May 2010 Archives

Candidates with Deep Roots in (enter state name here)

 

     WASHINGTON -- The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is making sure as many people as possible see ads by two Republican candidates in Tennessee and Alabama, both running as Washington outsiders, that appear to use the same images and almost identical voiceovers to sell their candidacies.

     Tennessee's 8th Congressional District candidate Stephen Fincher, the guy the GOP wants you to know is a gospel singing farmer and political novice, shares the same bucolic backdrop and tractor as Dorman Grace, a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner in Alabama.

We can't take credit for making the connection, but a dispatch from today's The National Journal helps make the case that the frugal Republicans take cost-savings and message discipline seriously.

Wharton had to know budget 'pain' was coming

 
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton probably does deserve some benefit of the doubt, given that 60 percent of city voters selected him in a crowded special election in October that included several other candidates with proven electoral success. He also has a strong claim to slowing the rate of spending as county mayor, where he oversaw implementation of a plan to tame what had been an out-of-control debt. And it is of significance that he had nothing to do with the City Council, in 2008, voting to slash spending to Memphis City Schools but then basically spending every dime of the savings on other things, including 8-percent total raises to city workers during the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.

All that said, Wharton knew when he decided to run for mayor that the No. 1 challenge that would face him upon election involved the budget and, more specifically, how to deal with school funding. In Amos Maki's story today on the budget, Wharton again makes the former point (he inherited the mess) but leaves out the latter (he had to know what he was getting into).

Wharton also said he is doing his best to fix a budget situation he inherited, noting that the City Council cut funding to Memphis City Schools two years ago and then spent much of the savings. Since that time, two courts have ordered the city to pay MCS $50 million. "I was not involved in the decision to eliminate MCS's funding," said Wharton in a statement he issued Wednesday. "I have only been involved in trying to repair the damage to our city's fiscal future."

This is less disingenuous than the email Wharton sent to email subscribers on Jan. 28 claiming that when he took office in October, he "did not anticipate having to make these kinds of drastic budget cuts" and that he "did not expect this latest challenge but I will embrace it."  Mayor Wharton, being a voracious newspaper consumer (you go, Mayor!), could have read our story from Oct. 18 just after his election that laid out in detail the budget and school-funding issues as the new administration's biggest early challenge:

Even putting aside the $34.6 million owed for (2009), the school system believes it will defeat the city in legal fights over $57.4 million dating back to a 2008 City Council vote to cut school funding. And that would bring into play another $80 million for city schools next fiscal year (2011). . . . "I think they're very tough decisions," said City Councilman Jim Strickland, a Wharton campaign co-chairman known for his focus on fiscal responsibility. "With the school funding you have to either reduce expenses, spend money from reserves or raise taxes, or a combination of all that."

Wharton said he intends to make all sides on this complicated issue see past the short-term skirmishes to find agreement on feasible long-term partnerships. "I am optimistic we will be able to reach some accord that does not bring financial jeopardy to either the city or the school system," Wharton said.
Now, at this point, Wharton is correct -- the focus should be on the future and nobody should be under any illusion that this budget process will not involve "pain." But picking the poison will reveal priorities, especially given that potential challengers to Wharton are already trying to determine if they want to run against him in 2011 city elections. Strickland is correct -- Wharton could come out strong for a budget that rolls back those raises and apply pressure to council members. But Wharton may be smart not to pick a fight he believes he won't win, choosing instead to save political capital for other items on his ambitious agenda. By the end of this process, we will certainly have a clearer idea of the top priorities for this mayor and his administration.

Real consequences to follow budget battles

 
That vastly more people in Shelby County are aware that there is a disagreement between Willie Herenton and Steve Cohen over the logistics of a debate than are aware of the battles being waged in local and state budget hearings is an unfortunate but unavoidable reality. But right now at City Hall, at the Shelby County Administration Building and at the State Capitol, there are public policy fights being waged that will eventually lead to real-world consequences.

Richard Locker in Nashville lays out how Memphis is caught in the crossfire of a budget dispute pitting Senate Republicans against -- well, against everybody else: Senate Democrats, Republicans and Democrats in the House and, of course, Gov. Bredesen. As much as $30 million is at stake for Shelby County institutions including the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Despite the high stakes, the Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to take the rest of the week off. According to the story:

The Senate Finance Committee unexpectedly recessed for the week Tuesday without voting on Gov. Phil Bredesen's budget proposal, an alternative proposed by Senate Republicans last week, nor a plan presented by Democratic Leader Jim Kyle that Republican House Speaker Kent Williams says is backed by a bipartisan majority of House members.
Rick tracked down Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, in New York for a Council of State Governments meeting, and he claimed that "very productive negotiations" were underway with the House.

Back in the Bluff City, that old saying about being careful what you wish for seems appropriate for A C Wharton as he presides over his first budget as Memphis mayor. Wharton claims, correctly, that he inherited a mess caused in large part by the City Council's decision in 2008 to slash the city's contribution to Memphis City Schools, though there is no question that throughout the special mayoral election campaign, Wharton and every serious candidate was well aware the first budget would be difficult because of the school funding. Wharton is saying he would not veto a budget that included salary cuts for city workers, but pointed out that seven votes for such a measure are not likely from on a City Council that has given those workers raises of 8 percent since since 2008. However, Wharton also made some bold claims after election about using the "political muscle" that came with his resounding victory, and the Council's leading budget hawk, Democratic District 5 representative Jim Strickland, said "we need his leadership on this issue."

Across Main Street, the County Commission approved additional funding for The Regional Medical Center at Memphis. And many current and future commissioners of both parties joined Republican gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp at The Med to show their appreciation for his decision to sign a pledge they sent candidates to make a commitment to return all federal funds generated by The Med to The Med.

Wamp first to make Med pledge. Will others follow?

 
Zach Wamp signed on the dotted line.

OK, so technically the Republican U.S. Representative from Chattanooga affixed his name, beginning with a rather large cursive Z that looks like a big wasp, to the bottom of a pledge the Shelby County Commission sent gubernatorial candidates asking them to make an unequivocal commitment to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. To wit: "If I am elected Governor of the State of Tennessee, I pledge to do all in my power to provide all federal funds received by the State based on The MED's uncompensated care and to advocate for the maximum continuing match of Shelby County's new $10 million annual appropriation to the MED."

