Wharton Readies Bid For Memphis Mayor In 2011 Elections

First Fundraiser Next Week

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said this morning that he is running for Memphis Mayor in 2011 but probably won't be actively campaigning for a while.

"It will be a long time before that happens. We simply for legal reasons had to set up a different structure before we can spend money and raise money," Wharton said. "But I am serious about it. ... But I don't want to give the impression that I'll be on the street corner waving signs tomorrow."

Wharton told The Daily News that consolidation of city and county governments will be a major theme of his bid for City Hall.

"If it were to come to pass, I would certainly consider running for that," he said of the position of Metro Mayor which might be created in a total consolidation. "If I get over there (City Hall) before it's done, it puts me in a better position to still pursue consolidation. If it's done before then, then I'll make the call as to whether I go for the metro mayor's position."

Meanwhile, invitations to a $500 a person fundraiser set for next week at The Racquet Club began arriving in mailboxes around town this week.

While 2009 is an off election year, the Wharton fundraiser is proof that 2009 will not be an off year for politics. Wharton’s early bid to succeed Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton comes as prospective candidates for the 2010 governor’s race are already preparing to go public.

Wharton’s declaration is early for a mayoral race and is certain to renew speculation that Herenton might leave office before the end of his fifth four-year term which began this year. Earlier this year, Herenton announced his intention to resign at the end of July, but he took back the planned resignation days later.

At a Fourth of July political gathering in southwest Memphis, Wharton showed up handing out post cards that pictured him sitting at a desk with the caption “AC -- Still Working.” The card touted his achievements as county mayor but did not indicate any office he was seeking. Asked about what looked to be a campaign piece without an office, Wharton told The Daily News he wasn’t seeking any office but was simply reminding constituents that he was working for them.

Wharton is term limited as County Mayor to two four year terms. His second term of office will end Sept. 1, 2010.

The office of Memphis mayor will be on the Oct. 2011 ballot with the winner taking office New Year’s Day 2012 for a one time only term of three years. The shortened term of office is one of eight city charter amendments approved by Memphis voters in last week’s elections. The shortened term is to move city elections to even numbered years in November to coincide with county elections.

Wharton was the object of a draft movement in the 2007 mayor’s race as Herenton sought a fifth term. A group of political movers and shakers including some former Herenton allies tried to convince Wharton to challenge Herenton. Wharton considered the offer before ultimately turning it down.