As Council Narrowly Declares Mayoral Vacancy, Candidate Lawler Enters the Ring



9ad3/1247060262-lawler3.jpgPolitically fixated Memphians plugged into their radios could go to bed Tuesday night with at least two familiar media voices still ringing in their ears and wake up Wednesday morning with yet another.

The overnight voices belonged to members of the Memphis City Council, who were heard debating until well into the evening on the Library Channel, 88.5 FM, as to whether the council should formally accept Mayor Willie Herenton’s latest resignation date of July 30 and declare the mayor’s seat open. It finally did so, by a vote of 7-6.

Council chairman Myron Lowery, a onetime media presence on Memphis television and a declared mayoral candidate in the event of a special election, figured prominently in that debate as a Yes vote; Janis Fullilove, a former radio talk-show host, figured somewhat vociferously as a No vote. The rest of the council split along racial lines, with blacks voting no and whites voting for a resolution brought by councilman Jim Strickland, who is strongly considering a mayoral race.

However, the consensus of legal authorities weighing in on the matter, from city attorney Elbert Jefferson to council attorney Allen Wade, seemed to be that the council’s action could be challenged in court without a formal document from Herenton establishing a departure date.

Meanwhile, the potential field for a special-election race increased by one Wednesday morning when local wrestling legend Jerry Lawler declared his second mayoral candidacy in ten years from the broadcast studios of WGKS-FM, Kix 106.

Appearing on the Young and Elder morning show, Lawler, whose announcement was preceded by a burst of recorded fanfare, put himself forth as “a normal common citizen who has some common sense” and “a successful businessman for 37 years.” He said he would not seek financial support from supporter or hold formal fundraisers as such.

“Our city is looked on as a laughing stock, the most racially divided city in the United States. We need a unifier,” said Lawler.

“We keep voting for these politicians who will promise anything. But nobody follows through on their promises,” the still-active wrestler/commentator said, making no promises himself.

Especially given the fact that Lawler’s professional commitments require him to travel extensively, a fact discussed at length on the show, the question of how much time he could devote to active mayoral campaigning remained uncertain. Observers of the 1999 mayoral election, in which Lawler had also been a candidate, recall that Lawler, who finished with 12 percent of that vote, was hampered by the on-again/off-again nature of his campaigning.

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