Commissioner Mike Ritz was so "tickled" that he pledged, then and there, that if Wamp remains the only candidate to make the pledge, he'll give him his vote. Ritz, a Republican, said the pledge is so important he would have voted for Democrat Mike McWherter if he had been the lone candidate to make the pledge. Ritz claims that not only would such a pledge make The Med sound financially, it would provide enough of a reliable revenue stream to bring the kind of bond-financing needed to build a new, more efficient, more modern Med.

Wamp called the pledge a "wise" move on behalf of the Commission because "once somebody gets into office it's harder" to get them to make firm commitments. "It's a responsible request of anyone who seeks our state's highest office, to make every effort possible to get all of the federally reimbursed money that The Med actually services for back to The Med," Wamp said. "And don't comingle the money and give The Med whatever is left over or say you that you're saving it in some other area and not give it to The Med."

Wamp of course had many other big things to say about Memphis, Shelby County and West Tennessee (he tries to get all three together in the same sentence), promising a "renaissance" similar to the one he said has made Chattanooga the envy of other cities. He called Memphis a "great American city," and he will be spending Wednesday night and much of Thursday in town for various functions.

Before the press conference, talking to many of the County Commissioners assembled, Wamp said he wasn't surprised he was the first to make the pledge. "I say this with great respect for the others, I've been setting the pace," Wamp said.

The commission has asked candidates to respond by Friday.

Runs across the border draw national interest

 
Political races just across our borders are figuring into the national scene.

The biggest, for U.S. Senator from Arkansas, saw Lt. Gov. Bill Halter play incumbent senator Blanche Lincoln to a draw in the Democratic primary. They will battle in a June 8 runoff, with the winner to face Republican U.S. Rep. John Boozman in November. It will be interesting to watch how local and national forces align in the runoff. Halter is being credited for creating a campaign strong enough to force Lincoln to pay more attention to more progressive and even liberal issues than she might otherwise, especially knowing her state went strong against President Obama in 2008.

As chairman of the Senate's Agriculture Committee, Lincoln has ascended to a powerful spot capable of delivering important projects and legislation for her state. President Obama and President Clinton both endorsed her and she aired campaign ads featuring that support, but Halter is definitely playing into the anti-incumbent attitude that the electorate is expressing.

Down in Mississippi, there is not much local interest (so far) in the June 1 Republican primary for Mississippi's 1st District congressional seat.

Budget season generating heartburn

 
Perhaps it's not always fair to local politicians, but reporters tend to read these stories about budget battles with an eye on the politics of various responses. Sure, every politician is duty-bound to do what he or she feels is best for their district/city/county, but it's also true that they become elected officials because they are driven by a certain amount of ambition, ego and thirst for power. Budget seasons often mean a clash of those motivations, and so keep that in mind as you read some of the stories linked below.

Some Shelby County Commissioners are questioning the $35 million cost for a new emergency-operations center that would bring together the various agencies (Memphis Fire, Shelby County Fire, Memphis Police, Shelby County Sheriff) under one very-protected and disaster-proofed roof.

Some City Council members are questioning Mayor Wharton's priorities for the city budget, which calls for closing two libraries (Cossitt and Highland) and two nine-hole golf courses (Overton and Riverside). Councilman Jim Strickland wants Wharton to roll back the 8 percent raises the Council approved over the previous two budget cycles, which would save $28 million. ""I think this shows a terrible lack of judgment," said Strickland.

Just a few weeks after helping broker peace between Memphis and Memphis City Schools, Councilman Harold Collins gets into a name-calling contest with MCS officials. On this they agree: Somebody's telling lies.

Wamp prepared to sign The Med pledge?

 
Speaking of The Med, it appears as if Congressman Zach Wamp of Chattanooga may be ready to step up to the plate and become the first gubernatorial candidate to sign the pledge that Shelby County Commissioners sent out regarding The Med.

From the Wamp campaign:

Zach Wamp, Republican candidate for Governor, will be joined by Joyce Avery, Chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, at a media availability to be held Wednesday, May 19 at 2 p.m. CT at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, or The MED. The event will take place in the courtyard near the facility's main entrance on Jefferson Avenue.
In a story we ran last month, Wamp indicated more than any other candidate a willingness to possibly support such a pledge.

"I believe the principle of that is right. The principle is wherever the Medicaid TennCare dollars are billed should go to that particular facility and that particular community. This is a cost shift for the whole state -- this is where you get all the money so let's spread it around."
Wamp also is scheduled to appear in Millington on Wednesday, from noon to 1 at Old Timers for a dutch-treat lunch.
Several members of the local media received an update from County Commissioner Mike Ritz about the federal complaint he's brought against the state and Gov. Bredesen for what he says amounts to civil-rights discrimination based on how federal Medicaid funds are distributed (or not distributed) back to The Regional Medical Center at Memphis. But it was our own Richard Locker, in Nashville, who knew the repercussions that might come with Ritz becoming more aggressive, and the story he filed this afternoon captures the consternation among some of the Shelby County state legislators. They're afraid that Ritz's actions -- which he contends are long overdue and a response to what he contends are Gov. Bredesen's and the state's shoddy treatment of Shelby County -- could endanger the short-term funding solutions that have been cobbled together for The Med.

From Rick's story:

The e-mail (from Ritz) says: "I filed this amendment to my complaint against the state and DHHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The governor continues to play the rest of the state against the Med in all matters politic (sic) and fiscal...."

In his May 13 letter to the Health and Human Services' office of civil rights, Ritz claimed that the state "did not timely request" federal approval for federal matching money for Shelby County's new $10 million additional appropriation for the hospital -- federal money that he said would total $30 million but which state officials expect will be only $20 million under the usual 2-for-1 formula in which the federal government helps Tennessee finance its TennCare/Medicaid program.

"I am sure the state has political and practical excuses for not making the timely request, but I find their actions to be discriminatory in intent and effect," Ritz wrote.

Shelby County for Sarah Palin?

 
Spotted this morning on Walnut Grove -- the first pure "PALIN" bumper sticker I've seen in Memphis. During and after the 2008 presidential election, there were several cars spotted with "PALIN" stickers, but upon closer inspection these were examples of people cutting off the "McCAIN" portion. The one you see here is exclusively Palin -- and note the American flag decal on the, um, Acura. Are those built in the U.S. now?

PalinBumper.jpg
Anybody else out there seen "PALIN" stickers? And the question at this point, I think, is what statement is being made? It seems apparent that if the Republican presidential primary were held this November, Palin would be hard to beat, but perhaps these stickers are expressions of a certain worldview more than an endorsement of the half-term former Alaska governor as candidate?



