Uh oh, that gathering at Democratic activist Howard Richardson’s South Memphis home weekend before last may not have been such a Kumbaya affair, after all. That’s according to longtime Democratic broker Sidney Chism, who boasts that he showed up uninvited.
Technically a birthday party for two close friends of Richardson, the well-attended party had a guest list deep in prominent local Democrats and had been billed by the host and other attendees as an all-party mixer of sorts and was reported as such in the Flyer.
Instead, says Chism, the affair was lopsided in favor of those Democrats who had favored the candidacy of lawyer Van Turner, who was elected party chairman at the local Democratic convention in March. Chism himself had been among those who supported Turner’s opponent Jay Bailey, another lawyer.
“There wasn’t anybody there who supported Jay Bailey except me, and I wasn’t supposed to be there,” said Chism. “I just found out about it and decided to go on my own.” Chism, currently a member of the Shelby County Commission, also alerted two other people not on the original guest list — Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who has indicated he will be a candidate for county mayor next year, and realtor Steve Webster, a Chism friend and sometime candidate for local office.
“They were surprised to see us,” Chism says. “I came in, and right behind me came Harold Byrd, and right behind him came Steve Webster.” Byrd’s attendance, in particular, had been urged by Chism, who maintains that an ancillary purpose of the gathering had been to organize a push among Democrats for his commission colleague, Deidre Malone, a declared candidate for county mayor.
“If they did something like that, they couldn’t do it until after we left,” Chism declared.
At another gathering deep in Democrats this past Sunday, blogger Steve Steffens’ annual “Bratfest,” an attendee was Van Turner, who pooh-poohed Chism’s theory of the Richardson event. “There were several people there who had been for Jay Bailey in the chairman’s race,” he insisted.
One promising sign, for those Democrats still looking for party unity: Turner and Bailey partisan David Upton, another well-known political broker, spent much time at the Steffens affair in friendly, animated conversation, as they had done at the state Democratic summit in Monteagle earlier this month.
Chism himself will have an opportunity to gather all the Democratic faithful into the same fold when he holds his 9th Annual Community Picnic on Saturday, June 20, from 5 to 7 at 3657 Horn Lake Road. Even Republicans come to that one.