Shelby County commission chairman Deidre Malone had a coming-out fundraiser at The Racquet Club Thursday night on behalf of her campaign for county mayor. Meanwhile, current county mayor A C Wharton, campaigning for Memphis mayor, drew 1500 attendees for a “unity prayer breakfast” at the Cannon Center.
The two events had a connection of sorts and, considered together or singly, provided ample fodder for would-be analysts. Wharton was listed as one of the sponsors of Malone’s event but did not appear at it; nor, for that matter, did members of the county mayor’s inner circle.
Malone attracted some of the usual suspects among influential donors (e.g., cell tower magnate Billy Orgel and zoning lobbyist de luxe Homer “Scrappy” Branan) and the core members of her longtime support group (e.g., Calvin Anderson, Greg Duckett, Paula Casey).
But her gathering, while respectably sized, stayed in double digits, and didn’t provide a conclusive answer to the question: Can she raise enough money and support to keep out other name candidates?
[UPDATE: A post-mortem from the Malone campaign indicates that slightly upwards of 100 people did pariticipate in the fundraiser, either by attendance or by dropping off a contribution. And Mayor Wharton did arrive at the event — though after it had formally concluded and most guests had departed.]
Wharton’s event, on the other hand — held on a seriously rainy Saturday morning — was prodigious enough, both in quantity and quality of those attending (a Who’s Who of politically influential types), to stop potential opponents in their tracks. Whether it will or won’t remains to be seen, of course.
Employing one of the oddest analogies yet heard in a local political campaign, Wharton promised to be a “windmill,” generating positive change for the city. But, that metaphor aside, there was noting else in the event suggestive of the quixotic man of La Mancha. Wharton’s event was considered essential enough to draw two declared Democratic gubernatorial candidates — Kim McMillan of Clarksville and Mike McWherter of Jackson — and one probable one, state Senator Jim Kyle of Memphis.