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VOL. 130 | NO. 174 | Monday, September 7, 2015

Memphis Mayoral Contenders Tout Endorsements, Snipe at Rivals

By Bill Dries

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U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen endorsed Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s re-election bid last week on the doorstep of his Midtown home with the incumbent mayor by his side.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen officially has endorsed Memphis Mayor A C Wharton in his re-election campaign.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

The two made the endorsement official by putting a Wharton sign on Cohen’s front lawn, which is no small matter for Cohen who is a dedicated collector of political paraphernalia.

And although Wharton has been a prominent backer of Cohen’s congressional campaigns, Cohen said the endorsement was nonetheless a difficult call.

He’s a friend of Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland, and they both have supported each other politically.

Cohen said the two sit near each other at University of Memphis basketball games at FedExForum, another pursuit Cohen takes seriously.

“I hate to be against my friend Jim Strickland, but this is the time for A C Wharton to serve another term for the betterment of Memphis,” Cohen said Thursday, Sept. 3, adding he based his decision on “what I think it takes to be mayor.”

Cohen and Wharton added the mayor’s sign to a set of other yard signs, including one for Memphis City Council candidate Kenneth Whalum Jr. When he announced his candidacy in July, Whalum told supporters, “There’s no doubt that Mayor Wharton needs to go.”

It’s hardly the first odd coupling of the campaign season.

Hours after the Cohen endorsement, Strickland got the recommendation of the Shelby County Republican party in the nonpartisan election. Strickland is a former chairman of the Shelby County Democratic party.

The Strickland and Wharton campaigns continue to snipe at each other via social media.

Also on Thursday, as Wharton’s campaign was touting his “National Conversation on the Blueprint to Prosperity” – a long-held plan for reducing poverty – Strickland’s campaign Twitter account was critical.

“Memphis is not lacking in think tanks or policy papers,” one tweet read, followed by, “Blueprint for Prosperity has been sitting on a shelf for years and yet poverty has increased from 26 to 28 percent.”

Wharton supporter and former Shelby County Commissioner Mike Carpenter responded, “It’s a very comprehensive plan that requires funding. Did you vote to help fund the plan?”

Meanwhile, Wharton was pushing the idea that Memphis is on the verge of a renaissance in a pre-Labor Day weekend robocall.

“Blight is being reduced and we are fighting crime and bringing it down,” he said in the recording. “We saved Memphis from bankruptcy … but I’m still not satisfied.”

Thursday, Sept. 3, also saw council member and Wharton challenger Harold Collins touting formal plans by Elvis Presley Enterprises to overhaul the Graceland Plaza property on the west side of Elvis Presley Boulevard. It will be the third phase of an expansion of Graceland’s footprint in Whitehaven, which is part of his district.

EPE announced the plans much sooner than expected, shortly after construction began on the second phase of the expansion, the $90 million, 450-room hotel north of the mansion.

Collins pushed for years for such development including a $43 million state and locally funded upgrade of the Elvis Presley Boulevard streetscape between Brooks Road and Shelby Drive.

Wharton announced this summer that the streetscape work will be delayed. Collins immediately said the delay was politically motivated.

PROPERTY SALES 27 150 2,415
MORTGAGES 57 228 2,835
BUILDING PERMITS 157 441 6,509
BANKRUPTCIES 61 133 1,920