Lawyer John Bobango wants it known that he is still thinking seriously of running for Shelby County mayor -- notwithstanding his friend Bill Gibbon‘s formation this week of an exploratory committee. Incumbent mayor Jim Rout wants it known that he is not aiding and abetting the candidacy of Democrat A C Wharton -- notwithstanding the activities in that regard of some of his closest associates. And the fact that Rout was urging Bobango to make the race as recently as Sunday is something that should be known in its own right. “I don’t see any point in forming an exploratory committee just yet because I think it’s still early to start raising money. But I’m studying it very carefully and I’ll make a decision within three weeks or so,” said Bobango, the former Memphis city councilman who has more or less agreed with fellow Republican Gibbons, the District Attorney General, that only one of them should end up attempting to become the Republican standard-bearer. “That’s still the case, but it’s still possible that either one of us could make the race,” said Bobango, who insisted that Gibbon’s announcement Monday of his exploratory committee should not be regarded as pre-emptive. “In fact, I urged him to do that, but it won’t keep me from deciding to run. I honestly think that whichever one of us picks up the phone in the next three weeks and tells the other he’s running will be the candidate. It’s a matter of which one of us is the first to become convinced he ought to do it.” Bobango said he had had several conversations about the mayor’s race with Rout, who counseled him to run as recently as Sunday. “I assume he’s had similar conversations with Bill, though I don’t know for sure,” Bobango said. For his part, Rout -- clearly stung by recent allegations from various disgruntled Democrats that he is secretly supporting Wharton -- is making a point of asserting his GOP credentials, the exhortations to Bobango being a case in point. “I think he’s determined to see that there’s a quality Republican candidate, and, frankly, I think that’s the real message of Bill’s decision to announce his committee,” said Bobango. The uncertainty concerning Rout’s preferences has been based on the fact that several well-known political figures close to the county mayor -- notably his aide Bobby Lanier, developer Jackie Welch, Shelby County government lobbyist Bobby Bowers, and former county commissioner Charlie Perkins -- are solidly in the camp of the all-but-declared Wharton, the current Shelby County Public Defender. (Other Democratic candidates are Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, State Senator Jim Kyle, and State Representative Carol Chumney.) But it could well be that all of these members of Rout’s circle merely consider themselves free agents in the wake of the county mayor’s decision not to run for reelection and are merely trying to establish a new allegiance -- seeing in Wharton an electable centrist they could work with.

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