VOL. 129 | NO. 215 | Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Haslam Reaches End of Campaign Trail in Memphis
By Bill Dries
On his last campaign event on the last full day of the 2014 campaign season, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was surrounded by whimsy and cookies in a decidedly pink East Memphis shop.
Haslam supporters packed the Whimsy Cookie Company, a boutique cookie bakery on Poplar Avenue Monday, Nov. 3, just before the afternoon rush hour.
With some supporters peering through a set of shelves separating two rooms with cookie boxes and Eifel Tower centerpieces on the shelves, Haslam urged a higher voter turnout on election day than is indicated by the early voter turnout locally and statewide.
“We’re making great progress but I don’t think any of us feel like we are done,” Haslam said of his own re-election bid on a record of higher education standards and education reforms as well as creating new jobs statewide. “It is great to have that many new jobs. But we still all know too many people who either don’t have a job or who are underemployed.”
Haslam faces token opposition from Democratic nominee Charles “Charlie” Brown, who won the August primary but has not been embraced or helped by the state Democratic party.
Haslam also said the lower early voter turnout compared to four years ago may have something to do with the set of four amendments to the Tennessee Constitution.
“I think that might be one reason voter turnout has been low so far,” Haslam said. “People are waiting to try to figure out how they feel about the amendments because the wording can be a little confusing. There’s a large part of me that says I think voter turnout might be better than people expect election day because so many people are waiting to vote now.”
Outside City Hall Monday , a group of around 100 supporters of Amendment 1, the proposed amendment on abortion to the Tennessee Constitution gathered, most wearing pink, to march the Main Street Mall to show their support.
Meanwhile, a press conference inside City Hall to promote the city charter amendment also on the ballot – one of 12 ballot questions on ballots in Shelby County – was an indication of the coming of the city election year.
The charter amendment streamlines the city’s civil service appeal process and was approved for the ballot by the city council after its provisions were hammered out in a committee that included municipal union leaders.
Among those backing the ballot question is Memphis Fire Fighters Association President Thomas Malone.
“When someone gets what I call the death penalty… which is a termination and it takes three years to get due process, something is wrong with the system,” he said. “We urge the support of this in regards to the employee getting fair due process. That’s exactly what this is about.”
It brought agreement from Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., something that hasn’t happened a lot of other issues this year.
“This will allow us to be much more expeditious in handling the civil service appeals,” Wharton said of the provision whose negotiated language was overseen by City Council member Kemp Conrad.
But Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams was noticeably absent from the unity press conference. Away from City Hall, he has urged his union members to vote against the charter amendment. That’s even though the union was part of the process of writing the amendment.
“This is one of the frustrations,” Conrad said when asked about Williams. “The fact of the matter is we voted on this. Everyone was in favor of this. … The bottom line is I think Mike Williams wants to be mayor. He’s doing this to advance that and not the people he represents. …
“I approved that message,” Wharton replied.
Then Conrad noted the presence of a possible contender in the 2015 Memphis Mayor’s race – city council chairman Jim Strickland as well as council members Lee Harris and Myron Lowery.
“Councilman Harris and I are not running for mayor,” Conrad added.
Strickland has said he intends to seek re-election to the council next year. But he had earlier been considering the race.
Wharton has said he intends to seek re-election next year.