Well, at long last the era of uncertainty would seem to be over for Shelby County Republicans: After a long period of bashfulness and befuddlement, during which there was much more backing than filling, theyve settled on a candidate for county mayor, State Representative Larry Scroggs of Germantown, who has a formal announcement scheduled for Thursday.
Or have they?
If its true, somebody needs to tell County Trustee Bob Patterson, county commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf, and radiologist/radio-station owner George Flinn, all of whom were still, at press time, considering active races for mayor in the GOP primary.
I think theres still a lot of play in this thing, said Patterson on Monday, a day after local party chairman Alan Crone presented Scroggs as the partys consensus candidate to Republicans gathered at Kirby Farms on Poplar Pike for the local GOPs annual Christmas party. (Patterson has already filed for reelection as trustee but said he might reconsider and switch tracks.)
Another skeptic was VanderSchaaf, who announced last week he was a possible mayoral candidate and made a point of saying at mid-week that he was still thinking about it. And then there was Flinn, who has been talking up a mayoral race for some time and pronounced himself amazed at hearing Crone describe him to the GOP party-goers Sunday as a candidate for state representative.
I never told him I was a candidate for state representative. I guess he was trying to tell me, said Flinn, who added he was grateful to restaurateur John Willingham, an anti-establishment activist who interrupted Crones introduction of party office-holders and candidates to declare, Mr. Chairman, youre wrong about that. I believe Mr. Flinn is still a candidate for mayor!
Mr. Flinn thinks so, too, as it turns out.
I know they want Larry to be the candidate, and they asked me to consider running for state rep, which I said I would, Flinn says. But I decided against that. What theyre doing is trying to make up my mind for me.
Flinns complaint echoes a running one by such other Republicans as Willingham and longtime party dissenter Jerry Cobb, who feel that chairman Crone, incumbent (and outgoing) county mayor Jim Rout, party national committeeman John Ryder, and other perennially prominent party members try to dictate to other Republicans on policy matters.
Patterson concurs. Until fairly recently, we had a candidate recruitment committee to work up a consensus on candidates. Theyve done away with that, unfortunately. It has been no secret that Crone and Ryder, along with other Republican leaders like former chairman David Kustoff, have been trying for the last several months to find a name Republican to carry the party standard in next years general election.
District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, former city councilman John Bobango, and former Memphis Redbirds president Allie Prescott were three favored prospects, but all said no. Scroggs responded favorably to the groups entreaties last week.
On the immediate matter of Flinns candidacy, Crone said Sunday he was under the impression, after having talked with the radiologists political adviser, former county commissioner Ed Williams, that Flinn had agreed to run for state representative rather than for mayor, but Flinn said no such answer had been given by either him or Williams.
I dont even know what district they want me to run in, said Flinn, who noted that, with the exception of the Germantown district being vacated by Scroggs and which may be subject to virtual elimination, anyway (see separate item, this column), all Shelby County districts are filled with incumbents, either Republicans or Democrats.
There are plenty Democrats he can run against, shrugged Crone, suggesting as one possibility Henri Brooks, who represents a predominantly African-American inner-city district, which is likely, however, to be redistricted eastward, encompassing some traditional Republican turf in East Memphis.