Maybe George Flinn was better off staying away from Saturdays Dutch Treat Luncheon to concentrate, as he said, on the last day of early voting in his city council runoff contest with Carol Chumney.
And maybe, if hed been at the luncheon, Flinn could have provided some obstacle to Chumneys bonding with the attendees -- the kind of political conservatives who would normally be counted in the Republican physician/businessmans camp.
On point Number Two, well never know. On point Number One, well presumably find out next Thursday, when voters in the citys 5th District will decide the issue between Flinn and State Representative Chumney.
In any case, Chumney had the mike to herself -- though both candidates had been invited for what had originally been intended as a debate -- and she acquitted herself very well indeed, as two details of her reception would indicate.
First, Stan Pepperhorst, president of the Southeast Shelby Republican Club, a hotbed of Flinn support, made a point of congratulating Chumney after she had spoken and fielded a lengthy list of questions. She had, he said to much concurring applause, succeeded admirably in distinguishing for the audience the separate fields of responsibility for officials of federal, city, county, and state government.
Then Emily Joe Greer, former president of the now-defunct social-conservative lobby, FLAIR, and now a representative of the Religious Roundtagble, introduced herself to Chumney and gave her a friendly hug. If nothing else, that was an acknowledgement of the Democratic state representatives convincingly agile performance before her largely Republican auditors at The Picadilly Restaurant on Mt. Moriah.
Not that there werent attempts to third-degree her on social issues. The first question she got concerned her attitude toward same-sex marriage, and Chumney handled that one by noting that she had voted in Nashville in favor of the legal exclusivity of heterosexual unions. And a late question challenged her on abortion, which the pro-choice state representative deflected by stating that the issue would never come up for a council vote -- which it probably wont, at least in the pure sense -- and that she had taken legislative positions which she said were meant to support adoption as an alternative to abortion.
The one question which might have caused some Chumney some grief -- one which Flinn could have pinned her down on, had he been there -- concerned the timing of her recent resignation from her District 89 seat in the state House of Representatives. She had waited to resign until after making the runoff with Flinn (as the leader in athe original field of five) -- late enough to require a special election to fill her seat -- but before next Thursdays runoff election. Had she waited until then, the Republican-dominated Shelby County commission could have named a successor. (As it happens, four Democrats and no Republican ended up filing for her legislative seat)
The issue of Chumneys resignation came up, but she wasnt pressed on it and dispensed with it relatively easily, stressing that her action had allowed the people to make the ultimate decision about her successor.
In her introductory remarks, Chumney had wasted no time in chastising Flinn for ducking Saturdays and several other proposed recent formats that might have provided one-on-one opportunities for the candidates. She kept her speech brief (something of a departure for her), then asked for questions. She got them. In her responses, Chumney:
Said she was disinclined to support MLGWs latest request for a rate increase.
Called for the University of Memphis Tigers to continue to play their basketball games in The Pyramid, proposed a rooftop restaurant for the facility, and reiterated her position that a referendum should be held before any casino activity could be authorized for The Pyramid..
Termed the original proposal for Mayor Herentons proposed salary increase outrageous and suggested that even a scaled-back pay raise for the mayor be coordinated with upward adjustments for city employees.
Denied that she had cast legislative votes for 57 tax increases as charged by supporters of Flinn and noted that she had sought a property tax freeze as a candidate for Shelby County mayor last year.
Said she opposed a City Center Commission proposal for an autonomous taxing district for downtown development.
Gave her support to a proposed living-wage ordinance for public employees. .
Opposed official public displays of overtly religious sentiments, saying religion was best demonstrated by how you live your life and continued, If you want to write on a building, thats not what its going to be about. Itll be words on a wall.
A READER'S RESPONSE:
...Let me assure you that Saturday was the turning point in the Flinn campaign and that our candidate spent his time in a much more productive way than did Carol Chumney....
We had the polls to ourselves Saturday. In a runoff election, it is much more important for candidates to be one-on-one with the voters than one-on-one with one another. There were plenty of debates in October.
And, we do not need voters to come to us - we go to them.
I feel very confident that we got 7 out of 10 votes at Berclair, and we changed a few minds right there in the parking lot.
We also called hundreds of people that morning and knocked on their doors and then had the pleasure of greeting them when they drove up to the polling place to vote. Now you tell me whose time was better spent!
A more appropriate title would be "Chumney has crowd to herself while Flinn has voters to himself." I would choose the latter any day.
R. Kemp Conrad
Shelby County Republican Chairman