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BY JACKSON BAKER | JUNE 21, 2007

Wednesday night was a hot one for local politics, with three more than usually significant events, and there were any number of dedicated and/or well-heeled visitors to all three:

  • Residents of the posh Galloway Drive area where U of M basketball coach John Calipari resides are surely used to long queues of late-model vehicles stretching every which way in the neighborhood, especially in election season when Calipari’s home is frequently the site of fundraisers for this or that candidate.

    But Wednesday night’s event, a $250-a-head fundraiser for District 5 city council candidate Jim Strickland, was surely a record-setter – out-rivaling not only Calipari’s prior events but most other such gatherings in Memphis history, including those for senatorial and gubernatorial candidates. A politically diverse crowd estimated at 300 to 500 people showed up, netting Strickland some $57,000 for the night.

    That was “cash on hand,” said the candidate, who expected late checks from non-attendees to drive the evening’s total over $60,000. That would give him a war chest of something over $100,000 – surely enough, with next month’s filing deadline looming, to give pause to would-be opponents. (So far as is known, however, intrepid Libertyland activist Dee Parkinson is sticking to her guns about competing for the seat, which is being vacated by mayoral candidate Carol Chumney.)

  • Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Herman Morris attracted several hundred attendees to the formal opening of his sprawling, high-tech campaign headquarters on Union Avenue – the same HQ that, week before last, suffered a burglary, one that some Morris supporters find suspicious in light of various other instances of hanky-panky currently being alleged in the mayoral race.

    (Note to “Sarge,” a reader of this space: While it’s true that a person cannot be burglarized, a place can damn sure be robbed – and Morris’ HQ was, of computers containing sensitive information, for one thing. “Burglary,” Sarge, is the breaking-and-entering part; “robbery” is the point and the consummation of that action. We can play those p-word games, too, but thanks for your close reading and picking of nits; we ain’t saying that nits don’t show up once in a while.)

  • Yet a third major political gathering took place Wednesday night, as Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton was the beneficiary of a big-ticket fundraiser at The Racquet Club. Proceeds of that one have been estimated in the $50,000 range – a tidy sum for what the county mayor alleges (and alleged again Wednesday night) is intended only as a kind of convenience fund, meant for charitable donations and various other protocol circumstances expected of someone in his position.

    Right. Meanwhile, Wharton declined to address the most widely speculated-upon subject in Memphis politics: Will he or won’t he enter the city mayor’s race? As everybody knows, and as the county mayor has informally acknowledged, he is the subject these days of non-stop blandishments in that regard, and there’s very little doubt that these have accelerated since last week’s dramatic press conference by Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton alleging “the 2007 Political Conspiracy.”

    While some of Mayor Wharton’s intimates on Wednesday night were keeping to the line that the chances of his running for city mayor were minimal to non-existent, their answers to inquiries about the matter were delivered after what we’ll call meaningfully inflected pauses. The door may be shut for now, but it clearly isn’t padlocked.

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