While the Memphis city election was still in the petition-pulling phase, it looked for a while that there might be several family members — mostly named Ford — who might be running against each other in pursuit of the same office.
By the time last month when both the filing and the withdrawal deadlines had come and gone and the Election Commission had certified an official candidate list, however, most of those intriguing matchups had failed to materialize. They were cases, generally, in which various candidates had considered a variety of races before settling on one, and, when the settling occurred, the potential familial rivalries disappeared from the election roster.
There was one exception: the District 6 City Council race, in which two candidates named Bond are competing — Perry Bond and Theryn Bond. They are father and daughter, as it happens, and when the two of them, along with candidates for other offices, turned up at AFSCME headquarters on Beale Street last Thursday for a forum sponsored by various Demoratic Party groups, the only reference to the pairing came from the senior Bond, who noted for the audience, "My daughter is in this race, too, and she has every right to be there."
- Jackson Baker
- Theryn Bond Perry Bond
In her turn, Theryn Bond described her race as a venture in courage — appropriately enough, since, as she explained, she has in the last several months faced and overcome cervical cancer. Even before that, Theryn Bond made something of a name for herself at council meetings as an articulate and consistent opponent of the established order of things on the current council.
Alphabetical order being what it is, the two Bonds lead the list of candidates on the October 3rd ballot. That should help their vote totals in a district race which already has some drama. Edmund Ford Sr., the former holder of the seat, is attempting to regain it, and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, engaged in a running feud with Ford's son, Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr., has endorsed yet another candidate, Davin Clemons, a minister/policeman who serves as the MPD's liaison with the LGBTQ community.
• Yes, it's true: Steve Cohen has an opponent. The 9th District Congressman, who has knocked off a serious string of Democratic challengers since 2006, when he first emerged victorious from a multi-candidate primary field, now faces a 2020 bid from Corey Strong, the former Shelby County Democratic chairman.
Strong acknowledges that Cohen has made the appropriate votes in Congress, supported legislation that a Democrat should have supported, properly backed up Democratic President Obama, and has correctly opposed Republican President Trump. Further, says Strong, the congressman has successfully become a factor in key national dialogues.
What he has failed to do, Strong maintains, is to bring jobs to a home region that desperately needs them. Strong even finds evidence of this alleged failure in a well-publicized stunt staged by Cohen last spring on the House Judiciary Committee. That was the occasion in May when the congressman ridiculed the failure of Attorney General William Barr to answer a subpoena by wolfing down pieces from a Kentucky Fried Chicken basket at his seat on the committee.
Cohen got headlines, both pro and con, and, says Strong, "I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is that we've got all kinds of local fried-chicken enterprises here in Memphis, and he could have made his point with them if he wanted. But he didn't."
Strong is well aware that Cohen, who is white and Jewish, has easily dispatched all previous would-be party rivals in his predominantly African-American Memphis district since that first victory in 2006. He has triumphed over Justin Ford, Willie Herenton, Tomeka Hart, Ricky Wilkins, and Nikki Tinker, all of whom had either name recognition or financial support or both.
He has done so, as Strong acknowledges, by careful attention to the needs of his constituency in most ways — save the aforementioned inability to raise the income level of his district.
Strong believes he can succeed at that task, where, he says, Cohen has not. And one way of demonstrating his prowess will be to raise a campaign budget that will allow him to compete with the financially well-endowed incumbent Congressman on relatively even terms.
"I will do that," says Strong, a Naval Reserve officer who in 2017 became the renovated Shelby County Democratic Party's bounce-back chairman after it was decommissioned by the state Democrats a year earlier during a period of internal stress and discord within the local party.
Strong acknowledges that Michael Harris, his successor as local party chairman, has had a difficult problem arousing support from party cadres because of issues stemming from his suspended law practice. But, says Strong, local Democrats have a duty to support their party.
The future congressional aspirations of current Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris have become so obvious as to make Harris' ambitions something of a public proverb, and a good race next year by Strong, even if unsuccessful, could serve the purpose of setting up a future challenge against Mayor Harris. But Strong insists he is in the 9th District race this year to win.
• The 2019 session of the Tennessee General Assembly is over, but one of the key pieces of legislation that emerged from it — a bill to permit private school vouchers via public money — is apparently still subject to change.
It will be remembered that the bill barely passed the state House of Representatives, and did so only because then-House Speaker Glen Casada held open the vote for an hour, during which time he bargained with members opposed to the measure in an effort to change at least one vote.
That vote turned out to be that of Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), who succumbed to a pledge from Casada that the voucher bill would be rewritten to exclude Zachary's home city.
With an eye toward future potential opposition in the state Senate, the bill was rewritten, in fact, to exclude all localities except Memphis and Nashville, which became the sole subjects of what was now styled as a "pilot" program.
A vigorous opponent of the bill, which was a pet project of Governor Bill Lee, was Representative Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), who has now become Speaker in the wake of a scandal that forced Casada out of the position.
Sexton continues to oppose vouchers and wishes at the very least to delay their onset. Lee, meanwhile, has reacted to the change of circumstance by expressing a desire to speed up the implementation of vouchers from 2021 to 2020. The coming legislative session may well come to focus on the struggle over the issue between the two leaders.