Politics » Politics Feature

Tennessee’s Gubernatorial Candidates Make the Rounds in Memphis


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With the coming of bona fide summer weather, the governor's race has heated up accordingly. Last week in Shelby County saw numerous comings and goings of candidates. On Friday, Republican candidates Bill Lee and Beth Harwell checked in, Lee with a "town hall" at the newish Houston Levee Community Center, Harwell with a fund-raiser/meet-and-greet at the Holiday Inn Express in Millington.

Franklin businessman Lee, who has been running, in effect, as a fallback alternative to the heated race going on now in the GOP primary between poll leaders Randy Boyd, the former state Commissioner of Economic Development, and U.S. Representative Diane Black, is so far avoiding making precise policy commitments. But at his Friday appearance in Shelby County, Lee left little doubt that he is to be numbered among the conservatives on the Republican ballot, responding to a question about how to solve the gun-violence problem by touting the Second Amendment itself as the solution.

Harwell, whose slow start in the race has left her needing to be a late bloomer and a sort of fallback candidate herself, is, like Lee, taking overtly conservative positions — opposing in-state tuition privileges, for example — but her general demeanor tilts somewhat more toward the moderate side than does Lee's.

Meanwhile, candidate Boyd took his 95-county bus tour to Millington on Monday for an early-morning meet-and-greet and then launched out on a round of stops eastward, beginning in Fayette County.

Friday saw Democratic gubernatorial candidate Craig Fitzhugh receive the endorsement of the Legislative Black Caucus at Fitzhugh's Poplar Avenue headquarters, and the candidate from Ripley, who is retiring from his position as Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, was back again on Monday for a fund-raiser at the East Memphis residence of well-known activist Jocelyn Wurzburg.

In addition to the Black Caucus boosting, Fitzhugh has also received endorsements of late from the Tennessee State Employees Association and the Tennessee Education Association. His Democratic rival, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, meanwhile, got an endorsement from the Win Back Your State PAC of former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley that carries with it a commitment from the erstwhile also-ran in the Democratic presidential primaries of 2016 to campaign in Tennessee for Dean, who has raised far more money than has Fitzhugh.

Another campaigner this week was state Representative Dwayne Thompson, who held his own town hall at the Houston Levee center on Saturday, a day after Lee. An audience member at the affair was Patricia Possel, who is vying with Scott McCormick in the Republican primary for the right to challenge Democrat Thompson, an upset winner in 2016 over then GOP incumbent Steve McManus. Possel, an advocate of measures easing the process of suburban deannexation from Memphis, grilled Thompson on the issue but seemed not to succeed in establishing much distance between her own positions and his.

• M. LaTroy Alexandria-Williams, a frequent and so far unsuccessful candidate for public office, won a signal victory last week in the courtroom of Chancellor Walter Evans, who ruled that Williams was improperly prohibited by the state Democratic Party from running as a Democrat in his planned primary race against 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen. The controversy had been accompanied by accusations of racism against Cohen and state Democratic chair Mary Mancini from such backers of Williams as Lexie Carter, chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party's primary board. Resolution of the case restores Alexandria-Williams' name to the ballot.

UPDATE: Carter argues convincingly that she did not make the indicated adverse comments about Rep. Cohen, though she acknowledges being critical of Mancini and Dave Cambron, president of the Germantown Democrats..

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