In case you missed it . . .

 
In case you missed it over the weekend, we ran several stories of interest to local political news junkies. On Sunday, we examined the way the political atmosphere is starting to heat up headed toward the Aug. 5 elections, and filed a dispatch from the opening of Steve Cohen's campaign headquarters on Union Avenue. From Nashville, Richard Locker looked at differing approaches to open government from the Tennessee gubernatorial candidates.

And on Monday, Amos Maki chronicled just how far Memphis Mayor A C Wharton has been traveling to promote the city and recruit businesses. Monday afternoon, Kevin McKenzie was in Millington when Tennessee's two senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, visited the areas hardest hit by flooding.

Kirkland airs first television ad

 


WASHINGTON -- Tennessee 8th Congressional District candidate Ronald Kirkland is out with his first television ad making a distinction between his Tennessee support and the support an unnamed opponent is receiving from Washington.

Kirkland is seeking the Aug. 5 nomination against Stephen Fincher, a Crockett County farmer, gospel singer and darling of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Shelby County Commissioner and medical doctor George Flinn.

An earlier ad advocating Kirkland's campaign was paid for by his brother, Robert Kirkland, who has set up a Federal Election Commission committee to make independent expenditure on his behalf. Because election law prohibits a campaign committee from coordinating independent expenditures, the brothers have agreed not to speak to each other until the election is over.

Applying the Obama filter to local candidates

 
An email arrived last week from one of the four members of the Rotary Club of East Memphis who posed a question to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter, taking my reporting to task. The story we ran pointed out that "several Rotarians tried to draw McWherter into discussions of the Obama administration's initiatives." The emailer said he was the person who asked McWherter whether he intended to invite President Obama to Tennessee to campaign for him -- the question got more than a few snickers -- and said it was the only question about Obama. True, but another of the four questions posed during the meeting involved the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the state, though even the questioner acknowledged it would not be until the next governor's second term that there would be much impact.

So that was two of four questions during the meeting, and, afterward, I waited with McWherter while people talked to him. Three conversations stretched beyond cursory "hello-goodbye" and the substance of all three was connected to either the "Obama administration's initiatives" referred to in the story or the drift of federal-government policies since President Obama took office. In all, that was five of seven questions asked of a candidate for Tennessee governor more concerned with the federal government than state issues.

One reason we decided to include this in the story is because, more and more, you see the same thing happen with similar gatherings. In other words, a candidate for state or local office is tested on their views of President Obama and his administration.

Here is an excerpt from the email reply I sent:

For many people, these 2010 elections are going to have more to do with gauging how far away from President Obama a candidate appears, and not so much their plans for job growth or education or leadership or other things candidates want to believe are the main motivations for voters. That is very consistent with historic patterns in U.S. midterm presidential elections.

Thanks much for inquiring. This helped clarify some things for me as a reporter that may lead to a story down the road. I guess I am curious what motivated you to ask a Tennessee candidate for governor about President Obama rather than, say, pre-k education or state park funding or the criteria he would use in selecting his leadership team (this latter, to my mind, being the most important thing a governor does but which voters NEVER ask about).

What do you think? Should candidates be judged on their fidelity to or opposition to President Obama and his administration? How can we get political discussions more focused on judging candidates by issues that actually affect the offices they are running for?

Non-snarky view of Pat Boone's Wamp endorsement

 
Some political bloggers and plenty of newsrooms had snarky fun with GOP gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp receiving the "coveted" endorsement from Pat Boone on Friday, but there is some substance worth exploring in the press release from the "legendary entertainer" as his 60 Plus Association put it. Wamp got the organizations's "Honorary Guardian of Seniors' Rights" award based upon what the group called his "senior friendly" voting record; the association apparently gives the awards to Democrats and Republicans.

Boone's quote says in part: "As a member of Congress, Zach Wamp has always been counted on to protect Social Security and Medicare. As Governor, Zach Wamp will continue to be a tax cutter, protecting the pocketbooks of senior citizens."

Because people under the age of 40 are not nearly as organized nor as powerful a voting bloc as senior citizens, there is nothing controversial about this endorsement. But it's not a zero-sum game, as many commentators have been pointing out. At some point something must give when it comes to taxes, spending and entitlement programs for retirees. There are lots of ideas about making the budget more sustainable when it comes to these programs -- raise taxes on them, raise the retirement age, apply means-testing, cut services -- but hardly anything approaching a consensus from either party. And though it's unlikely to see an anti-retiree bloc emerge, the algebra is unavoidable -- the more benefits received and fewer taxes levied now will equal fewer benefits received and more taxes levied later. That is, unless the economy grows at some supernatural rate over the next two decades that nobody foresees.

Another point that Wamp's opponents could make regarding this endorsement -- it comes from a group in Alexandria, Va., which might sound nice and Southern-y but is in effect an address that is very much a part of the Wasington, D.C., establishment. Cue the Ron Ramsey anti-D.C. talking points.

More city golf course news

 

The Overton Park golf course already has a Facebook page dedicated to keeping the nine-hole course open.

A City Council budget committee, searching for $9 million to fill a gap in Mayor A C Wharton's proposed budget, voted Thursday to close the city's three nine-hole golf courses - Overton, Riverside and Whitehaven -- to save nearly $1.2 million.

The cuts approved by the committee, which were proposed in Wharton's budget contingency plan, still have to be approved by the full council.

Years ago the council mandated the creation of Riverside and Whitehaven golf courses.

In 1995, the Whitehaven course was at the center of a tug-of-war between the council and the parks commission, which pushed for a public park over a golf course. In the end, the council disbanded the commission and pressed forward with the course.

The $5.2 million project, which has a $2.2 million course and a 10,830-square-foot, $3 million clubhouse, opened in spring 2005.

The Links at Riverside in Martin Luther King Park reopened in 2005 with a new $1.3 million clubhouse, pro shop and cart storage area. At the time, the nine-hole course was the least played in the city system and was never expected to turn a profit.

Sammons headed to Airport Authority board

 

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is nominating former City Councilman Jack Sammons, president of Ampro Industries, to the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority board.

Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford originally made the recommendation, which Wharton must support to make it valid. Sammons, 54, will have to be approved by the City Council to begin serving his seven-year term.

Sammons, who most recently served as Chief Administrative Officer to Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, will join the seven-member board soon but an exact date has not been announced.

