board Kenneth Whalum Jr. took a more informal approach to his latest video. Set against a hip hop beat, the video shows stills of Whalum holding black and white "Whalum for Mayor" posters.

"This is Dr. Kenneth Twigg Whalum Jr. I'm running for Mayor of Memphis," Whalum says over a thumping base. "You know me, let's do this... Let this new track remind you of why I'm running because I represent new Memphis. New movement. New Mayor. New Memphis. Vote Whalum. Peace."

Live chat on mayor's race today at 1 p.m. with Otis L. Sanford

Otis L. Sanford, Editor/Opinions and Editorials for The Commercial Appeal, will answer questions and provide analysis about the special election and slate of candidates in a live online chat today on the Eye on City Hall blog.

Bring your questions about the election and join us here from 1 to 2 p.m.

Make that 28 candidates: Sharon Webb, others do qualify


Memphis City School Board member Sharon Webb and a few other candidates are actually qualified to run for Memphis mayor, Shelby County Election Commission officials said this afternoon in correction of previous statements.

In total, 28 out of 36 candidates turned in the paperwork necessary to run for the Mayors seat. This means they paid the $100 filing fee and collected 25 signatures of registered Memphis voters.

Earlier today, Election Commission officials had a list showing Webb only collected 24 signatures.

But when reached by phone, Webb said she had already been contacted about this issue and had fixed it.

"I brought in another signature," Webb said. "It's straight now."

Election Commission administrator Richard Holden said he and his staff double-checked the records, discovering updated signature sheets for some of the candidates.

"She fixed it," Holden said of Webb. "That was my mistake."

Following is an updated list of qualified candidates:

Leo Awgowhat, Constance Houston, Sharon Webb, Kenneth E. Baroff, David Vinciarelli, Joe Brown, Randy Cagle, Charles Carpenter, Dewey Clark, Carol Chumney, James Clingan, Menelik Fombi, Wanda Halbert, Johnny Hatcher, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, Dewayne Jones, E.C. Jones, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Ernest Lunati, Harrel C. Moore, Mary T. Shelby-Wright, Detric Stigall, Vuong Vaughn Vo, Kenneth Whalum Jr., A C Wharton, John Willingham, and Thomas "Silky" Sullivan.

Following is a list of candidates who did not qualify:

Jedediah Wallace, Anthony Guess, Bob Reed, Charlotte Bergman, Daniko Flowers, Lexus Marie Coleman, Margaret Myles and Anthony Willoughby.

25 candidates for one office may be largest race in county history


With 25 qualified candidates for Memphis mayor as of today, Richard Holden, Shelby County Election Commission administrator, said this ballot is unusually large.

"I believe it's the largest number of candidates for a single office in the history of the county. I don't think we've ever had 25 candidates for one office," he said, noting that some may drop out by next Thursday.

He said a typical race for office involves two to five candidates.

After checking with his IT staff, Holden confirmed that all 25 candidates names will be able to fit on a single touch voting screen. Holden said the election commission could face issues of fairness if voters were required to scroll through multiple screens of candidate names to vote.

Only 25 of 36 candidates qualify; Sharon Webb misses the cut


Turns out, 36 people turned in petitions to run for Memphis mayor. But as of 1 p.m., only 25 people qualified to run. The other 11 candidates, including Memphis City School board member Sharon Webb, did not turn in 25 qualified signatures.

A qualified signature means it is signed by a Memphis resident and registered voter. The address attached to the signature must match the address kept by the Shelby County Election Commission.

Webb only turned in 24 qualified signatures.

Candidates have until next Thursday to pull their name from the ballot. But following is a list of the 25 candidates who qualified to run:

David Vinciarelli, Joe Brown, Randy Cagle, Charles Carpenter, Dewey Clark, Carol Chumney, James Clingan, Menelik Fombi, Wanda Halbert, Johnny Hatcher, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, Dewayne Jones, E.C. Jones, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Ernest Lunati, Harrel C. Moore, Mary T. Shelby-Wright, Detric Stigall, Vuong Vaughn Vo, Kenneth Whalum Jr., A C Wharton, John Willingham, Kenneth Baroff and Thomas "Silky" Sullivan.

The 11 candidates who did not turn in the proper number of signatures include:

Jedediah Wallace, Anthony Guess, Bob Reed, Charlotte Bergman, Daniko Flowers, Leo Awgowhat, Constance Houston, Sharon Webb, Lexus Marie Coleman, Margaret Myles and Anthony Willoughby.

