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VOL. 124 | NO. 174 | Friday, September 4, 2009

Mayoral Field Stands At 28 -- For Now

Next Week Will Determine Final Count

By Bill Dries

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It is the largest field of candidates for Memphis mayor in the 41 year history of the mayor-council form of government – possibly in the history of the city.

But before the 28 candidate field in the Oct. 15 special election goes into the record book, there is the next week to consider.

Thursday’s noon deadline to file a qualifying petition is the last word on candidates who will enter the race. But next Thursday – Sept. 10 – at noon is the deadline for any of those candidates to withdraw if they wish. And the talks to get some of those who made this week’s deadline to drop out are already underway.

The standing record is 15 candidates who filed to run in the 1999 race for mayor in which incumbent Willie Herenton won a third term.

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. began meeting with several rivals in the upcoming election last month. He said he never asked candidates to get out of the race, but instead told them the issues he planned to run on.

So far, Wharton’s campaign has drawn the endorsements of would be candidates Jim Strickland and Edmund Ford Jr., both city council members, as well as Ford’s father – former council member Edmund Ford Sr. Strickland is a Wharton campaign co chairman as is Memphis school board member Tomeka Hart, who briefly considered the race.

The field that emerged from Thursday’s filing deadline includes a county mayor – Wharton, the city’s Mayor Pro Tempore, two city council members, two former city council members, four former candidates for Memphis mayor, two Memphis school board members and a former Shelby County Commissioner. In some cases, a single candidate fits into several of those categories.

Carol Chumney, for instance, is a former city council member who finished second in the 2007 race for mayor.

Chumney is just starting a full campaign schedule that has included a turn at a church fashion show as well as shaking hands with workers this week on the night shift at the Diesel Recon plant in North Memphis.

One of the final entrants in the race was restaurant and bar owner Silky Sullivan. He arrived at the Election Commission Thursday in a white Rolls Royce wearing a white suit.

“When you see this white suit, you know I’m coming at you,” Sullivan said.

He got into the race after attorney Charles Carpenter said The Pyramid should be demolished and the site cleared for future uses if the city can’t reach a deal for Bass Pro Shops to develop the structure. Sullivan believes The Pyramid should be given to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as part of its campus.

There was the normal confusion in the immediate aftermath of the filing deadline. There were varying candidate totals for the field as election commission staff went through the qualifying petitions line by line to match those signing with voter registration rolls including the address voters used on the petition and the address listed on their voter registration. As usual, several candidates came up short.

And one got back with his petition three minutes after the deadline. Daniko Flowers, a construction worker, was not allowed to file his petition. He only had 18 signatures on the petition anyway.


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