Mayor Willie Herenton had a strong political base, taking 75 percent or more of the vote in scores of black precincts, plus getting thousands of white votes.
Carol Chumney was a bona fide challenger, winning 70 percent or more of the vote in some white precincts.
And Herman Morris was a spoiler with no political base who had just two precincts that could truly be called a stronghold, where he won more than 60 percent of the vote.
That's what the unofficial precinct-by-precinct returns show for last week's mayoral election. The results were released by the Shelby County Election Commission Tuesday.
An analysis by the Flyer shows that Herenton won in a time-tested fashion. He established a base and held it, rolling up thousands of votes and 75-percent majorities in predominantly black precincts. And that was enough to win, although overall Herenton got just 42 percent of the vote.
Call it The Rule of 75. In Memphis, a successful mayoral candidate must be popular enough to get 75 percent or more in several precincts
Simply put, neither Chumney nor Morris were able to do that. In general, they split the anti-Herenton vote, although Chumney had much more of a base than Morris. Chumney finished with 35 percent and Morris with 21 percent. Neither challenger could put together those key 75-percent margins needed to run even with Herenton.
At Trinity Methodist Church in Midtown, for example, Morris (who lives two blocks away) got 49 percent, Chumney 44 percent, and Herenton 6 percent of the more than 1700 votes cast.
In 11 precincts where at least 300 votes were cast, Herenton actually got more than 80 percent in of the vote (Gaston Community Center, Lauderdale Elementary, Southside High, Riverview Junior High, Pine Hill Community Center, Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church, Westwood High, Lakeview Elementary, Raineshaven Elementary, New Nonconnah M.B. Church, and Double Tree Elementary).
Call those "home runs." He got at least 70 percent of the vote in scores of other precincts, which offset the precincts where he got less than 10 percent.
Chumney won two precincts with more than 80 percent (Wells Station Elementary and Kingsbury Elementary). But those two home runs were better than Morris could muster. He played small-ball and picked up 65 percent of the vote in his best precinct (Christian Brothers High School) where at least 300 votes were cast.
Voters are not racially identified, but an educated guess can be made by targeting precincts where the voting population is either almost all white or all black. An examination of such precincts indicates that Herenton got thousands of white votes despite polls showing him with virtually no white support.