Does Sidney Chism picnic really make an impact?

One of the striking things about the now traditional summer picnic hosted by County Commissioner Sidney Chism is how few people that attend actually appear to be paying attention to candidates as they speak. And those that are paying attention often are other candidates, political insiders or members of the media. Chism, also a key strategist for 9th Congressional District candidate Willie Herenton, told a freelance photographer from The CA that he expected a few thousand people to attend. It's possible that many people eventually flowed in and out, but in the period when the marquee politicians made speeches, there were never more than a dozen people actively listening in front of the stage -- which this year was a giant portable that could have held a 7-piece band and dancers.

There were a few hundred people scattered around different parts of the complex down on Horn Lake Road, many partaking of the free food and drink (including some members of the media who will not be named) but the stage was so far away that the speaking became background noise. When Chism spoke, he seemed aggravated by the lack of attention, and at one point, while Shelby County Democratic Party chief Van Turner was exhorting people "make some noise," City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. complained to nobody in particular: "We gonna lose if that's all the noise we make."

Here's the story we ran Sunday about how the Democrats believe they will sweep all 10 county-wide offices on the ballot, including mayor, to take complete control of county government. Even Republicans agree this is a real possibility, and it would be a remarkable development, given that going into 2008, the Republicans controlled 10 of the 12 countywide offices. Check the story's lively comment section out -- up to 84 comments at last count.


Zack, with Randy Wade's luau and Shep Wilbun's HQ opening going on at the same time, plus the heat and humidity, the crowd was down from previous years.

I also noticed that there were a lot fewer regular folks there, as in non-campaign workers. The mere fact that Wilbun and Wade decided to schedule this on the same day as the Chism picnic seems telling to me.

Hey, Steve. Good points on both and glad you inserted them. That's a good perspective, although even last year, it could be argued that the event had the feel of an echo chamber. And what I most remember from last year was a lot of people suggesting A C Wharton could be beat (wrong), Deidre Malone's county mayor supporters testing messages and T-shirts (we know how that worked out) and the first almost confrontation between Cohen and Herenton (not only was the picnic hotter last year, but the predictions of the 9th race being sizzling have not exactly proven out).

Wade having an event at the same time is not hard to interpret. He had more motivation to sabotage Chism than support him (not saying he did either). And with Wilbun, I vividly remember during the 2007 mayoral campaign, when Herenton's campaign was loudly demanding inquests from the election commission over irregularities they refused to document, Shep Wilbun asking where the city mayor and the city attorney were in 2006 -- when he and three other Democrats wanted action by the election commission over what they said were irregularities (a judge ruled Wilbun, etc., produced no evidence).

#1, that's too far to drive for a hot dog.

#2, if Sidney Chism were white, he'd be treated like David Duke.

In addition, the top of the ticket for County offices hasn't exactly generated much excitement except for Democratic activists and Ford Loyalists.

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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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