Vowing to concentrate “the bulk” his campaign resources on “the first part of October, just before early voting starts,” McWherter said, “People make up their minds early, and you can’t change it once it goes in that ballot box.”
He would amplify on that in a brief interview after he concluded his remarks, delivered at the Cordova Public Library Wednesday night. Commenting on the debacle suffered by the Democratic ticket in Shelby County on August 5, when the party’s entire slate of countywide candidates went down to defeat, McWherter said, “I really and truly believe that heat was a factor in Democrats getting their vote. It was so hot during early voting, and Democrats were most susceptible to that, because a lot of or voters are working class and find it hard to get out.”
In his speech, McWherter acknowledged criticism that he hadn’t spent much time in Shelby County up until now and promised, “I’m going to be like a bad penny down here, turning up every time you turn around.”
His awareness of the local election cycle had influenced his judgment as to when and where he should campaign, McWherter said.
As he told the group of assembled local Democrats, “A lot of people have questioned why I haven’t been in Shelby County more. Well, the truth of the matter is, y’all have had an election here every month for the last 12 months, and you’re trying to compete with resources and to get people’s interest, and it’s very hard to do. So I really made a very conscious decision, that, rather than compete with all these other races, I was better off to spend my time in a lot of these rural communities, building our foundation, building our organization.
“I’ve done that now. I feel very good about where I am. It was important to build up a rural operation as well as an urban one. But it is time for me to spend time in Shelby County, and I’ll be here a whole lot.”
Yet another reason for his increased presence locally would be the fact that his son Walker has enrolled in Rhodes College and will be playing football on the Lynx squad, making all home games a magnet for himself and his wife Mary Jane, who accompanied him to the event in Cordova.
As he normally does during public appearances, McWherter spoke at some length on his plans for tax breaks to incentivize small business growth in Tennessee, and he proposed to actively recruit suppliers and other “associated industries” to complement the large automotive and solar-energy plants that have located themselves in Tennessee in recent years.
The Jackson businessman, son of former Governor Ned McWherter, had toured the Med earlier on Wednesday. He said he intended to help Memphis develop its potential as the capitol of the Mid-South and the center of regional industry. “People talk about [Governor] Haley Barbour down in Mississippi poaching industry from other states. Well, I can’t really criticize him for that, because I intend to do exactly the same thing.”
McWherter characterized his approaches as geared to the interests of working people and small business and suggested that his Republican opponent, Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, had a more distanced, “bureaucratic” attitude.
While he himself was proposing to find a way to lower taxes on groceries, Haslam’s priority was “to lower taxes on estates,” said McWherter, who recounted some of the ordinary jobs he’d taken on across the state as part of his jobs-oriented “Mike Works” campaign.
“I’ve done everything from balance tires to build a couch you don’t want to sit on. I shoveled fertilizer — and there was another word for it that morning….I am frankly very resentful of those Republicans in the Republican primary who even suggested that Tennesseans are enjoying drawing unemployment.”
Noting that in 1972 Republicans had held the governorship, both of Tennessee’s Senate seats, and a majority of the state’s congressional delegation but that Democrats had turned that around, McWherter said, ““We were Red State back then. We became a Blue State, and I believe we’re going to build back with y’all’s support and we’re going to be a Blue State again.”