If 9th Congressional District candidate Willie Herenton's insistence on avoiding involvement in the Shelby County Sheriff's race
did not already seem like a tacit endorsement of the Republican nominee, Bill Oldham, then you should have heard Herenton and his close aide, Michael Gray, talking to Oldham at the Sidney Chism picnic on Saturday. The Democratic nominee, retired deputy sheriff Randy Wade, has been the district director for Herenton's opponent, incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, and Herenton's plea for support from the community based in part on his race and connection to the inner city has not as yet embraced Wade, who received more votes
in the Democratic primary than the top two Republicans in their primary.
Gray, a former Memphis Police Department officer who worked under Oldham, approached me and said that The Commercial Appeal "could fill up a page" with positive descriptions of Oldham's abilities as a law enforcement leader. "I've been knowing him since he was a lieutenant on the police department and when he was a lieutenant he was this way, and when he was a captain he was the same way, when he was an inspector he was the same way, when he was a director he was the same way and when he was the chief, he maintained," Gray said. He added: "Just speaking as Michael Gray, I hope he wins."
At which point Oldham was approached by Herenton, who as Memphis's mayor elevated Oldham to interim director of MPD where he served for nearly a year before retiring when Herenton said he wanted to conduct a national search for the fulltime post. Herenton told Oldham: "I'm not going to get involved in this race, but one thing I can say about you, I worked with you in law enforcement and you are an honest professional," Herenton said. "I never had any reason to question your professionalism or your integrity." Whether that was an indirect shot at Wade is hard to say, though it was well reported that in a debate last week
Wade aggressively went after Oldham over expense-report issues at MPD -- which Oldham says are unfounded accusations.
To provide equal time, it's certainly worth pointing out that Wade has more than his share of conservative Republicans supporting his run, many of them former colleagues of Wade's (and, one might suppose, potential future employees of Sheriff Wade should he win). Go check out his presence on Facebook or his campaign finance disclosures and they are not hard to find. One key supporter has been John Harvey, information technology guru now with MPD and former deputy sheriff who ran for sheriff in 2006 on what was primarily an anti-Mark Luttrell platform. Some of Wade's ideas about using technology to innovate strategies involving incarceration and law enforcement show the influence of Harvey and his brother, Jim, a high-ranking MPD officer also well-respected for his technology chops.