Chumney Gearing Up for Another Go?



Any regular attendee of meetings of the Memphis Rotary Club, which convenes these days on Tuesdays at the University Club, can tell you that Carol Chumney, a past candidate for both city and county mayor, a former member of both the state legislature and the City council, is campaigning again.

Chumney, a Rotary member, regularly rises to query luncheon speakers on subjects of civic and political importance in such a way as to declare her own views.

Chumney with Julie Ellis in April
  • JB
  • Chumney with Julie Ellis in April
One recent case in point: When Julie Ellis, chairman of the Metro Charter Commission, spoke at Rotary in April, at a time when the commission was still formulating the elements of a city/county merger for an upcoming November referendum, Chumney rose to suggest that any Memphis/Shelby county consolidation follow the example of Louisville in one important particular.

As she put it regarding the Kentucky city: “Both the city mayor and the county mayor agreed not to run for Metro mayor. That took politics out of the equation. It made it a totally non-political discussion, and they were able to come up with a compromise that they needed, because nobody was positioning and posturing to run for the new Metro mayor.”

Chumney then went on to ask if Ellis had received assurances from “our county mayor, candidates for our county mayor, and our city mayor” not to run for Metro mayor if the consolidation initiative should pass muster with the voters? Conspicuously, Chumney did not mention in her list former candidates for city or county mayor.

She would go on to say she was aware of some “posturing to have the current mayor,” meaning Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, victorious over Chumney in previous contests for both city and county mayor, become a candidate for Metro mayor. Instead, said Chumney, Wharton ”should step aside and do what’s best for the city.”

There was considerable post-meeting conversation among Rotary members to the effect that Chumney, who ran for Shelby County mayor in 2002 and for Memphis mayor in 2007 and 2009 and has meanwhile resumed her private legal practice, sounded like a candidate again.

Subsequent post-luncheon questions of Rotary speakers reinforced the impression —, like a series of politically based questions Chumney directed at Dr. Reginald Coopwood in the wake of the Med CEO’s appearance earlier this month. In the course of querying Coopwood about his resolve to endure the ongoing crisis of funding for the Med, Chumney pointedly recalled her own history of support as a legislator for the perennially embattled hospital.

And the hearty congratulations Chumney offered such other speakers as football referee Sarah Thomas and American Bar Association president Carolyn Lamm about their overcoming of a “glass ceiling” restricting women in public life made it further clear that Chumney might intend another shot at that ceiling herself.

Here’s how Chumney expressed the matter in a news release last fall on the temporary ascension of then county commission chairman Joyce Avery as interim mayor of Shelby County:

“ We’ve seen women as serious contenders at the national level in 2008 to be the first female President (Hillary Clinton) and Vice- President (Sarah Palin) of the United States of America; and women elected as Mayors of other large cities such as Atlanta. I hope in the future that qualified women will not be limited to legislative positions in state or local government, will be given fair and unbiased coverage by the press and media when they seek higher office, and will have the opportunity to be elected to lead as mayor, Governor, and the U.S. Senate. This is a civil rights issue for women in Memphis, Shelby County and Tennessee. “

And within the last month Chumney has established a new website,, whose masthead bears in full caps a variation on her former campaign slogan, “COUNT ON CAROL CHUMNEY." There is a link on the new site to a companion site advertising Chumney’s legal practice, and it, too, bears a variation on the “Count On” concept.

Indications are that the site will have a strong focus on political matters. The current posting, entitled “Election Investigation is a Good Thing,” reviews the history of questionable election outcomes in Shelby County and supports the current investigative efforts of Democratic litigants and others dissatisfied with the results of the August 5th county election.

Tellingly, the entry does not omit a point Chumney frequently makes: That in the 2007 race for Memphis mayor she finished only 7 percent points behind Willie Herenton, then running for a fifth term.

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