Even as the nation becomes involved in major international hostilities, local pols have started their own war, for control of the Shelby County Democratic Party-- and, though it may be (nay, is
) small potatoes compared to the war on Iraq, the local rumble, too, is aimed at displacing a leader. In this case, State Rep. Kathryn Bowers
is now the officially designated candidate of a Fordite/legislative coalition to oust local Democratic chair Gale Jones Carson
Though negotiations to this end have been proceeding some time -- both in Memphis and in Nashville, where House Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry
was also solicited as a candidate-- the anti-Jones faction and Bowers didnt make their final compact until this week. (As a report in this weeks Flyer
by my colleague John Branston
indicates, however, Carson was well aware of the preliminary maneuvering.)
The prominence of Ford partisans in the effort to depose Carson, who doubles as press secretary to Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton
, a longtime rival of the Ford political faction, was made clear in the first official salvo of the Bowers campaign, a letter to local Democrats from longtime Ford factotum John Freeman
announcing her candidacy and a breakfast meeting to support her. The letter comes on the eve of Saturdays party caucus at Hamilton High School to elect delegates to the April 12th party convention at the same locale.
Another longtime Ford operative involved in the preliminary planning of the Bowers candidacy, David Upton
, maintained Wednesday night that Democratic members of the Shelby County legislative delegation were wholeheartedly cooperating in the pro-Bowers, anti-Carson campaign. Inevitably, as Carson suggested to Branston, the contest will be regarded as another shot in the Herenton-Ford war, dormant since the mayor swamped a field including then city councilman (now Shelby County Commissioner) Joe Ford
in the mayoral election of 1999.
Additional factors which might give impetus to the anti-Carson revolt are discontent at the party's poor showing in last year's countywide election, payback for Herenton's support of Republican Lamar Alexander over Democrat Bob Clement in the U.S. Senate race, and reaction to the mayor's most recent assertiveness on school-board and consolidation matters.
Freemans letter to Democrats, which has made its way to party members along various well-estalbished email channels, some of them semi-official, follows:
Dear Fellow Democrats,
As you know, the next two years will determine the future of the Democratic Party in Shelby County and the type of community we will be. It's time to elect a new Democratic Party Chair and County Committee for Shelby County, and we hope you come and show your support for the Party and State Representative Kathryn Bowers.
Kathryn has served us in the legislature since 1994, and was recently elected as the Majority Whip for the House Democratic Caucus. Her ability to bring citizens, elected officials, labor, business and religious leaders together around issues that unite us is exactly what we need as we prepare for the 2004 presidential elections.
Bowers for Chair Campaign Breakfast
Please join us this Saturday, March 22nd at 9:30 a.m. at a breakfast rally we are having in support of her candidacy. The event will be held at Hamilton High School cafeteria. Immediately following the breakfast, please join us at the County Democratic Convention Precinct Caucus Meeting at 10:00 a.m. in the school's auditorium. It's very important that we elect delegates from every precinct in Shelby County, who will be supportive of Kathryn Bowers' candidacy and leadership. These delegates will return on Saturday, April 12th to elect the County Democratic Committee and Rep. Kathryn Bowers as Chair of the Party.
Hamilton High School is at 1306 East Person which is at the corner of East Person and Elvis Presley and across from Forest Hill Cemetery.
If you are able to serve as a precinct leader for Kathryn or can bring a friend or family member to the event, please call John Freeman at 596-8846 and give her your name and address to receive your place and assignment. We need your suggestions, thoughts and assistance concerning this election, the needs of the Party and the role of the new Chair and County Committee in directing its future.
Please join us and show your support this Saturday morning, March 22 at 9:30 a.m.
Your participation will be greatly appreciated.