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, haroldbyrdformayor.com, 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.