Last Wednesday night, on the eve of the Willie Herenton-Joe Frazier faux fight for charity, and on the eve, too, of what would turn out to be a dark day for his career and reputation, city councilman Rickey Peete was an attendee at a pre-fight gala at the Hard Rock Café on Beale Street.
Brimming over with bonhomie and self-confidence, Peete sat down at a table containing two reporters and assorted pols and discoursed for well over an hour on a variety of subjects, mostly political. The ground rules of the conversation included an off-the-record provision; so the substance of what Peete said will have to go undetailed.
Suffice it that Peete displayed good humor and considerable acumen about both recent election results and the future prospects of various political figures -- including himself and, hypothetically, members of his family.
No, he didn't see it coming.
When last seen by this reporter, he was standing in the foyer of the Hard Rock eagerly perusing an article in last week's Flyer in which the mayoral chances of various potential contenders, including himself, were estimated.
After his arrest on bribery charges Thursday, that may turn out to have been Peete's last opportunity -- for a while, at least -- to think optimistically about the future.
A placeholder or somebody for the long haul? That, says county commissioner Steve Mulroy, is the key decision -- or should be the key decision -- facing members of the Shelby County Commission as they contemplate the choice of a successor to state senator Steve Cohen, the 9th District congressman-elect who resigned from his District 31 Senate seat over the weekend.
Commissioner George Flinn thinks precedent requires an interim appointee who won't run in a special election next year. And one candidate who agrees is his son Shea Flinn, a Democrat unlike his Republican father and a onetime candidate for the legislature.
Other hopefuls, like former Cohen campaign manager Kevin Gallagher and ex-city attorney Robert Spence, want the interim appointment as a stepping stone to that election.
Two other possible aspirants, state representative Beverley Marrero and longtime activist David Upton, have been having discussions as to which one of them should enter the sweepstakes. "He can just sit down" is the dismissive commentary on Upton from influential commission newcomer Sidney Chism, who from time to time has been on opposite sides politically.
Chism says he is most favorable to Gallagher and Spence but is open to others.
The commission, which officially advertised the vacancy Monday, has set Wednesday, December 13th, as a date for interviewing candidates. It will choose someone at its next regular meeting on Monday, December 18th.
Cohen, who held an open house for constituents at his former campaign headquarters on Union Saturday, received favorable mention in a summation of the political year for Roll Call by veteran political reporter Stuart Rothenberg, who included the congressman-elect prominently in a category entitled "Non-Incumbent Candidates I Liked ... Who Won."
Cohen was also listed as the right answer to a trivia question in Congressional Quarterly: "Who delivered a eulogy at the funeral of rock musician Warren Zevon, known for the hit "Werewolves of London?" Cohen and Zevon, who died in 2003, had been close friends for a decade after meeting during the runup to Cohen's 1994 gubernatorial bid.)
Two members of the Ford family made one of Rothenberg's lists as well. Outgoing Democratic congressman Harold Ford Jr., who lost his U.S. Senate bid to Republican Bob Corker, was included in a column headed "Best Unsuccessful Candidate/Campaign."
The congressman's brother Jake Ford, who attempted unsuccessfully to succeed him, running as an independent against Cohen and Republican Mark White, made a list, too, one entitled "Worst Showing by a Famous Name."
And Tennessee's now senior senator, Republican Lamar Alexander, who is up for reelection in two years, figured in a Rothenberg list, too, entitled "Dumbest Press Release of the Year." Rothenberg cited this one: "Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, on Senator Lamar Alexander: 'Alexander Suffers First Setback of 2008 Campaign.'"
Nobody was more surprised Monday than Tipton County Republican Jeff Ward, founder of TeamGOP, to see his grass-roots organization listed by the state Election Registry as having made $1,000 donations to the state Senate campaigns of two Democrats: Ophelia Ford in District 29 and Reginald Tate in District 33.
The problem, said Ward, was that TeamGOP, famous (or notorious) for its hard-line Republicanism, never gave a dime to the two Democrats.
What was it, then -- a practical joke? "No," said Ward. "Not a joke. A crime." It was a case of money laundering, he suggested, in which somebody contributed over the limit and the extra amount got assigned arbitratrily to a list of political organizations pulled off the Web.
The bottom line: Ward will insist on an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and file charges if necessary.