Paul Shaffer, the de facto Democrat in a de facto Democrat vs. Republican city council race, got public endorsements Friday from two party stalwarts, 9th District congressman Steve Cohen and Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton.
Shaffer, the longtime business agent of an I.B.E.W. union local and a member of the Democratic executive committee, is locked in what most observers regard as a one-on-one race with businessman Kemp Conrad, a former local Republican chairman.
Shaffer and Conrad are among the contenders in a special election to fill the vacancy left in Super District 9, Position 1, when former chairman Scott McCormick resigned to become head of the Plough Foundation. The vote will take place on November 4th as part of the regular general election. Former councilman Jack Sammons is serving as interim councilman for the district meanwhile.
The two local governing bodies of the major parties have conferred endorsements -- the Democratic executive committee on Shaffer and the Republican steering committee on Conrad.
Asked about the partisan aspects of what is formally a non-partisan race, Cohen noted that 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and other prominent party nominees had carried District 9 in the past, "so if there is a connection, it's good for Paul." Wharton and candidate Shaffer himself agreed but stressed the outreach aspects of the race. "I'm reaching out to everybody. I intend to represent the whole district," Shaffer said.
That last sentiment was concurred in by Conrad, who responded to the Cohen/Wharton endorsement ceremony by saying, "People don't care who politicians are endorsing. They care who has a record of service across the board, who can represent black and whites, Republicans and Democrats, the whole community." He noted that several prominent Democrats have endorsed him as well.
Other candidates are former Shelby County Commissioner John Willingham, a longtime Republican himself, and Arnett Montague.