Election officials sorting through 33 petitions for mayor


Shelby County Election Commission officials have been processing candidate paperwork all morning and just released a complete list showing 33 candidates for Memphis mayor.

The 21 candidates who filed earlier were:

Leo Awgowhat, Joe Brown, Randy Cagle, Charles Carpenter, Carol Chumney, Dewey Clark, James Clingan, Menelik Fombi, Wanda Halbert, Robert Hodges, Constance Houston, E.C. Jones, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Harrel Moore, Mary Shelby-Wright, Vuong Vaughn Vo, Sharon Webb, Kenneth Whalum Jr. and A C Wharton.

A total of 12 petitions were filed today but are still pending certification. They include:

Johnny Hatcher, Jr., Charlotte Bergman, Jedidiah Wallace, Detric W. Stigall, Anthony Guess, Daniko Flowers (who turned in the last part of his petition three minutes late and is ineligible), Bob Reed, Dewayne Jones, David Vinciarelli, Thomas "Silky" Sullivan, Anthony Willoughby and Kenneth Baroff.

While no new candidates can submit the paperwork to run for mayor, candidates have until next Thursday at noon to drop out of the race.

Construction worker misses deadline by three minutes


At 12:03 p.m., construction worker Daniko Flowers ran up to the window at the Shelby County Election Commission with his petition to run for Memphis mayor.

flowers-file.jpgHe was turned down for missing the deadline.

"I guess I can't run because I'm three minutes late," said Flowers, wearing a neon yellow construction vest and looking crestfallen.

Flowers left his job with Geodesy Construction on his lunch break to run for mayor. "I'm about to get fired when I go back to work," he said.

A part-time student at Southwest Tennessee Community College, Flowers, 21, said he wanted to run to try to create more jobs in Memphis.

"The unemployment rates are way down and I wanted to see if we could get more job opportunities," he said.

Carol Chumney turns in extra signatures


At the noon filing deadline for the Memphis mayor's race, the offices of the Shelby County Election Commission were relatively quiet.

chumney-file2.jpgCandidate Silky Sullivan lingered in the foyer, chatting with members of the media.

Candidate and former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney breezed through to drop off more signatures for her petition.

Candidates are required to gather 25 signatures, but Chumney, who already turned in her paperwork, wanted to be over-prepared.

"I always want to make sure I have more than enough," she said, before slipping out to a speaking event at the Exchange Club in East Memphis.

Anthony Willoughby is last candidate to file, bringing total to 26


At the noon filing deadline only one more candidate - real estate broker Anthony Willoughby -- joined the Memphis mayor's race.

As of noon there were 26 people in the race. Candidates have until next Thursday to drop out.

Willoughby, 49, said he'll run on a platform for the people.

"I am an individual for the people, I am not a politician," he said.

This is Willoughby's first mayoral race but he's considered running before. He never did, however, because he didn't want to interfere with "Herenton's operation."

Willoughby has worked with Willie Herenton on his private real estate ventures, including helping him secure his Banneker Estate development in South Memphis.

"I will go so far as to seek his advice if elected," Willoughby said. "I'm sure he would be wise enough to give it to me."

Willoughby concedes he doesn't have a set campaign strategy but said he'll start with a shower and shave.

"I'll probably shave and all that kind of stuff and put on a fresh suit," he said. "I don't usually have whiskers, but I got lazy."

Silky Sullivan now in running for mayor


Restaurateur Silky Sullivan has jumped into the Memphis mayor's race.


The Beale Street club owner said he's running to revitalize The Pyramid. It's an eyesore now, but Sullivan said he envisions giving the vacant public structure to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

"I think we can take this lemon and make lemonade out of it by hooking it up with St. Jude," said Sullivan, seated in the foyer of the Shelby County Election Commission and wearing a white suit and navy blue Croc sandals.

There are less than 30 minutes from the filing deadline for the Memphis mayor's race, but the commission office is relatively quiet.

Earlier today, three other candidates - Anthony Guess, Jebidiah Wallace and Bob Reed - also filed their paperwork to join the race. That brings the candidate count up to 25.

We'll be live blogging from Election Commission at noon


Noon today is the filing deadline for the Memphis mayor's race.

So far, the following 21 candidates have filed the paperwork needed to run: Leo Awgowhat, Joe Brown, Randy Cagle, Charles Carpenter, Carol Chumney, Dewey Clark, James Clingan, Menelik Fombi, Wanda Halbert, Robert Hodges, Constance Houston, E.C. Jones, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Harrel Moore, Mary Shelby-Wright, Vuong Vaughn Vo, Sharon Webb, Kenneth Whalum Jr. and AC Wharton.

