The Memphis mayoral race, just as many expected, and just as some — existing candidates included — were hoping, is filling up. The latest to declare a candidacy is Shelby County Commission chairman Justin Ford, who had promised the media he would reveal his decision to them on February 9. And, came Monday, February 9, Ford did just that.
In a conversation with reporters during breaks in Monday’s Commission meeting at the County Building, Ford said he’d been thinking about a mayoral race for four or five years (or about the time he was first elected to the Commission in 2010), and, after paying brief homage to the Ford family’s commitment to public service, made special note that his father, former Councilman, Commissioner, and interim County Mayor Joe Ford, was able to raise “half a million dollars” in a race against then Mayor Willie Herenton in 1999.
“It won’t be [any] different this time,” avowed Ford, who said he would run on issues of economic development, health care, education, and public safety.
Asked about the fact that the mayoral field was fast multiplying, Commissioner Ford said, “The more the merrier. When you look at any type of race, especially in this democracy, in the city of Memphis, we’re accustomed to change. The more people in the race the better. They bring different perspectives [for] the opportunity for people to make the decision whether or not they want some change.”
Victory, he said, could come to “whoever has a resounding message, goes door to door, and also raises the right amount of money.”
Ford said he was aware that both Mayor A C Wharton and Councilman Jim Strickland, a declared mayoral candidate, had already raised prodigious amounts of money. “I’ve seen their financial disclosures,” he said.
As an incumbent, Wharton had a head start, Ford acknowledged. “Incumbents are hard to beat; so at the end of the day, if you don’t have a focus and have a real plan, you might not be successful.” But, he noted, “We’re a long, long way from the finish line.” And a few months, for that matter, before petitions for the October election became available in April.
Other candidates already declared are Wharton, Strickland, former Commissioner James Harvey, and former UM athlete Detric Golden. Considered likely to enter the race are Councilman Harold Collins, New Olivet Baptist Church pastor and former School Board member Kenneth Whalum Jr., and Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams.