VOL. 130 | NO. 137 | Thursday, July 16, 2015
Memphis Filing Deadline Features Last-Minute Shifts, Intrigue
By Bill Dries
The decision Tuesday, July 14, by a sixth Memphis City Council member to pass up a place on the Oct. 8 ballot has added some intrigue on the way to the noon Thursday, July 16, filing deadline for the Memphis elections.
City council candidate Kenneth Whalum Jr. was among the candidates in the October city elections making their decisions in the days before the filing deadline for the Memphis elections.
(Daily News/Bill Dries)
Incumbent District 2 council member Bill Boyd had kept his options open as the deadline approached but ultimately decided not to run for reelection. Boyd cited term limits Memphis voters approved in a 2008 city charter amendment.
Although the provision of no more than two consecutive terms started with the winners of the 2011 elections and would have allowed Boyd one more council term, he decided to apply the two-term limit anyway.
“The voters spoke and responded in a positive manner and that is as it should be,” Boyd wrote Tuesday in his announcement. “New people with new ideas and perhaps different thoughts on the issues as they arise, should have the opportunity to seek and be elected to office in all levels of government, in my opinion.”
There was an immediate reaction Tuesday as Frank Colvett Jr., Greenscape Inc. president and long-active member the local and state Republican party, filed a petition for the District 2 race.
A field that already included The Orpheum Theatre’s education coordinator Rachel Knox and Libertarian Jim Tomasik suddenly became ripe for change.
That meant some of the 14 would-be contenders in Super District 9 Position 2 – the largest field of any council race by the number of petitions pulled – might look at jumping ship for a smaller single-member district race. Only six contenders have petitions out in the District 2 race, including Colvett, Knox and Tomasik.
Or that could have be wishful thinking by some candidates determined to remain in the open Super District race, which only got more crowded as the deadline neared.
Hours after Boyd announced his intentions, former Shelby County Schools board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. announced he would pass on a race for mayor or council District 5 and instead join the race for Super District 9 Position 2.
“There’s no doubt that Mayor (A C) Wharton needs to go. And my ego is no smaller than anybody else’s,” Whalum told a group of 50 at Church Park to hear his announcement. “I’m absolutely certain that I am the best candidate to be the mayor of Memphis. However, I’m not stupid. There are too many people in the race to defeat the status quo. Losing sucks.”
Whalum wages big campaigns about big issues – in this case what he feels was a disastrous decision by Memphis voters to merge Memphis City Schools with Shelby County Schools in a 2011 referendum.
Follow more surprises @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, with live coverage of the closing hours to file petitions.
“I stand here today to lead the effort to restore our children’s educational future. To accomplish this we must have new political leaders,” Whalum said. “Our agenda is to reclaim our children’s future by reclaiming their education.”
Whalum joins a field in the council race that includes Stephanie Gatewood, one of the Memphis City Schools board members who voted for the merger that set up the referendum.
Gatewood addressed the dozen or so supporters who attended her Monday, July 13, fundraiser at Acre, an East Memphis restaurant.
“What would you rather do without?” she said in the discussion about city services.
The answers were slow in coming and took a lot of prompting.
She later admitted, “This is not your traditional fundraiser,” and she added, “Most time I’m unorthodox.”
Gatewood defined the council’s role as “not trying to run the city, but connecting constituents to government.”
She also called for more “neighborhood policing” by the Memphis Police Department including teaching citizens “how to interact with the cops.”
Gatewood also advocated requiring companies receiving tax breaks from payments-in-lieu-of taxes agreements to have internship programs.
She portrayed the council race as a “David and Goliath fight” with rival Philip Spinosa, a FedEx sales executive, being Goliath.
Meanwhile, Joe Cooper’s return to the ballot has become a skirmish with the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office. It’s been eight years since Cooper’s last bid for elected office; during that time he served a six-month federal prison sentence for money laundering.
Cooper pulled his City Council petition before he filed to have his citizenship rights – including the right to run for elected office – restored in Circuit Court.
He had the same rights restored in the 1970s after serving a year in prison for federal bank fraud conspiracy.
Assistant District Attorney Kirby May, in a July 9 Circuit Court filing, said the state opposes the restoration of Cooper’s citizenship rights “due to the nature of the petitioner’s multiple prior federal convictions.”
May also notes that the factors a court considers in issuing a certificate of employability is whether the petitioner “has sustained the character of a person of honest, respectability and veracity and is generally esteemed as such by the petitioner’s neighbors.”