VOL. 124 | NO. 78 | Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Herenton May Run For Congress
By Bill Dries
Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton announced Tuesday that he has formed an exploratory committee to run for Congress in the 2010 elections.
Herenton dropped the political bombshell in the form of a written statement minutes after delivering his annual budget address to the Memphis City Council.
He made no mention of the possible 2010 campaign in the budget address. Herenton talked with reporters briefly about his proposed city budget after the address and said he also wanted to address “rumors” about his political future.
But instead of talking about it, Herenton had an aide hand out the written statement as he walked to a nearby elevator.
The statement reads:
“The transition from public service to the private sector has been contemplated by me for a considerable time after retirement from my current office. However, after receiving considerable encouragement from citizens to become a candidate in 2010 for the U.S. House of Representatives Ninth Congressional District, I am seriously evaluating the opportunity to represent the Memphis community at the federal level.
“My 30 years of public service has uniquely prepared me to represent Memphis at the federal level as our national leadership faces some very difficult challenges. I am forming an exploratory committee and anticipate making a decision in the near future.”
If Herenton were to run, he would presumably run in the Democratic primary and it would presumably be a challenge against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen. Cohen could not be reached for comment.
Cohen was among those surprised by Herenton's announcement.
He responded an hour later from Washington in a written statement that indicated a Herenton bid would be as a challenger.
Cohen's statement reads:
“I was surprised to learn of this announcement by the Mayor’s office just now while reading the Commercial Appeal as I have been contacted by neither the Mayor nor any of his associates. I have an excellent working relationship with the City of Memphis as evidenced by the number of projects that received federal funding under the last budget. I believe that the overwhelming margin of victory during my reelection campaign last year showed that the people of the 9th District of Tennessee enthusiastically approve of the job I’ve been doing in Washington, D.C. In my nearly thirty years of public service as a legislator, I have always fought for the people of Memphis, and I plan to continue to do so in the U.S. House of Representatives for the foreseeable future.”
Herenton also could run for Congress without giving up his position as mayor. His current four-year term runs out at the end of 2011. But Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has already started a campaign for Memphis mayor in 2011, prompting rumors that Herenton might resign before completing his term.
Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism, a close friend and political ally of Herenton's dating back to Herenton's historic 1991 campaign for mayor, told The Daily News Herenton has been considered a bid for Congress for a while.
"He's always had a desire to go to Congress," Chism said. "If he runs in the 9th Congressional district, if you go back and pull the numbers -- if he doesn't get but 50 percent of the people that normally vote for him, he'd beat Steve. ... I give you ten to one odds that if he runs, he wins. I think he wins -- worst case scenario -- by 15-20 (percentage) points."
Word of the possible congressional bid comes a year and month after Herenton talked of resigning the mayor’s office to pursue other interests including possibly becoming superintendent of the Memphis City Schools system. Herenton reconsidered almost immediately.
Read the complete story in Thursday’s edition of The Daily News.
Senior Reporter Andy Meek contributed to this story.