The Airport Authority board sets policy for the world's busiest cargo airport. Memphis International Airport is the economic engine for the region, generating some $21 billion in annual economic impact.

Joe Ford releases statement on consolidation

 
Interim county mayor Joe Ford, the Democratic county mayoral nominee, sent a statement last night elaborating on his anti-consolidation stance. In Tuesday's forum with Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, the Republican nominee, Ford pressed Luttrell hard on his views on consolidation, with Luttrell saying he will wait until the Memphis and Shelby County Metropolitan Charter Commission completes its work before making a judgment. By the way, the Charter Commission yesterday approved much-stronger ethics language for the charter, including anti-nepotism provisions; here are Clay Bailey's stories this week about charter commission:

Consolidation commission recommends tougher ethics language in charter
Charter panel to discuss services under consolidation

Find Ford's full statement below. We put Luttrell's expanded comments about consolidation on the blog here earlier this week. Ford clearly intends to be very aggressive on this issue, although as Luttrell points out, the charter will not even be finished before the Aug. 5 election.  It is on the Nov. 2 ballot, and the county mayor has no official role to play.


JOE FORD
FOR COUNTY MAYOR
For Immediate Release
May 12, 2010
Interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford Shares His Views on Government Merger

Much has been said about why I am against Memphis and Shelby County government consolidation, the majority of which - that I am pandering to the suburban vote - is completely untrue. Let me state clearly and for the record a few of my views on consolidation and the proposed plan for Memphis and Shelby County government merger.

Can we improve on what government is currently doing? Yes. Can we seek ways to be more efficient in delivering services to residents? Yes. Is consolidation the answer to doing so? No. However, the decision to form a new government based on a consolidation charter developed by the Memphis and Shelby County Metropolitan Government Charter Commission rests with the voters of Memphis and Shelby County. I have always communicated this and will continue to urge all citizens to do their part in making their opinions on the matter known. We all have the power of one vote and we should employ this power wisely.

There is no proof that consolidation is a cost saving venture. There are no studies to confirm that the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County will realize a tax savings by merging governments. As an elected official, it is my duty to evaluate measures that will save taxpayers money and place my full support behind such measures. Consolidation does not save dollars; in fact, we can be assured that an increase will be experienced, particularity by those residing in unincorporated Shelby County and the city of Memphis.

Furthermore, I am greatly concerned about the direction the Memphis and Shelby County Metropolitan Government Charter Commission is moving with proposed plans for consolidation; specifically, the elimination of civil service protections for current government workers and the diminishment of retirement benefits for public servants. I believe our current civil service system should continue as is to provide for a fair and consistent personnel management system for all employees.

In the coming weeks, I plan to share more of my views on consolidation and why I believe the merging of Memphis and Shelby County governments is not a good idea for the over 900,000 residents that I represent.

Joe Ford
Interim Shelby County Mayor 

Herenton calls for TWO debates with Cohen

 
Kristina Goetz has the latest from former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton on whether he will debate U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen during the 9th Congressional District primary. Herenton proposes TWO debates, on different channels. Cohen says he won't allow Herenton to dictate who can or cannot moderate. More here on this link.

Thursday link-o-rama: The coverage you deserve

 
Pay attention, folks. Or prepare for some jaded journalist to explain that people get the government they deserve. There is a lot of substance in today's report from The CA, including issues that are very much in play right now.

Our Nashville bureau is all over the crucial waning days of this session of the Tennessee General Assembly, as a battle over the state budget breaks out while lawmakers focus time and energy on laws that would make driver's license tests English-only and try to require election commissions get proof of citizenship from people registering to vote. Our own Wendi Thomas lashes lawmakers for their emphasis. The legislature did pass a law banning the sale of sham "international driver's licenses' that awaits Gov. Bredesen's signature.

From Washington, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen wants more women's restrooms in federal buildings, which we guess might make some of the women who make up 60-plus percent of the voters in the 9th Congressional District happy. Whether those women will care if former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton debates Cohen is another issue, but Herenton pulled out of a News Channel 3 debate because he claims The CA's Otis Sanford and Channel 3's Norm Brewer would be biased against him.

Although we're going to hear much more about Republican gubernatorial candidates Bill Haslam, Zach Wamp and Ron Ramsey the next three months, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter is trying to get his share of attention running unopposed in the Democratic primary. At the Rotary Club of East Memphis yesterday, he transmitted a message that essentially went like this -- Democratic governors know how to create jobs and manage budgets but Republicans nowadays are fiscally irresponsible. We're guessing Haslam, the mayor of Knoxville who loves touting his own budget-balancing acumen, might have something to say about it when he comes into town today.

Wamp promises Shelby his "full attention"

 
So that we offer equal time, we note that on Tuesday Chattanooga congressman and GOP gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp met with young professionals in Collierville before speaking at the Memphis Multi Modal Conference billed as "Memphis: Gateway to the World." Wamp had dinner with Shelby County young Republicans downtown and spent  time today talking to local Republicans about donating to his campaign, while also visiting Jackson.

Wamp is emphasizing how his "20/20 Vision For An Even Better Tennessee" that includes a focus in Memphis and West Tennessee of leveraging the region's agribusiness with the core strength of Memphis's logistics and transportation infrastructure. He also wants to create more high-tech jobs as part of what he describes as a "production agenda." "Shelby County and West Tennessee deserve the governor's full attention, and I will be that governor," Wamp said.

From a press release, Wamp also had these comments to make in Memphis:

"As governor I will work every day to leverage Memphis' standing as our nation's premier transportation and logistics hub to help bolster a bold new "production agenda" for high-tech job creation throughout West Tennessee," Wamp said.

"By better linking this region's manufacturing and agri-business infrastructure with our assets in the transportation and logistics industries, we will grow thousands of new energy, biomedical and agricultural jobs and create the most dynamic economy in America," said Wamp.

Republican speaker hates GOP senate budget

 
Speaking of criticisms of the state budget proposal created by Republicans in the state senate -- and led by GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Ramsey -- Richard Locker just filed this story covering the blistering broadside delivered by Republican house speaker Kent Williams. He is trying to rally House members to block the senate proposal, which he says makes huge cuts but leaves $500 million in the bank.

Choice quote here:

"The difference I think in our House and the Senate (is) in the House we're trying to do what's responsible for the people of the state of Tennessee and I think in the Senate, it's more politics. I hate to say that but it's politics!

"I guarantee that if we didn't have members running for governor and Congress, we probably would have already passed a budget. But you just don't play political games with the state of our citizens," Williams said.

