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Mid-Season Trade: Shelby Dems Boot Fields, Get Gill Back

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BY JACKSON BAKER | JUNE 28, 2007

A new physical principle has been discovered about the known Universe, or at least about that corner of it occupied by the Shelby County Democratic Party. It is this: That the likes of Richard Fields can be gotten rid of - perhaps permanently -- but longtime gadfly Del Gill is irrepressible and will return again and again - perhaps till the end of time.

Fields, accused by Mayor Willie Herenton of a "blackmail plot" aimed at deposing the mayor, was the subject of two votes at Thursday night's monthly meeting of the local Democrats' executive committee. First, his resignation from the committee - tendered in a letter to party chairman Keith Norman in which Fields blamed his departure on complications arising from "my present investigation of problems in Memphis" -- was accepted by a 36-0 vote.

That vote, however, came only after Gill - yes, Gill - tried to move for Fields' expulsion and was talked by Norman into tacking that motion on to the acceptance motion as a second stage. The reason: As Norman explained it, only the state party could rule on an expulsion; hence, Fields' resignation had to be accepted first, lest some discovered technicality bind him forever to the committee, and to the party.

And that, Norman explained, was what nobody wanted. The chairman opined that "we should never have elected him back on in the first place" after Fields was forced off an earlier version of the committee in 2006 for working with Republican lawyers to overturn the election of Democrat Ophelia Ford to the state Senate.

Norman allowed himself some additional rhetoric to the effect that Fields was best gone forever - a point that Gill and others thought had been incorporated into the resolution of expulsion, which passed 27-6. Both Norman and party secretary David Holt said afterward, however, that the word "permanently" - heard frequently in discussion on Gill's motion - was not involved in the final vote. The point may be moot; it is hard to imagine a third coming for Fields.

The real miracle was the return to the committee of Gill - who has his own detractors. That resurrection occurred when Gill, a perennial member who was not, however, elected at this year's party convention, got nominated by the newly formed Memphis Democratic Club as its representative on the executive committee.

The Memphis Democratic Club is chaired by Jay Bailey, the lawyer who was defeated by Norman for the party chairmanship, and numbers other dissidents among its members.

Also returned to the committee was another longtime maverick, Bill Larsha, who was accepted as the representative of yet another newly formed dissident club.

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