THE CONVERSION OF TOM MOSS

THE CONVERSION OF TOM MOSS

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Okay, it was expected that Tom Moss, who was appointed Shelby County Commissioner last fall, would try to get himself assimilated as a member in good standing of the commission's seven-member GOP majority.

After all, nominal Republican Moss had defeated mainstream Republican David Lillard and was named to his post basically by a Democratic-dominated coalition (the same one that at the selfsame meeting boosted lodge brother Shep Wilbun into the vacant Juvenile Court clerkship), and Moss, along with veteran Republican Clair VanderSchaaf (who voted with the Democrats both times), was supposed to be dog meat for righteously vengeful Republicans to gnaw on at reelection time in 2002.

So builder Moss, whose ascension to the commission may have been more a developers' coup than anything expressly political, has tried to accommodate himself to his fellow Republicans.

But things have become almost surreal: There was Moss after Monday's commission meeting complaining, "I don't think we're a solid enough bloc. I don't think we're exacting enough in return for what we give up." We? Why, the Republican majority, of course!

"For example, we should have demanded a quid pro quo from the Democrats when Brigget [Chisholm] came on," Moss continued, referring to the young African-American woman, thitherto a political unknown like himself, who was elected to the commission two weeks later to replace Wilbun (Moss's seat was the one formerly held by the GOP's Mark Norris, who left for the state senate.)

In other words, Tom Moss -- who achieved office under the cloud of Democratic sponsorship -- has now become the most zealous of GOP partisans: No more deals with the Democrats unless something of solid value to the Republican coaliation comes from it!

It's really quite remarkable, this turnaround saga of Moss the hardnose.Though there are those who maintain that Chisholm is in the same developers' camp as Moss, she herself boasts State Senator John Ford and U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. as her chief supporters.

And in a key vote Monday on a Southeast Shelby County development resisted by its projected residential neighbors, she voted one way (against), Moss voted another (for), and VanderSchaaf voted yet a third way, proposing an amendment that would have split the difference.

(The project deadlocked at six-and-six and thereby died, although it can -- and probably will -- be brought up again for reconsideration.)

But the interesting fact about the vote was that none of the three supposed New Bloc members were together on the deal.

It may be easier than one would have thought for Tom Moss to take on protective coloration he'll need for next year's election season. At last Saturday's annual Shelby County Republican Lincoln Day banquet at the Adam's Mark, Moss was observed having a chummy conversation with Chris Norris, the ex-commissioner's wife and a bedrock Republican in her own right.

That was followed by an even chummier conversation with county GOP chairman Alan Crone, who was overheard to be asking the new commissioner out to lunch.

After Moss's appointment, Commissioner Michael Hooks was recommending a wait-and-see attitude to his fellow Democrats. He reminded them that they had played a large role four years ago in the appointment to the body of Morris Fair, but, said Hooks, "he voted with us once or twice, and then he turned into just another Republican."

Whether that's totally accurate or not, it describes a conversion process that Tom Moss, in his turn, may have already begun.

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