We'll be live blogging from the Shelby County Election Commission around noon to give you the latest on who's in the race.

21 candidates have filed petition to run for Memphis mayor


Add one more name to the list of Memphis mayoral contenders.

According to the Shelby County Election Commission, Vo Vuong Vaughn is the most recent candidate to join the Oct. 15 special election to replace Willie Herenton.

That brings the candidate count up to 21, as of Wednesday. The filing deadline is Thursday at noon.

Lowery publishes long list of Mayor Pro Tem activities


Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery is leaving nothing about his stint as interim mayor a secret.

Lowery, who took over for Willie Herenton on July 31, has listed more than 100 "actions" on the city's Web site,

They range from the mundane - "Visited Fire Station #14 on McLemore Avenue" - to the more significant - "Signed approximately 39 legal contracts totaling $3,408,379.17 during last week of August, including HCD grant funded contracts totaling $1,187,208.00."

In the last month, Lowery has eaten breakfast at the Salvation Army with Willie Banks, president of the Tamble Terrace Neighborhood Watch, and spoken to high school football players at the tailgate dinner for the Kick-off Classic at Bridges. He's announced a state grant of $975,312.00 for the enhancement of Elvis Presley Boulevard in Whitehaven and donated $1,000 of his salary to financially-strapped LeMoyne-Owen College.

See the full list here.

Lowery, who is running in the Oct. 15 special election to replace Herenton, has said he wants to bring a sense of transparency to City Hall.

Do you think such a list is an effective way to open up city government?

20 candidates have joined race for Memphis mayor


Three more candidates have filed petitions to run for Memphis mayor.

According to the Shelby County Election Commission, Dewey Clark, Menelik Fombi and Harrel C. Moore have officially joined the Oct. 15 special election to replace Willie Herenton.

That brings the candidate count up to 20, as of this afternoon. The filing deadline is Thursday at noon.

Carpenter uses live web chat to air views


Memphis mayoral candidate Charles Carpenter held a live forum on social networking site today, blasting a current proposal for city-county government consolidation, arguing in favor of solar energy and tentatively promising transparency at City Hall should he be elected mayor.

Thumbnail image for charles-carpenter.jpg

Carpenter, Willie Herenton's longtime campaign manager, used his Facebook page to answer direct questions from seven Facebook users, ranging from his opinion on consolidation to his thoughts on the media.

In a departure from opponents Mayor A C Wharton and Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, Carpenter wrote that while a consolidated government has benefits, he's against the current proposal, which is being pushed by Wharton, Lowery and County Commission Chairwoman Deidre Malone.

"The proposal that is currently being presented smacks of a backroom political deal," Carpenter wrote. "Willie Herenton has promoted consolidated government for the past 10 years and nothing happened. Less than 30 days since he has left office there is not only a new plan, but the back room politicians are trying to put it up for vote in less than one year. As mayor, I will ensure that the interest of the citizens of Memphis are protected. Under the current plan, no one is looking out for the interest of the citizens of Memphis."

Carpenter went on to say as a lawyer " I know that the devil is in the details and there is no reason to cram down the proposal on the expedited time table."

When asked about his plans to work with the media - "will it be the behind closed doors approach that Mayor Herenton or the open door policy that Mayor Pro-Tem Lowery seems to have?" asked Facebook user Steven Russell - Carpenter said government should be transparent.

But, he added, certain business opportunities "may be confident in nature and must be handled outside the media until the opportunity is right for public discussion."

Carpenter also spoke in favor of going green - "Creating solar energy and other solar products could allow Memphis to become a leader in this region for green technology." And he promised to help revitalize Whitehaven by facilitating business growth in the area to compliment the grown of tourism promoted by Graceland, "the #1 Tourist attraction in the state of Tennessee."

Carpenter plans to host another web chat on Tuesday, Sept. 8 from 2 to 3 p.m.

Two more mayoral debates scheduled


Candidates vying for the Memphis mayor’s seat will have at least two more opportunities to debate on live television.

WREG-TV Channel 3, in partnership with The Commercial Appeal and MPACT Memphis, will host a debate on Sept. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m., the day after the start of early voting.

A second debate will be hosted Oct. 14, the day before the special election to replace former Mayor Willie Herenton. Details are still being worked out.

Last week, the candidates faced off in this election’s first televised debate. But the event was not without some controversy after Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges hired lawyer Leslie Ballin to compel WMC-TV executives to allow him to appear and Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton expressed misgivings about sharing a stage with so many other contenders. In the end, both candidates, and seven others, participated.