McWherter: GOP fiscally irresponsible

 
Wednesday's gubernatorial candidate-for-the-day in Memphis was Mike McWherter, son of former governor Ned McWherter and the man already referring to himself as the "Democratic nominee," not the "presumptive nominee" since other Democrats like Jim Kyle and Kim McMillan dropped out before the filing deadline. Here is how McWherter put it at today's Rotary Club of East Memphis meeting at The Racquet Club: "If I vote for myself, I am going to be the Democratic nominee."

McWherter clearly is positioning himself as the heir to his father's legacy of making Tennessee recognized as the best managed state in the country for two straight years and current Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. He's also seeking to paint Republicans as fiscally irresponsible, and portrays the "gloom and doom" talk they carry onto the campaign trail as bluster. He took aim at the budget proposal generated by Republicans in the state legislature, which is led by another candidate, state senate speaker Ron Ramsey.

We'll have a fuller report in tomorrow's print edition on McWherter, who has received much less "earned" media attention than the three remaining Republicans -- Ramsey, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Chattanooga congressman Zach Wamp -- battling in the Aug. 5 primary. Wamp was in town on Tuesday and part of Wednesday and Haslam will be in town on Thursday. McWherter also paid a visit to the Shelby County Justice Center and met with Bill Gibbons, the district attorney of Shelby County.

Here is an excerpt from his talk at the Rotary club:

I hear one of my competitors out there talking about gloom and doom and $1 billion shortfall starting next year and the state is going to be in terrible shape. Now y'all stop and think about this and I want to compliment Gov. Bredesen on this. In his budget he has matched reoccurring revenue with reoccurring expenses. He has used the stimulus money on onetime expenses. Now we might have a $28 billion budget and the year after that we might have a $27 billion budget, but it's not like we have a $1 billion hole there. It's because he's been so responsible as governor in going forward with matching reoccurring expenses with reoccurring revenue.Now I understand there has been a Republican budget proposed here today and it is taking some reoccurring expenses off the board and not matching them with reoccurring revenue and that's how they are balancing the budget.

Ladies and gentleman, let me tell you something, when my father left office this state was recognized, literally recognized, as the best-managed state in the country. I was with him. When his successor came into office, he routinely proceeded to use non reoccurring revenue to balance the budget. Then he looked like a genius running for re-election because he did not have to raise taxes or do anything. Well, y'all know what happened the next four years, we struggled from one budget to another trying to make ends meet. Gov. Bredesen inherited a fiscal mess. I believe he is dedicated to leaving this state better than he found it and it is because he is responsible, he is matching reoccurring expenses with reoccurring revenue. And this proposal right now -- it can change. it's a lot of things can change -- but this proposal right now, it does not do that.

Y'all need to rise up, unless you want to live through what we lived through with Don Sundquist, y'all need to rise up and talk about it and be talking about it with your state legislators. Because it is serious.

Full quotes from Ford, Luttrell on consolidation

 
The story we ran today about the county mayoral campaign forum between interim mayor Joe Ford and Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell touches on their differing approaches to the issue of consolidating the two governments of Memphis and Shelby County into one metropolitan government. The Memphis and Shelby County Metropolitan Charter Commission is charged with creating a metro charter, due in mid-August, that voters would consider in a pair of referenda on Nov. 2 -- voters in the city must give majority approval, and voters outside the city must give majority approval. The mayoral election is on the Aug. 5 ballot, before the Charter Commission must deliver its final charter language.

Because it can be such a volatile issue -- not to mention often misunderstood and manipulated -- it seems fair to publish fuller quotes from both candidates on the issue. In an intriguing twist, Ford is coming out completely against consolidation well ahead of seeing the charter, while Luttrell has said consistently -- going back to before he entered the mayor's race -- that he will wait to see the document before judging it on its merits.  

Perhaps Ford believes he can pick off some votes in the suburbs on this issue alone. Perhaps he takes for granted those Democratic voters in Memphis who believe consolidation should at least be given serious consideration. And perhaps he's locking down loyalty from those African-American inner-city residents opposed to consolidation because they may see it as an attempt to dilute their voting power.

Conversely, perhaps Luttrell is so confident enough that the suburban Republicans most opposed to consolidation will never vote for a Ford that he can stay neutral on the issue through the end of the campaign without sustaining any damage. Luttrell also knows he needs to win votes from Democrats in Memphis, and one potential group to target would be middle-class and upper-class Memphis Democrats who support consolidation.

Of course, less cynically, both Ford and Luttrell could just be stating what they think is best for the county at this time, regardless of the political algebra.

Because consolidation can be such a volatile issue, I wanted to publish their fuller comments on the issue. First, from the beginning of the forum, on a question that asked about finding areas within the current structure of two large governments where there could be functional efficiencies:

FORD: My comment would be I'm against it, I don't believe it will pass and that's about where I'm going to leave it. I don't know how else to comment on something I am going to vote against.

LUTTRELL: You are going to hear me time and again come back to the importance of looking for efficiencies and cost savings to provide quality service. Every operation of county government should b closely scrutinized, first of all by the mayor and then the county commission, to determine how we can be more effective and more efficient. Consolidation is certainly a question that's on the table  this year and it will be decided by the voters in November. But there are ways to look for efficiency other than consolidation. I think we've got to wait and see what the Charter Commission puts on the table, take a look at the merits of their argument. But if consolidation fails there are things that can be done in cooperation with city government to bring about efficiency. We've got to look at overlapping services, we've got to look at where we can consolidate or merge overlapping services and see if we can achieve efficiencies by cooperating with city government on issues that come before us.

Then, from the end, when Ford was given the chance to ask questions of Luttrell and chose just one:

FORD: Sheriff Luttrell, what is your view on consolidation and how will you vote? I can look everybody in the eye and tell you Joe Ford is against consolidation, period.

LUTTRELL: I have not been an advocate or a proponent of consolidation. One of the things we hear most often as a criticism of public officials is we don't listen. I've always prided myself on listening to what people have to say. Now we have a charter commission that is doing its due diligence right now, and I don't know what they are going to put on the table -- I honestly don't know what they are going to put on the table.

But the beauty of this whole issue of consolidation is Mayor Ford and Mayor Luttrell is not going to decide the issue of consolidation, the City Council and the County Commission are not going to decide the issue of consolidation. Consolidation will be decided by you, the voters. And I want to see what the Charter Commission puts on the table and then, like you, draw my conclusions. But to say you are against something and you don't even know what it is, to me is an injustice to the work that the County Commission and City Council have done, as well as the Charter Commission. We owe it to you the citizens to see what the Charter Commission proposes. I'm waiting to be convinced. At this point I'm not convinced. So let's wait and see what they have to say.

