VOL. 129 | NO. 122 | Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Chism Picnic Reflects Summer Campaign Tone
By Bill Dries
From the stage at County Commissioner Sidney Chism’s annual political picnic Saturday, June 21, you could almost see the Aug. 7 election day.
It was on the other side of the dozen or more campaign tents at the bottom of the hill on Horn Lake Road in Southwest Memphis.
And to get there you had to go through the candidates and their campaign workers intently looking for the few people at the picnic who weren’t a candidate or working in a campaign. That did not include the children riding ponies or a kiddie train around the property, some nevertheless wearing campaign T-shirts.
General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Tim Dwyer spotted a line of classic cars on display while leaving the picnic site and ran over with his son to point out the El Camino in the lead of the caravan.
Chism’s picnic routinely features both Republicans and Democrats despite Chism’s status as a Democratic county commissioner and a former chairman of the local Democratic Party.
He leaves office in September at the end of an election cycle in which his party’s leaders have been trying to better define what party loyalty is and what the consequences should be for those who cross party lines.
For Chism, that meant a censure from the local party’s executive committee for his support of incumbent Republican Sheriff Bill Oldham over Democratic nominee Bennie Cobb.
Chism was unapologetic about his support for Oldham, also touting his support of Democratic mayoral nominee Deidre Malone as Republican incumbent mayor Mark Luttrell was campaigning in the crowd.
“I’ve got a lot of friends everywhere,” Chism told the crowd – repeating the word “everywhere” loudly five times. Oldham campaign workers applauded as Cobb and his campaign workers circulated in the crowd.
“I don’t care if you don’t like it,” Chism said of his support of Oldham. “I’m not going to play with you. I going to help people who are going to do right by this community, not because you want to make a payday. … I don’t want nobody else as long as I live on this Earth, if I live to be a thousand years old. You got a long time to play with me.”
The candidates for judge are working hard to convince voters to vote the whole ballot topped by the federal and state primaries unless a voter passes on the primaries and only votes in the county general election and state judicial retention races.
“If you don’t vote the whole ballot, you didn’t show up,” said state Sen. Jim Kyle, who is running for Chancellor Part 2, one of five judicial races in which the incumbent is not seeking re-election.
Democratic U.S. Senate contender Gordon Ball of Knoxville urged the group to “put a backbone back in the Democratic primary.”
He also criticized Republican incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander for opposing an increase in the federal minimum wage as fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker has proposed an increase in the federal gas tax.
“Can you imagine paying 12 cents for every gallon of gas and having to fill up two and three times a week when you are only making $7.35 an hour?” Ball asked. “Maybe Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander can do that. But I don’t think the working people across this state can do that.”
Democratic mayoral candidate Deidre Malone noted that Republican incumbent Heidi Shafer could be the only woman on the Shelby County Commission if Democrat Jackie Jackson doesn’t win her challenge of Republican incumbent Mark Billingsley.
“We need a woman CEO in this county, and I am prepared,” she said.
She also continued to portray Luttrell as inactive on issues such as an expansion of Medicaid, which Luttrell has said he favors.
“If you are serious about having someone that will go to Nashville and fight for Medicaid expansion, work with other major-market mayors to make it happen in the state of Tennessee, then you are going to vote for me,” Malone said.
Meanwhile Democratic Congressional candidate Ricky Wilkins stuck to familiar ground in his challenge of Democratic incumbent Steve Cohen in the August primary.
“I’ll be a congressman that will get involved in local issues,” Wilkins said. “Many people in our community are hurting right now, losing their jobs, losing their pensions, don’t have the ability to take care of their children.”
Cohen has reacted to the criticism by saying he’s been involved in local issues where he felt he could make a difference.
That includes being critical of Delta Air Lines and working to bring more flights to Memphis International Airport, asking the Department of Justice to investigate the tax refund business Mo’ Money Taxes, seeking funding for an air control tower for the Millington airport and seeking federal oversight of the Shelby County Election Commission.