Pastors renew support for Wharton


Some of the same pastors who backed a movement to draft A C Wharton into the 2007 Memphis mayor's race have once again tossed their support behind the Shelby County mayor.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens, a group of about 400 black Memphis ministers, held a press conference today at the headquarters of the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association to formally endorse Wharton, who is vying against at least 16 others in the Oct. 15 special election to replace Willie Herenton.


Some of these pastors, including Dr. LaSimba Gray of New Sardis Baptist Church, had in 2007 come out in support of Wharton, calling him the most qualified candidate and a unifying force in Memphis. At the time, Wharton declined to run against Herenton, who later won that election.

Wharton said today he's grateful for the pastors' endorsement.

Interestingly, a number of the same pastors backing Wharton had, only last month, begged Herenton to delay his retirement.

Gray and Rev. Dwight Montgomery, among others, held a press conference outside of City Hall in July to ask Herenton to push off his retirement and save the city $1 million on a special election. They also expressed dissatisfaction with Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery taking over the city's helm.

Montgomery said today that his hope for Herenton to remain in office was purely motivated by a desire to save taxpayer dollars. It was never a matter of trying to keep Herenton in office indefinitely, he said.

"Even at that time, our focus was on Mayor Wharton becoming the next mayor of Memphis," he said.

Mayoral qualifying petitions available for viewing


As of this morning, 17 candidates had filed the petitions needed to get into the Memphis mayor's race.

So far, qualified candidates include Charles Carpenter, Carol Chumney, Wanda Halbert, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, E.C. Jones, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Sharon Webb, Kenneth Whalum Jr., A C Wharton and John Willingham, among others.

To be eligible to run in the Oct. 15 special election to replace Willie Herenton, candidates must gather 25 signatures and pay a $100 filing fee.

Thursday is the filing deadline.

The Shelby County Election Commission has provided copies of these signed petitions, showing the citizens each candidate found to sign their petition, with many candidates gathering far more than the required signature quota.

The 17 petitions are available in three PDF files below:




Mayoral candidates to meet in two upcoming forums


Memphis mayoral candidates will face off in two upcoming forums before the Oct. 15 special election to replace Willie Herenton.

On Tuesday, the Memphis chapter of The National Association of Women Business Owners will host a candidate panel at the Napa Café, 5101 Sanderlin, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The event will begin with a wine and cheese mixer starting at 5:30 p.m.

NAWBO president Nita Black said the event is open to the public, but those interested should RSVP by Friday because space is limited. To RSVP, call Black at 413-1315 or e-mail

Black said as of today, six candidates had confirmed attendance, including Charlotte Bergmann, Charles Carpenter, Wanda Halbert, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery and Kenneth Whalum Jr. Carol Chumney is expected to stop by but won't stay for the panel.

The Cordova Leadership Council will also host a candidate debate at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 29 at the Memphis Area Home Builders Association, 776 N. Germantown Parkway, in Cordova.

Leading candidates will be invited to partake in the forum. Residents with specific questions for the candidates are encouraged to submit them via e-mail to before Sept. 25.

Wharton featured in national policy magazine


Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton has gained national recognition with a 2000-word cover story in this month’s Governing magazine.

wharton governing.jpg

Profiled for his approach toward regionalism and his efforts to consolidate Memphis and Shelby County governments, Wharton, a candidate for Memphis mayor, is portrayed by writer Alan Greenblatt as the county’s unifier.

“The fact remains that a primary source of Wharton’s popularity is his ability to bridge the many divides that define politics in Memphis—between the abject poor and its Fortune 500 companies, between the city and its suburbs, and between black and white,” Greenblatt writes.

“Ask local political scientists why Wharton is favored to become the next mayor, and they’ll readily tell you it’s because he’s an African American who makes white people feel comfortable. Wharton’s efforts at bringing about consensus go deeper than that, however. On any given issue—whether it’s disaster preparedness or looking at ways to build on Memphis’ economic base as a cargo hub—Wharton’s method has been to bring together as many players and competing regional interests as possible.”

Governing is a Washington, D.C.-based publication providing features and analysis of policy and politics for the nation’s state and local leaders.

To read the article, click here.

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As the process for merging Shelby County's schools accelerates into action, we'll provide bonus coverage here at, with a particular focus on the 21-member transition team and the 23-member unified school board. Comment early and often. If you have any tips or suggestions you wish to share, contact Zack McMillin at or 529-2564.

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