In 2018, Strong was chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party and a champion of the official party against all efforts by shadow organizations — by verbal sleight of hand — to use parts of the party name for private gain. In particular, chairman Strong that year denounced the efforts of something calling itself “the Greater Memphis Democratic Club” to masquerade as an official Democratic Party organization, and, as such, to publish flyers boosting political candidates and causes.
Strong pointed out that a flyer being circulated that year by the “club,” boosting “endorsements” of various candidates and electoral referendum choices, was just an advertisement of sorts put out by Greg Grant, a political entrepreneur and one of several people locally who sell space on such flyers and distribute them during election cycles.
The “Greater Memphis Democratic Club” was not affiliated with the Shelby County Democratic Party or the state party, Strong said in 2018. “This flyer is nothing more than a paid advertisement.” The only reason Grant could “get away with this is by designating himself as a club,” Strong said. “They‘ll put anyone on the ballot that pays them.”
Two years later, Strong himself is a candidate, challenging 9th District U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen for the Democratic nomination for his congressional seat. And he is an “endorsee” of the same pay-for-play organization, the Greater Memphis Democratic Club, he denounced as phony in 2018.
The use of paid advertising masquerading as “endorsements” and borrowing variants of the word “Democratic” for the purpose is a familiar problem in Memphis elections and appears to continue despite public exposure and the reality of legal actions by actual representatives and organs of the real Democratic Party.
The issue came before the state Democratic Party executive committee earlier this year when another ballot entrepreneur, M. LaTroy Alexandria-Williams, saw his own candidacy in the 9th District congressional primary disallowed, substantially on grounds that his “Greater Memphis Democratic Club,” a perennial source of misleading “ballots” had been counter to official party efforts.
In an apparent effort to skirt legal difficulty, the current Grant ballot, boosting Strong and others, contains fine print at the bottom of a page noting that a photograph of Strong, a military reservist, in uniform “does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense.”
Also included in the fine print is a disclaimer that the “Greater Memphis Democratic Club” operates “independently of the Shelby County Democratic Party and its affiliates.”