Although the U.S. Senate campaign of U.S. Rep. Harold
moves on apace (the congressman was the beneficiary of yet another
local fundraiser Sunday, a small-ticket young professionals affair at Felicia
Suzannes restaurant), skepticism still endures as to whether Ford is in the
Senate race for the long haul.
The surest evidence for that is the lack so far of big-name declarations for the
district congressional seat a Ford-family preserve since 1974,
when the current congressmans father first won it. The theory among local pols
seems to be that Rep. Ford is still holding on to all of his options including
a possible eleventh-hour decision to seek reelection to his congressional seat.
This is unlikely for several reasons foremost among them being the fact that a
Senate race by Ford is essentially a no-lose situation. Already a media
personage of sorts -- most recently, MSNBCs Don Imus delivered
a televised dithyramb to Ford on his morning talk show -- the congressman
clearly is in search of a national platform.
Victory in a Senate race would give him that, but so would the kind of
full-scale attention that even a losing race would garner from the commercial
and cable networks and the big-time national print media. In a worst-case
scenario, Ford might emerge from defeat with an opportunity for a cable show
himself or some other high-profile position in government or media or
elsewhere in the private sector.
Fords office released the results of a new poll this week purporting to show
the Democratic congressman leading each of his prospective Republican opponents
for the Senate seat 38 to 37 percent over Ed Bryant; 40-38 percent over
Van Hilleary, and 39-36 percent over Bob Corker.
The Ford news release claims a 5 to 1 edge for the congressman over Democratic
rival Rosalind Kurita.
Still and all, the usual suspects for a congressional race to succeed Ford are
so far hedging their bets, leaving the field to the unusual ones. One of these,
Northwest Airlines attorney Nikki Tinker, a former Ford staffer, has been
pursuing what might be called a Milton Berle strategy, after one of the late
iconic comics patented stage devices.
Whenever something he did or said got a more-than-typical
burst of applause from his audience, Berle would purse his lips in a modest
frown and extend his left arm, palm outward, in a gesture of suppression.
Meanwhile, the right hand, with rapid fingers going gimme, gimme, was held
conspicuously close to his chest.
So hath it been with Tinker, previously more or less unknown on the local
political scene (though she was titular director of one of Rep. Fords unopposed
reelection races). On one hand, she has publicly disclaimed interest in being
publicized as a candidate; on the other, she has pursued an ambitious game plan
to advance her identity and prospects.
Beginning some months ago with a puff piece in the Washington insider
publication The Hill which pronounced her the frontrunner in the 9th
district race, Tinker has since scheduled a series of one-on-one meetings with
local movers and shakers.
And a fundraiser held for her in late September by her local NWA boss, Phil
, netted some $50,000 including decent contributions from several
of the invited blue-ribbon luminaries (among them, Convention and Visitors
bureau director Kevin Kane
, Plough Foundation executive director Rick
, megabusinessmen Jim McGhee
and Henry Turley
activist par excellence Gayle Rose
. Tinker even reported a hefty donation
from movie star Morgan Freeman
Tinker may soon have real competition from another previous unknown, however.
One Tyson Pratcher
, deputy state director in the New York office of U.S.
Senator Hillary Clinton
, has made several recent local appearances at
local political gatherings to publicize a possible run for the 9th
District congressional seat.
At last weekends picnic for county commission candidate Sidney Chism
the New Horn Lake Road parkgrounds, Pratcher was very much in evidence, as he
had been the previous week at a meeting of the University of Memphis College
Pratcher, a native of Memphis, described his mission as one of scouting the
terrain for a race. Im thinking very seriously about it, he said.
Although so far only lawyer Ed Stanton and Ron Redwing, a former
aide to Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, have made serious open
declarations of interest in the congressional seat, other names being talked
about include those of Circuit Court Judge DArmy Bailey, former MLGW
head Herman Morris, Blue Cross/Blue Shield executive Calvin Anderson.
city councilman Myron Lowery, state Senator Steve Cohen, and
Shelby County Commissioner Joe Ford, the current congressmans brother.
Return of the Don:
Don Sundquist was back on the
reservation this past weekend literally. The former governor (1995-2003), who
ran afoul of his Republican party-mates during his dedicated pursuit of a state
income tax during his second term, was in Memphis Friday night at the Ridgeway
Country Club and was warmly welcomed as one of the speakers in a well-attended
tribute to retiring Shelby County Clerk Jayne Creson
Sundquist, who retired with wife Martha
to a home in Townsend in East
Tennessee after leaving office, now serves as co-chairman, with former governor
of Maine, of the federal Medicaid Commission, charged with
making proposals for Medicaid reform.
Friday nights affair, sponsored by the Shelby County Republican Women and
organized by SCRW president Jeanette Watkins
, also brought out another
recent GOP luminary, former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout
, who served as
emcee for the ceremony.
Attendance, which was generous and across the board politically, included both
the previously declared Republican candidates for clerk in next years election
current Creson aide Debbie Stamson
and Shelby County Commissioner
On Saturday morning, Sundquist returned to East Tennessee to witness the
Tennessee Volunteers losing effort in Saturdays football game at Knoxville
with the Steve Spurrier
-led South Carolina Gamecocks.
Say It Aint So, Leon!
: Few issues have
generated as much heat among local Democrats of late as what can be called The
Great Leon Gray
Controversy. Theres a fairly humongous amount of fuming
and snorting in party circles over the local Air American radio hosts apostasy
on certain matters most relating to the Faith and Morals side of the political
What Gray has done in recent weeks has challenged both the party orthodoxy and
the progressive consensus on all of the following: Intelligent Design (hes an
advocate for it); gay rights (he has proclaimed, essentially, that gays have
forced the rest of society to tolerate an equality that he sees as relating to
lifestyle choice rather than irreversible being), and faith-based prerogatives
in general, including publicly licensed prayer and doctrinal religious activity.
For all this Gray has been under steady attack by bloggers and callers many of
whom demand that AM680 discontinue his services. He has his defenders, as well,
though. One of them is David Cocke
, the former local Democratic Party
chairman, who puts it this way: Theres nothing Leon is saying that shouldnt
be thought about seriously and be part of the dialogue. Are Grays views,
generally populist on economic questions but right of center on social issues,
consistent with membership in the larger fraternity of the local Democratic
Party? Sure they are, insists Cocke, who has maintained for years that a major
reason for the Democratic Partys loss of power and relevance has been its
official unwillingness to compromise with social conservatives and its
indifference to compromise with them.
A case in point cited by Cocke (and one that Leon Gray would presumably concur
with him on). The abortion controversy has proved unnecessarily intractable,
says Cocke (a firm supporter of Roe v. Wade
) because both right and left
have been unwilling to compromise and have adopted instead the slippery slope
philosophy. The parties could and should have found common ground say,
Cocke suggests, on curbing the incidence of partial birth abortion.
Do sentiments like those expressed by Gray and Cocke represent outright heresy?
Or are they legitimate efforts to redefine the political middle ground? And, if
the latter, what kind of base exists to support such a redefinition? Its more
than just a controversy over a talk-show host, I suspect. Where Democrats are
concerned, theres a racial dividing line somewhere in there, and perhaps a
class line, as well.
Meanwhile, Gray reports that feedback at AM680 has been voluminous both ways and
has been positive on the whole. What people have to understand is that, like
it or not, there is such a thing as the Christian Left, he said at
Saturdays Chism affair, where he served as emcee/deejay.
(The controversy over talk-show host Gray is one of several current subjects
that readers have a chance to comment on at the Flyers new weblog, Let
It Fly, at www.memphisflyer.com.)
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