“I had to talk to him about that,” Jackson said. “Del was out of line.”
What Gill had done was approach the debate table as the candidates, having finished the debate, were preparing to vacate it. Then, with the meeting room at Hooks Main Library still teeming with members of what had been a Standing Room Only audience, Gill began complaining in a loud voice about the inclusion in the debate of Sheriff Mark Luttrell, a Republican mayoral candidate, along with Democrats Jackson, Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone, and interim mayor Joe Ford.
“At first I wasn’t sure what he was saying, but when I found out what it was, I had to talk to him,” said Jackson, who pointed out the obvious. “This wasn’t a Democratic Party event. It was sponsored by the League of Women Voters. They invited us [the four participating candidates], and we could either say yes or no, accept or not accept. It was their meeting.”
As for reports that Gill, who worked in Jackson’s successful 2008 campaign for General Sessions Clerk and was subsequently hired to work in the clerk’s office, had been influential in Jackson’s surprise decision to seek the mayoralty this year, Jackson spiked that rumor hard. “The amount of Del’s influence was nil. He had nothing whatsoever to do with my decision to run. He had nothing to do with it. Trust me. He didn’t even find out about it until way later.”
Jackson, a former point guard for several well-regarded University of Memphis basketball teams in the 1980's, also ventured an opinion about the difference between that era of UM teams, one of which reached the NCAA tournament's Final Four, and those shepherded by recently departed coach John Calipari.
"When [coach] Dana Kirk came in, he had a philosophy of 'recruit in before you recruit out,'" meaning to draw first upon local talent before recruiting players from elsewhere in the nation, Jackson explained. "And those teams had real spirit. Calipari did it just the opposite."
One result, Jackson said, was that Memphis-area players like Ole Miss' Terrico White, who starred in his team's 90-81 NIT victory over the Tigers in Oxford on Friday, ended up going elsewhere to play.
Jackson discussed both politics and basetball during a brief break from his well-attended mayoral-campaign kickoff event Saturday at his headquarters on Winchester.
UPDATE- REACTION TO GILL OF SHELBY DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN:
Asked later Saturday for his own judgment concerning Del Gill’s protestations at the forum’s conclusion, Shelby County Democratic chairman Van Turner was more restrained than Jackson had been and somewhat more ambivalent.
“I think everybody who knows Del Gill knows he is very vocal about what he thinks, and he isn’t going to change his behavior. I myself think the League of Women Voters presided over a very informative and professionally conducted forum, and I have no complaint about that.”
Turner said, however, that he could understand Gill’s concern that the three Democratic candidates at the forum should have been “marked off” somehow as separate from Republican Luttrell.
“Mark Luttrell is a very attractive candidate who’s been able in the past to appeal to Democratic voters, but I think his party affiliation needs to be made clear, and, personally, I would rather our Democratic candidates did not provide ammunition to the Republicans by their attacks on each other."