With Filing Deadline Near for Countywide Races, Candidates Digging in

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Mayoral Candidate Deidre Malone 'Not Afraid' of Ford or Luttrell

With but days to go before Thursday’s filing deadline for countywide offices, there’ll be more high-powered announcements and candidate filings—some of them sure to be surprising. Meanwhile, the last week or so has been marked by some serious candidate action.

COUNTY MAYOR: Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone, who had already filed for the office of Shelby County mayor, presided over the opening of her campaign headquarters on Poplar Avenue on Saturday and made it clear that she was not daunted by either likely Democratic primary opponent Joe Ford, the current interim mayor, or Sheriff Mark Luttrell, who will run for mayor as a Republican.

“We take whoever decides they want to run…and we’re ready for them,” said Malone to supporters’ cheers. “I’m not afraid of much…I’m prepared to be the next mayor of Shelby County.” .

“Some people..are born into politics, they’re part of a family dynasty,” Malone said, clearly indicating Ford, while others have been “in one area of government all their professional lives,” a possible reference to Luttrell, while she herself had a “well rounded” dossier that included both government and business experience.

Ford is expected to file for mayor himself this week but was still being coy about his intentions last Thursday night when he appeared at a Citizen’s Safety Committee forum on crime at the Jewish Community Center.

“Wait and see what happens next week,” he said. “There won’t be long to wait.”

SHERIFF'S RACE: Randy Wade, 9th district congressman Steve Cohen’s district director, formally filed for the position of Sheriff on Friday. In the presence of a swarm of supporters and media at the Shelby County Election Commission, Wade and Cohen exchanged vows of mutual support and essentially pronounced themselves to be a team.

Asked about that very prospect, Wade said, “Steve Cohen is a man of integrity and a man of honesty…I know that I’m supporting a friend and a man who brings so much to this office, so, to answer your question Steve Cohen for Congress, and —“ (with Cohen joining in) “—Randy Wade for Sheriff.” As Cohen put it, “I couldn’t have had the successes I’ve had without Randy…Randy’s going to make Shelby County better, and it’s gong to be Team Memphis, where we’ll all work together.”

Would there be another such team, one composed of former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, Cohen’s Democratic primary opponent, and Reginald French, a longtime Herenton aide who’ll be competing with Wade in the Democratic primary?

Wade said he’d seen no such evidence and professed some fellow feeling for French, who, like himself, had lost a previous Sheriff’s race. “He’s been knocked down, I’ve been knocked down, but I’m just like Muhammad Ali, I’m going to get up, and I’m going to win the belt this time.”
And there are candidates who, with fingers crossed, are still hoping not to have opponents at all. Or to avoid consequential opponents, in any case.

COUNTY COMMISSION: One such is Mike Carpenter, the first-term Shelby County Commissioner in Distract 1, Position 3 who has made a name for himself as a maven in several fields — school funding and several aspects of governmental reorganization prominent among them. He also has crossed swords with members of his own Republican Party. Early in his tenure, when he sided with the commission’s Democrats in voting to add a second Juvenile Court judge, it appeared inevitable — even to himself — that he’d have a contested primary in 2010.

But, as of the weekend, Carpenter still had no opponent, and the likely reasons for that were spoken to last Thursday night at a reception/fundraiser for Carpenter at the Crescent Club. Two of those who made remarks on Carpenter’s behalf that night were Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, whom Carpenter had served as co-chair of Wharton’s post-election transition team.

Wharton referred to his support for Carpenter as “a no-brainer,” calling the commissioner a “statesman” and describing Carpenter as “someone who is willing to look at each matter that comes before him with one simple question: ‘Is this the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do? Not the Republican thing to do, or the liberal thing to do, the conservative thing to do, the black thing to do, or the county thing to do, or the white thing to do, the city or urban, but is this the right thing to do? I wish we had thousands of Mike Carpenters in office.”

Like Carpenter, two other high-profile commissioners with penchants for the controversial are equally unopposed — Republican Mike Ritz in District 1, Position 1 and Democrat Steve Mulroy in District 5. Both have proved themselves willing to put themselves on the line — Ritz in any number of causes involving the county’s management of its fiscal house and Mulroy in taking the lead on such matters as that of non-discrimination in government.

Both are formidable in debate, though Ritz’s modus operandi runs to the dann-the-torpedoes variety, while Mulroy, equally staunch, is more willing to accept compromise at the margins of an issue.

Understandably, the well-financed Mulroy is keen for the depth of his endorsements — which include several from organized labor and such Democratic potentates as Wharton, interim mayor Ford, former congressman Harold Ford Sr., and city council chairman Harold Collins to be known.

One factor that may have diverted potential candidates in othe commission races is the fact of Commissioner George Flinn's decision to vacate his District 1, Positon 2 seat in order to run in the Republican primary for Congress in the 8th District. Indicating intentions to run in that race are Fliinn's longtime assistant Heidi Shafer and former Commissioner John Willingham.

To Be Continued

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