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Ryder Rules

The Memphis GOP redistricting maven will direct his party's national effort.

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Memphis lawyer John Ryder, who has served as Republican National Committee leader from Tennessee for most of the last two decades, has been named by RNC chairman Michael Steele to chair the party's national redistricting committee.

Ryder has been the linchpin of the state Republicans' redistricting efforts after each of the last two census revisions — in the periods 1989-1994 and 1999-2003 — and was instrumental in the party's deliberations as far back as 1976.

More than a decade ago, then state Republican chairman Randle Richardson bragged on Ryder's redistricting expertise during an address to the Shelby County Republican Party steering committee and quipped, "That's his idea of good sex!" (The modest Ryder would politely reject that characterization, owning up to propensities that were normal and red-blooded, but Richardson's metaphor did summarize the Memphian's zeal for a subject that many others considered esoteric and difficult.)

Said Steele, "I am proud to announce the appointment of John Ryder to this Republican National Committee leadership post. John has been a tireless advocate of Republican principles, both in the state of Tennessee and across the country, and I look forward to working with him to prepare state parties for redistricting efforts following the 2010 national census."

• Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville, a Republican candidate for governor, last weekend touted a measure which offers a financial remedy of sorts for himself and two Democrats being considered for governor — state senator Roy Herron of Dresden, who is already announced, and state Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, who is strongly considering a race.

Up to this point, sitting legislators were handicapped in competing with wealthy and potentially self-funding opponents like Bill Haslam (Republican) and Ward Cammack (Democrat). Current state law prohibits in-session fund-raising by sitting legislators, and, while the current session probably won't extend beyond the month of May, there's next year to think about, when January to some point between April and June would be a fund-raising dead zone for the three state senators.

As Ramsey explained Saturday night at the Hamilton County Lincoln Day Dinner, a remedial measure by Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) issued forth this past week from the Senate State and Local Government Committee. It would allow fund-raising by legislators running for some office other than the one they currently possess.

"That could be county mayor or congressman or governor. It could be anything else," Ramsey noted. Moreover, although the limits apparently aren't set yet, the bill would raise contribution limits, as well. Ramsey rated prospects for passage in both houses as good.

• One dropout already from the 2010 Memphis mayor's race is city court clerk Thomas Long, who says he'll run instead for the county clerk's job that will be vacated by current clerk Debbie Stamson. "I think I can get matters straightened out over there," says Long of the county office, site just now of multiple employee indictments for a variety of improper transactions.

• Both Shelby County Commission chair Deidre Malone, a declared candidate for Shelby County mayor in 2010, and Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, her likely (but still formally undeclared) opponent, were among the attendees at a birthday celebration for friends of labor leader and Democratic activist Howard Richardson at Richardson's South Memphis home.

The affair doubled as a reconciliation meeting for members of the two Democratic factions, which squared off at last March's local party convention at which lawyer Van Turner, also an attendee, was named chairman. Reportedly in attendance was a virtual who's who of local officials.

• Another who's who list, especially long in notable Democrats, attended the visitation last Saturday at Memphis Funeral Home and Sunday's funeral at Eudora Baptist Church in East Memphis for Jimmie Farris, who died last week after a long illness.

Farris, the widow of Memphis political legend Bill Farris, was, like her late husband, a longtime bellwether of local and statewide Democratic politics. She was active for many years as a member of the party's local executive committee and a hands-on participant in her husband's electoral efforts in his successful races for the old Memphis city commission and unsuccessful ones for mayor and governor.

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