Four years after she left elected office, Deidre Malone says she has learned a lot.
And as a result, her second campaign to become Shelby County mayor will be different than the first one four years ago.
Former Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone kicked off her 2014 campaign for Shelby County mayor with a listening tour that began last weekend in an East Memphis coffee shop.
(Daily News/Bill Dries)
Malone ran in the Democratic mayoral primary in 2010 from her seat on the Shelby County Commission.
She lost in a low turnout primary won by fellow commissioner and then-interim county mayor Joe Ford. Ford lost to Republican nominee Mark Luttrell, at the top of a Democratic ticket that lost to Republicans in every countywide race.
Four years later, Malone is using a different path to the nomination in a race that has a difference landscape. If she wins the nomination in the May primaries she will face a Republican incumbent who will be running on his record for an office in which voters have never turned out an incumbent seeking re-election.
Democrat Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy is also considering the race. One other possibility for Mulroy was a federal judgeship. His name was one of three U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, sent to President Barack Obama for the vacancy created when Judge Jon P. McCalla takes senior status later this month. Obama nominated attorney Sheri Lipman earlier this month.
Malone is beginning her effort with a listening tour – a common feature of campaigns that she didn’t use the first time around but which Ford did, even while he was saying he would not be a candidate.
Malone kicked off the sessions Saturday, Aug. 10, with a group of eight at Republic Coffee in East Memphis.
She told the group she will be “more hands on” this time than she was in 2010 and is willing to steer the campaign on a different course
“I don’t say anything about this incumbent Republican mayor. But I’m a Democrat,” Malone said. “Don’t get confused because someone’s nice and comes to your neighborhood.”
“How do you convey that we are all one county?” asked the Rev. Noel Hutchinson, pastor of First Baptist Church-Lauderdale.
Malone talked of a “rebranding” of the whole county area and of open and honest dialogue about the different outlooks in Memphis and the suburbs as well as common points.
“We have to have a louder voice and be persistent about that,” she said. “We will sink or swim together. I have an ability to move an agenda.”
Malone is president and CEO of the Carter Malone Group, a marketing firm she founded that has grown during the four years Malone has been out of office.
While Malone no longer holds elected office, she is a board member of Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE), the joint city-county economic development commission.
“EDGE is a good thing. I think it’s a wonderful body that both mayors created. ... We still, I believe, have a lot of work to do in terms of making sure that some of the incentives make sense for Memphis and Shelby County,” Malone said. “But it’s a work in progress. … I think we have to educate a lot of people on what the true benefit is. … We really are benefiting from the jobs that are created.”
Malone is among those on the EDGE board who also see no problem with asking companies seeking tax breaks or incentives to commit to hiring a mostly local work force as well as working with minority and locally owned businesses as suppliers and in construction projects.
“We need to ask those questions that make some people feel uncomfortable,” she said. “But if we’re responsible for making sure that you are relieved of paying taxes at this point that could benefit another area, we have to ask those questions because we want locally owned businesses and minorities to have those opportunities.”
Malone started the listening sessions the same week the board met in special session to approve incentives for Wright Medical Technology Inc. to move its headquarters from Arlington to East Memphis. Malone was critical of the company for not having a diversity plan.
“I really don’t like voting on an application if a diversity plan isn’t finalized because you don’t know what they are going to come back with in a month,” she said.