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VOL. 124 | NO. 171 | Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Frontrunners Begin to Emerge in Mayor’s Race

By Bill Dries

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HAPPILY HARRIED: Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr., with his wife and campaign treasurer Ruby Wharton, brought his mayoral campaign to Whitehaven this weekend, opening a campaign office just a block away from the headquarters of rival Charles Carpenter. -- PHOTO BY BILL DRIES

This is the week candidates in the Oct. 15 special election for Memphis mayor begin deciding whether they’re serious, and Sept. 10 is the deadline to withdraw.

Meanwhile, with about six weeks until Election Day, the campaigns of attorney Charles Carpenter and Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. have been the most visible.

But while he doesn’t have a campaign headquarters, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery does have the mayor’s office and at least a partial incumbent’s advantage.

Noon Thursday is the deadline for candidates to file qualifying petitions in the special mayor election.
Visit memphisdailynews.com and memphisdaily on Twitter for the latest developments.

That advantage was on full display during last week’s Action News 5 television debate. Lowery was able to showcase his efforts since becoming mayor July 30.

Friends and rivals

Wharton has been the most successful in getting potential rivals to endorse his bid.

Former and current City Council members Edmund Ford Sr. and Jr. announced last week they are endorsing Wharton. The elder Ford had hinted he or his son might run, but neither has pulled a qualifying petition.

The younger Ford is the second City Council member to endorse Wharton. Council member Jim Strickland is a co-chair of the Wharton campaign.

So is Memphis school board member Tomeka Hart, who quelched political buzz about a mayoral bid before Strickland came on board.

“By the time this thing is over, you are going to see some big surprises,” Wharton told supporters Saturday as he opened a Whitehaven campaign office just a block away from Carpenter’s headquarters.

At that point, Carpenter had a visible edge in Whitehaven yard signs. But the tent rally on a blazing hot summer day was followed by car caravans into the residential areas off Elvis Presley Boulevard. The goal was to place as many yard signs as possible.

‘Milquetoast’ with your coffee

Wharton began previewing television commercials this past weekend via his campaign Web site. They were the commercials shot at his East Memphis campaign headquarters one week earlier. Friends and supporters waved signs and cheered as Wharton declared the basic principles of his campaign and a goal of having the campaign double as a promotion of racial unity in Memphis.

Mayoral contender Kenneth Whalum Jr. posted a YouTube communiqué the day after the first TV debate of the campaign last week. He slammed the format of the debate and described the questions as “milquetoast.”

“Listen to me. This is the most important mayoral election in the history of the city of Memphis. … We cannot mess this one up,” Whalum said in the four-minute message.

“The issue in this election is consolidation – consolidation and personal character. Don’t let anyone tell you that consolidation is going to solve all of our problems or that our taxes are going to go down.

“Trust me. The bottom line is that the people in power want to continue to drain the resources from the city of Memphis without pouring adequate resources in,” Whalum said.

Meanwhile, the campaign of former City Council member Carol Chumney is showing signs of life. Chumney has leased space for her campaign headquarters on the stretch of Poplar Avenue near East High School. She moved in over the weekend. And her opening rally could come as soon as this week.

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