Ford vs. Luttrell forum: Live from Pancho's!

 
The two candidates in the Aug. 5 county mayoral general election, interim mayor Joe Ford (Democrat) and Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell (Republican), are the featured interogatees at today's forum hosted by the National Association of Women's Business Owners, at the Pancho's on White Station. It is the first forum featuring just Ford and Luttrell since their respective parties made them the nominees in last week's primary elections, Ford with a strong 57-percent showing against County Commissioner Deidre Malone and Luttrell, as expected, getting all but about 900 Republican votes.

Ford has emphasized what he believes is a strong record since taking office in December -- he was appointed by the Commission to complete the final eight months of the final term of A C Wharton, who left the county to become mayor of Memphis last October. Luttrell is wooing voters with promises to bring the same management efficiency and success he and his supporters claim turned around a troubled sheriff's office. As Ford told us after winning election, he believes the pressure is on Luttrell to make that case, because, as Ford says, if he gets 90 percent of the Democratic vote, Luttrell will have no margin for error.

Memphis Flyer columnist Jackson Baker and Danielle Schonbaum with the League of Women Voters of Memphis & Shelby County will moderate. We will post occasional updates from the forum, but look for a fuller report later this afternoon at www.CommercialAppeal.com and another view in Wednesday's print edition.

Open up some of that scrumptious Pancho's cheese dip (you know you've some in the fridge) and follow along, beginning around noon:


(FULL REPORT AVAILABLE ON THE JUMP).

New commission projects as louder, more partisan

 
The most significant aspect of last week's Shelby County primaries -- costing $1 million for a turnout of about 11 percent -- involved the races for the Shelby County Board of Commissioners (we like to call it the Shelby County Commission). In all, 12 of the 13 commissioners were essentially elected to their seats, by virtue of the almost non-existent party vs. party competition for the 12 seats in Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Only District 5 remains contested in the Aug. 5 election, with the Republicans putting forward Dr. Rolando Toyos to challenge Steve Mulroy, the Democrat who won in 2006 with a comfortable margin and reminds anyone who asks that District 5 has only grown MORE democratic.

We ran this story Sunday about how many believe the new commission projects to be more partisan, more guided by ideology and more, well, loud. There could well be some YouTube worthy confrontations with very non-timid commissioners like Walter Bailey and Henri Brooks on the left and Terry Roland and Chris Thomas on the right. This quote from Thomas in the story is telling:

"I'm not looking for a fight, but I'm not backing down from one. I'm not going to lay down and let people roll over us."

Bailey, who was commissioner for 35 years before term limits forced a 4-year hiatus, sounded optimistic that the partisan rancor would cool once people figure out their job is to accomplish things for the county, not to win arguments.

"Initially you are going to find more than the usual posturing especially among the new commissioners who enter the process on a mission. As we get more settled and learn and trust each other a bit more, then I think as part of the acclimation process, one learns that consensus is an essential requirement."

Forum today featues Ford, Luttrell in Q&As

 
Just one week after winning nomination for county mayor from their respective parties, Joe Ford and Mark Luttrell will appear today at a mayoral forum hosted by The National Association of Business (NAWBO). Ford, the Democratic interim county mayor since December, will participate in a Q & A along with Luttrell, the Republican county sheriff, at Pancho's Mexican Restaurant at 717 N. White Station Road, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tickets for the event are $12 and include taco bar lunch and beverage. Networking opportunities are available beginning at 11:15 a.m. and registration for the event online is at nawbomemphis0511.eventbrite.com.

I'll be there and sending occasional updates from my zackmcm Twitter account.

Good timing, Speaker Ramsey?

 

NASHVILLE -- For about an hour this morning starting at about 10:30, two members of President Obama's Cabinet -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke -- toured parts of downtown Nashville that were submerged by last week's floods. This afternoon, they toured flood-stricken areas of Memphis

On Saturday, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano toured Nashville's flood zones. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited the Naval Air Station at Millington for briefings on the flooding there. FEMA Director Craig Fugate has spent more time in Tennessee since the flooding began than he has in Washington.

In addition to those appointed federal officials, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and individual congressmen have crisscrossed Middle and West Tennessee visiting Tennesseans still trying to clean out their homes and businesses of flood debris.

By mid-day today, $28 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved for individual Tennessee residents harmed by last week's weather.

At 11:22 a.m. today, state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey -- a Republican candidate for governor -- issued an email to his campaign supporters under the subject line, "Join with me to give Washington the boot!"

It said, "Dear Friends, I hope you will join with me to give Washington the boot!  Let's stand together to send a strong message to Washington that we're going run our state the Tennessee way and not the Washington way. We are gathering Tennesseans from across the entire state to help in this effort.  Please call, email and talk to your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues to join us on May 15 when we unveil our plans to give Washington the boot!"

For the good of the more than 18,000 Tennesseans who have registered with FEMA -- the first step in receiving disaster assistance -- it might have been good that the Speaker wasn't touring the flooded areas while the visiting Washingtonians were around.  He might have been wearing his black boots.

Wharton making personnel moves

 

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton has found a new director of Human Resources and is re-nominating three more division directors until an in-depth study of city government operations can be completed.

Wharton is nominating Quinton Robinson, a former Commercial Appeal employee, as director of Human Resources, a city division that has been plagued by controversy in recent years.

Wharton is also re-nominating Public Services and Neighborhoods director Janet Hooks, Community Enhancement director Ernest Dobbins and Parks director Cindy Buchanan.

The City Council will vote on the nominations Tuesday.

Robinson, who served most recently as senior strategy manager for Wal-Mart Customer Care Shared Service organization, where he crafted HR strategy for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, will be tasked with getting the Human Resources division in order.

Almost immediately after taking office Wharton and his transition team focused a lot of time and energy reviewing the city's HR office.

The transition team suggested a complete overhaul of Human Resources and urged Wharton to hire a full-time consultant to revamp the division. The transition team also suggested reviewing the qualifications of every employee in the division.

The transition team said HR had not completely implemented a costly software system the city purchased years ago, and it would be crucial for HR to effectively use the technology it has at its disposal.

Robinson will replace interim HR director Rhoda Gillespie, who has been running the office since Wharton terminated former director Lorene Essex.

