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VOL. 126 | NO. 152 | Friday, August 5, 2011

Arlington Gears Up for Mayor’s Race

By Bill Dries

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Before Memphis voters go to the polls this October to decide a mayor’s race, voters in Arlington will decide a four-way race for mayor in the Sept. 15 elections there.

“If there’s a bad day of weather or a wreck on the interstate, you never know how the turnout is going to be.”

–Michael Wissman
Arlington mayoral candidate

The Memphis field of 10 includes candidates like incumbent Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and challenger James Harvey, who are relying on sophisticated computer software and lots of volunteers to turn out tens of thousands of people in early voting and on Election Day.

The scale of the Arlington contest, which has no incumbent, is much smaller with a smaller group of voters deciding who will succeed Russell Wiseman in the office.

The League of Women Voters will host a forum with all four candidates for mayor Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Arlington High School.

Early voting begins in three weeks, on Aug. 26. But the 13-day voting period at Shelby County Election Commission headquarters Downtown isn’t something any of the four candidates are devoting a lot of effort to.

“I don’t expect a person to drive Downtown from Arlington to vote,” said Alderman Hugh Lamar. “That might happen in four or five cases.”

Instead he and his three rivals will focus on the one-day of early voting in Arlington at one location – Sept. 10 at Arlington United Methodist Church.

But each is using a different appeal to get their voters interested, engaged and in front of a touch screen voting machine.

“I’m in the neighborhood all the time. It’s not like I just walked in yesterday,” said Lamar who is emphasizing his experience.

Fellow Alderman Brian Thompson has less experience on the body. But he is touting his experience and campaigning on infrastructure preparation for when the recession ends.

Arlington had explosive residential growth before the downturn settled in for a long stay.

“We need to stay focused on the basic infrastructure and what we’ve been doing for the last four years,” he said, adding Arlington should fund the needed infrastructure without a property tax hike.

Thompson’s campaign method was also based on working the Arlington territory with his yard signs up by early August.

Shelby County Schools board member Michael Wissman acknowledged the challenges that a smaller pool of voters present.

“If there’s a bad day of weather or a wreck on the interstate, you never know how the turnout is going to be,” he said.

Arlington has a population of 11,517. That includes those of voting age and those too young to vote.

Almost five times that many people voted early in the last race for Memphis mayor.

Nearly 10 times that many voted early and on Election Day in Memphis in what was a low turnout election.

Wissman’s appeal is his tenure on the county school board and the still-to-come federal court ruling on schools consolidation, which he and other board members oppose. He believes the next Arlington mayor should be more vocal on the issue of how the town responds to the ruling.

“During the whole schools consolidation issue we had (Bartlett) Mayor (Keith) McDonald and (Germantown) Mayor (Sharon) Goldsworthy that were pretty vocal for Germantown and Bartlett,” he said. “The other mayors kind of played a passive role. Whoever the (Arlington) mayor is … needs to be a vocal frontrunner.”

Arlington Chamber of Commerce president and former radio personality Brian Elder has a no-frills strategy he described as “knocking doors, shaking hands and kissing babies.”

He has an equally basic message that he said separates him from the other three.

“Arlington has no economic development plan – none. … I’m running on the message that we need one.”

“I already have a name out there,” Elder added, referring to his job with the chamber. “So I’m not having any trouble getting people to hear my message.”

MORTGAGES 80 320 1,066
BUILDING PERMITS 120 590 2,248