Shattered Front

Chumney opts out of the struggle between her councilmates and Mayor Herenton.



Fledgling city council member Carol Chumney, victorious last year in a multicandidate race to succeed John Vergos in District 5 (Midtown), got where she is today despite the private efforts of Mayor Willie Herenton, who was widely regarded as favoring two of her opponents -- first, lawyer Jim Strickland, and later, during a runoff election, businessman/physician George Flinn.

Even so, Chumney has chosen to deviate from the more or less united front of her councilmates on issues on which they and the mayor have been in conflict. In a letter hand-delivered to the mayor last week, Chumney reminded Herenton that she "was the only member of the Memphis City Council to vote with you" against overriding the mayor's veto of a council ordinance which asserted the council's right to approve and control funding of interim mayoral appointees.

Comparing her action to the mayor's statement last week renouncing his previous intention to litigate the issue, Chumney said, "Like you, I made the gesture in an effort to end the conflict and allow us all to focus on the real issues at hand." She went on to request a private audience with the mayor "to discuss the process to select the new leader for Memphis Light, Gas & Water prior to any new nomination." Chumney added, "I have some information to share with you which I hope will encourage you to nominate a person with substantial utility experience."

The requested meeting did in fact take place (according to Chumney, in fact, the mayor had meanwhile begun his own overtures to her), and both parties later expressed themselves satisfied with how it went.

In an op-ed written this week for the Flyer (see "My Olive Branch," p. 13), Chumney has amplified on her attitude, implying criticism of "certain members" of the council for engaging in "petty in-fighting" and suggesting that "the tone and name-calling by more than one elected official in this city have been divisive and unproductive."

Though other members of the council have expressed a willingness to try to end the divide, especially after the mayor's peacemaking initiative last Tuesday, they pointedly reasserted their prerogatives on the appointments issue during a council retreat on Wednesday. And they vowed to push ahead on an internal investigation of the mayor's involvement in arranging brokering for last year's prepayment arrangements of Memphis Light, Gas and Water with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

• It's official: Memphis school board member Lora Jobe says she definitely won't run again for her District 5 seat this year. Two potential candidates have so far expressed interest in the seat: lawyer Nick Bragorgos and physician Jeff Warren.

• Memphis attorney John Ryder, now in his second term as Republican national committeeman from Tennessee, will be succeeded later this year by former 4th District congressman Van Hilleary, for whom the post offers a new window of political visibility.

The succession, forecast in this space some weeks ago, was achieved unanimously at Saturday's meeting of the GOP state executive committee in Nashville. Ryder had originally wanted to remain as national committeeman for another term so as to be serving in that role next year when the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is held in Memphis.

But Hilleary, who had meanwhile relocated in Nashville, let it be known that he wanted the post, and, as the party's immediate past gubernatorial candidate, had enough clout to get his way. Ryder gracefully yielded (though some of his party allies felt burned) and will serve instead as chairman of next year's party conference here.

GOP insiders say that Hilleary wanted to be party chairman so as to reinforce his statewide network prior to a likely run in 2006 for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Majority Leader Bill Frist. It is generally believed that Frist, who has presidential ambitions for 2008, will not seek reelection to the Senate.

Other likely Republican candidates for the Senate in 2006 are 3rd District congressman Zach Wamp; former 7th District congressman Ed Bryant; and current 7th District congressman Marsha Blackburn.

Former Memphian Stephanie Chivers, now of Kingston Springs, was elected to a second term as GOP national committeewoman.

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