There were long-standing questions about Essex's residency. Division directors are required to live in the city and Essex, who was responsible for overseeing the city's residency requirement, said for years that she lived in an apartment on Mud Island, apart from her husband, who lived in the couple's $400,000 home in Collierville.

In 2008, the HR department came under scrutiny after a summer pool worker with a violent criminal history allegedly raped a teenage girl and exposed her to HIV. After that incident, the division began running background checks on temporary employees.

More recently, HR has been criticized by City Council members for the slow pace of police hiring and previously by then-Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery for paying many of its temporary workers $20 an hour, far more than the majority of temporary workers in other city divisions. HR also approved of allowing the relatives of powerful city workers to work in the same division of their relatives.

Wharton did not originally re-nominate Hooks, Dobbins and Buchanan because he wanted to look for efficiencies in their divisions, which have some functions that overlap.

However, Wharton decided recently to go ahead and re-nominate the three directors until a panel appointed by Wharton can complete a review of city government operations and make recommendations for increasing efficiency and eliminating redundancy.

The Council will also vote to approve Desi Franklin as Wharton's new executive director of the Workforce Investment Network.

Franklin, a former partner at the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, will fill the post effective May 15, replacing James Russell, who retired March 31.

The taxpayer-financed WIN uses public money to train people for jobs and help employers find workers, including a summer youth employment program and a local career center.

Under former Mayor Willie Herenton the WIN was a source of embarrassment and state officials even considered placing its operations under the control of a non-profit to improve its effectiveness.

In December, the state said it would release $11million it had withheld from the WIN since 2008 but that the city could lose $3.7 million for the WIN's summer jobs program because of sloppy record-keeping.

Welcome to Tennessee, Mr. McCullough!

 


WASHINGTON -- The reason the 8th Congressional District race is going to be so much fun to cover is that it has it real originals for both candidates and those behind the scenes.

Some may recall the Tea Party independent candidate Donn Janes of Brighton's email rant back in February about a reference to The Communist Manifesto in A Concise Introduction to Logic, a textbook used at the University of Memphis.

Janes also objected to the textbook's giving credence to global warming and characterizing Fox News as a "propaganda machine that is misleading its viewers."

Janes knows what Fair and Balanced means.

He also objected to allowing the founder of ACORN speak on the U of M campus -- a college campus, you know, where students confront and consider new and unusual ideas.

On Friday, we were treated to Republican Ron Kirkland's campaign's deft and artful sense of humor. Campaign manager Brent Leatherwood, tongue inserted firmly in cheek, welcomed "experienced Washington insider and savvy campaign operative" Matt McCullough to Tennessee.

McCullough is the new campaign manager for Republican Stephen Fincher, the gospel-singing farmer and NRCC choice in the three-way GOP contest.

"While most folks in Tennessee won't care for yet another D.C. insider interfering with our local politics, I want to be the first to welcome him," Leatherwood schmoozed. "I look forward to introducing him to sweet tea and barbeque, and showing him around the Volunteer State."

Haslam up with Memphis-specific TV ad

 

NASHVILLE - Knoxville Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam is running a Memphis-specific ad on Memphis broadcast and cable TV that emphasizes his wife's ties to the city. Crissy Garrett Haslam is a Memphis native who married Haslam 29 years ago.

The ad opens with Kempie Jenkins, a Memphis teacher and friend of Mrs. Haslam's since high school, talking about the Haslams. The other visuals include scenes of Memphis landmarks like Beale Street, the Main Street trolly, Autozone Park and the Hernando DeSoto Bridge.

Haslam is running against state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. He did a two-day campaign swing through Memphis and Millington Wednesday and today that included former U.S. Senator Howard Baker at Haslam's new Memphis campaign headquarters in Eastgate shopping center.

The campaign also announced that Memphis lawyer and former U.S. Atty. David Kustoff, formerly statewide campaign chairman of Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons' gubernatorial campaign that ended last month, is now backing Haslam and has agreed to serve as one of his statewide co-chairmen.

The Memphis ad is the first and only city-specific ad the Haslam camp has aired, and was part of the campaign's ad plan from the outset, said campaign spokesman David Smith.

Haslam switched a scheduled door-knocking tour through an East Memphis neighborhood to tour flood damaged areas in the Millington area this afternoon. 

 

In leaked e-mail, Halbert worries about leaks

 

City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert is worried about leaks of information from the council's staff to the news media.

In an e-mail Halbert sent to Mayor A C Wharton, City Atty. Herman Morris and council members that was obtained by The Commercial Appeal, Halbert says she is "extremely concerned" about leaks coming from the council's staff.

"Clearly, information is leaking out of council office which should be a professional breach of confidentiality," said Halbert. "If information is requested, there should be an established process citizens are taken through. To 'leak' information should be considered inappropriate with possible consequences."

Halbert then asks chairman Harold Collins to recognize her concerns and remind council staff about their duties and responsibilities.

"Can we please have some kind of acknowledgment from you as chair that all employees have been made aware of their roles and responsibilities as it relates to supporting all members of the Memphis City Council and distributing requested public information?" asked Halbert.

Taxpayer tab for partisan primaries: $15 per vote

 
Final official turnout figures were not yet available from the Shelby County Election Commission, but with 64,969 votes counted in the two mayoral primaries, it appears the final number will be around 65,000 - or about 10.9 percent of the county's 597,792 voters.

The partisan primary costs taxpayers nearly $1 million, and simple division tells us that it costs taxpayers about $15.40 per vote so that the parties can hold partisan primaries for local county offices.

Since both parties moved to partisan primaries in the 90s, the May county primary has averaged about 67,500 voters and 11.6 percent turnouts.

We highly recommend the column by Wendi Thomas on this topic in today's editions.

Joe Ford owes assist to Republicans Bunker, Ritz

 
Per the last post, while realizing that Joe Ford has a big hill to climb in persuading non-Democratic primary voters to support him, if he succeeds and does in fact give Shelby County its first fulltime Mayor Ford, we'll surely hear some of the more rabid Ford haters saying they are selling their house, moving to DeSoto (presumably so they can pay Mississippi income taxes?). But one thing that needs to be remembered -- if Ford wins a four-year term, it will be due in no small part to Republicans. Because it was  Republican county commissioners Wyatt Bunker and Mike Ritz who steadfastly supported Ford during the 27 rounds of voting needed to appoint him interim mayor completing the term A C Wharton resigned to become Memphis mayor. On several occasions, Bunker and Ritz could have ended Ford's bid without electing J.W. Gibson, who they both strongly opposed. Giving Ford the incumbency provided a huge boost in the Democratic primary victory over County Commissioner Deidre Malone.

