The Shelby County Republican Party's eminent Flinn-Scroggs mayoral showdown is but one of several that have churned up in what were, just weeks ago, the untroubled waters of GOP harmony. Incumbent county mayor Jim Rout
and, reportedly, other local GOP notables are now outspoken in their support of Republican gubernatorial challenger Jim Henry
of Kingston, while a majority of the party's officials and activists still lean to 4th District congressman Van Hilleary
, the presumed frontrunner.
"That isn't necessary a bad thing," says chairman Crone. "A contested gubernatorial primary, concurrent with the August general election, will bring out a healthy Republican vote."
The mayoral contest is a different matter. "We had hoped to organize our whole strategy around that race," concedes Crone, who makes no secret of the fact that he would have been delighted with an uncontested primary. Crone shrugs at what has now become inevitable, however, promises neutrality, and is actively in search of silver linings.
Of radiologist George Flinn
's surprise candidacy, he says, "I'm hoping George barings some new people in and helps us expand the grass-roots base of our party. He'll certainly help to generate some interest."
Crone professes to be untroubled as well about another recent development, the decision by party eminence John Ryder
, a stage-manager presence whom some had expected to head up Scroggs' campaign, to become a candidate in what is now a three-way primary race for the pivotal 5th District Shelby County Commission seat.
Though Ryder has to be counted the favorite, the other two contenders, financial manager Bruce Thompson
and contractor Jerry Cobb
, aren't going anywhere. Thompson says he has $50,000 to spend on his race and will probably have as much later on, while Cobb can count on the suppot of a reliable network of fellow Republican dissidents.
Moreover, the Scroggs campaign and the contywide Republican effort in general will suffer -- at least until the end of the primary period in early May -- from the mere fact that old pro Ryder will be wholly involved in his own electoral effort.
The bottom line: in the suddenly roiling sea of Shelby County Republicanism, it's sink or swim.
Other Campaign Notes: Two proteges of GOP consultant Lane Provine were predictably on-message in campaign openers last weekend. GOP sheriff's candidate Bobby Simmons, who reports more than $100,000 in campaign receipts, attacked corruption in the department , positioning himself as an outsider vis-a-vis Chief Deputy Don Wright but a seasoned hand in comparison with county Corrections director Mark Luttrell...County commission candidate Joyce Avery, who seeks to unseat Republican primary rival Clair VanderSchaaf, gigged him as votng for arena funds but against school funding and for approving any development "that's put before him."...Democratic mayoral candidate Harold Byrd attracted a large crowd to a women's luncheon Saturday and lashed out impressively at "Good Ole Boy" politics.