Irony of ironies: the Shelby County Republican Party, which hit its high-water mark eight years ago when it elected a GOP mayor, two-term incumbent Jim Rout, now seemingly has nobody willing to run for the office. Rout said months ago he wouldn’t run again. District Attorney General Bill Gibbons decided against a race two weeks ago; former city councilman followed over the weekend; and State Senator Mark Norris, who had been emerging as the newest consensus nominee, said no Tuesday morning. Later Tuesday, city councilman Jack Sammons and outgoing Shelby County Commissioner Buck Wellford also made clear they would decline the opportunity. All of them, either publicly or privately, alluded to the huge problems facing the county financially, to its diminished resources, to the meager powers available to a county mayor (especially over two problem areas, the Shelby County school system and the county jail), to the demographic shifts which are inexorably creating a Democratic voting majority, and to the appeal which Democratic candidates already in the field might have along the Poplar Corridor, an area which a successful Republican would need to do well in. Democrats A C Wharton, the Shelby Public Defender, and Harold Byrd, a banker and former state representative from Bartlett, have acknowledged support in the county's business community, and another Democrat, State Representative Carol Chumney of Midtown, counts on votes from women across party lines. When he conducted last week’s monthly meeting of the Shelby County GOP’s steering committee, party chairman Alan Crone had just learned of Bobango’s decision. Somewhat wanly, he said to the committee, “If anybody here wants to run for county mayor, would you see me after the meeting?” It may come down to Crone himself, who said this week that, if push came to shove, he’d consider running. Other possibilities include Commissioner Tommy Hart and city councilman Brent Taylor, who had already raised a sizeable campaign war chest in hopes of mounting a race for Ed Bryant‘s 7th District congressional seat, deferred indefinitely after Fred Thompson decided to stay in the Senate and Bryant decided to stay where he was, too.

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