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.