When Ford finally prevailed in November -- still promising NOT to run for the full-time post -- you could sense from Deidre Malone great disappointment. Like almost everyone in the commission chambers that day, she knew it was extremely likely Ford would "change is mind" and decide to run for mayor. Bunker and Ritz maintain they stood by Ford because he had voted with them and shown fiscally conservative instincts (at least when it came to public policy). A good question for their Republican constituents to ask now is this: Did you really believe Joe Ford when he promised not to run full time? There's no real good answer to that, at least not to Republicans who are naturally skeptical of the motives of anyone with the last name of Ford -- either they were naive or a poor judge of character, seen from that perspective. And yet, Bunker cruised to re-election and Ritz ran unopposed. What does that say about the competition (or lack thereof) created by the partisan primaries and district boundaries for county commission?

Will county mayor race be tighter than expected?

 
Throughout today and the rest of the week, we will post day-after thoughts about the Shelby County primaries that finished on Tuesday.

COUNTY MAYOR
Interim county mayor Joe Ford won the argument, for now, that it was the people who wanted him to run for mayor, and that voters  (at least in the Democratic primary) would not care whether a candidate for county executive "pays his light bill" or has financial troubles. And it wasn't close -- he got 57 percent of the vote, or 7,444 votes than County Commissioner Deidre Malone (and 5,276 more than Malone and General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson combined).

Republicans officially anointed Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell as their nominee, giving him an impressive 28,538 votes -- oddly, perennial candidate Ernest Lunati got 828 votes, or 3 percent of the vote. Given Lunati's performances in previous elections, about 800 of those votes have to be considered purely anti-Luttrell. Perhaps Democrats out east who asked for Republican ballots so they could have a say in all-Republican county commission races?

Luttrell reportedly is already up with TV ads this morning, demonstrating what will be an enormous financial advantage over Ford. Luttrell had $140,000 on hand as of early April, and looking at his donor list, it won't be hard for him to raise many times more than that amount, if he needs it. Ford had less than $500 on hand  -- it will be interesting to see if big-money, establishment Democrats choose to support him financially or sit out this race.

But in a county where the Republican nominee for president, a war hero with "maverick" credentials, could only pull 35 percent of the vote in 2008, Luttrell has less margin for error than the conventional wisdom wants to assume. I got emails from sources last night suggesting Luttrell will win easily, but my first blush reaction is, "not so fast." Last night I asked Joe Ford, "Can you beat Mark Luttrell?" His response was full of the same confidence and bravado he displayed during the campaign vs. Malone (and that was proven out): "You are saying that wrong, Mr. McMillin. The question is, 'Can he beat me?'"

Malone was disappointed, but soothed to some degree by the knowledge that even a perfectly-run campaign with unlimited funds apparently might not have been enough to overcome the "Ford" brand, her opponent's incumbency and the utter lack of interest from voters in partisan county primaries. She obviously will express support for her party's nominee, but she sounded more sure about the vulnerabilities that can be exposed with Luttrell: "There are some chinks in that armor and he is definitely beatable. The party will have a very strong and coordinated campaign."

There is no question that Luttrell brings formidable advantages and vastly underrated political ability to the campaign. Whatever charisma he may not exude he more than makes up for with astute instincts, and his record of accomplishment as sheriff is impressive. But as Malone well knows, underestimating the ability of the Fords to bring out voters would be a mistake. As well, Ford will have another three months of incumbency, including a recent impressive run responding quickly to the flooding, and the whole "but-you-promised-you-wouldn't-run" argument is now dead, not least because Luttrell said he wouldn't run before changing his mind, too.

The numbers tell us that 35,444 people voted for a Democratic candidate for mayor vs. 29,366 for a Republican candidate, but that may not have much meaning in August, when 200,000 voters may well be turned out. It's hard to know whether the ballot gives a huge Democratic advantage, as many assume is the case with the Willie Herenton-Steve Cohen congressional battle, because Republican gubernatorial candidates will be spending vast amounts of money to get out voters, as will Republican candidates in the 8th Congressional District primary. Also hard to know is how many of those 15,804 non-Ford votes in the Democratic primary will migrate to him, or if Luttrell can count on at least half of them.

One final thought, on the performance of General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson, who got only 6 percent of the vote. It is is another in a long line of recent examples of the way some local politicians fill themselves with delusions of grandeur based upon victories in less-visible elections. Memphis's special mayoral election last fall was but one example. Politicians seem not to understand that when they get, say, 80,000 votes in a school board or clerk election, it doesn't mean all 80,000 people love them. More likely, 79,000 of them recognized their name but not the other candidates.

We're going to have a longish post before noon wrapping up the Shelby County primary -- looking at key races, breaking down the numbers, explaining what happened and, with some eagerness, looking ahead to August.

If you haven't already, check out our deadline-written stories from last night. And please, jump into the comments fray and infuse them with some much-needed insight and intelligence.

Joe Ford's victory in the Democratic mayoral primary wasn't necessarily a surprise, but as his counterpart, Republican winner Mark Luttrell pointed out, the margin of victory was. As most expected, it's Randy Wade (D) vs. Bill Oldham for county sheriff. We now know 12 of the 13 county commissioners for Sept. 2010 - Sept. 2014. And down-ballot races for clerkships, Trustee and Register are now set.

Election day is here (finally), so go vote!

 
It's election day, so stop surfing the web and go vote. And while you're out there, buy 20 or so copies of The Commercial Appeal and pass them out to friends.  Lots of breathtaking photos that need seeing in print, not to mention valuable information about the Shelby County primaries. Then come back and check out www.CommercialAppeal.com for the latest from Nashville and any other breaking news we can uncover.

Just think, by tomorrow we'll have the $1 million county primaries and expected 10-12 percent turnout behind us, so we can start focusing on the Aug. 5 election and all of its delicious political storylines.

Click here for the setup piece we wrote previewing the vote.

And click here for the view from our editorial page.

We'll have more updates later, and plan to post stories on the main Web site at www.CommercialAppeal.com and here at Eye on Politics.
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As the process for merging Shelby County's schools accelerates into action, we'll provide bonus coverage here at www.MemphisNewsBlog.com, 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 zmcmillin@commercialappeal.com or 529-2564.

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