It's 12:20 on a Thursday afternoon as mayoral candidate Carol Chumney sits down to a lunch of fried chicken with all the fixin's at a Mrs. Winner's in Frayser. The city councilwoman positions herself near the edge of her seat as she daintily picks meat from the bone. She knows she won't be allowed to sit for long.
Sure enough, five minutes into her meal, a member of the Frayser Exchange Club calls her to the podium. With food left on her plate, she calmly rises, appearing not the least bit upset by the interruption.
"I'm running for mayor because I love this city," she begins.
A believable statement, considering the hectic schedule Chumney's adopted in order to run for the office she covets. Before her noon speaking engagement in Frayser, in which she detailed what she'd do to fight crime and blight if elected, Chumney had already done a day's work.
"I had a live interview with Channel 13 this morning, and then I went down to court to enter an order in a case that I have [with my law firm]. Then I went back to the headquarters and made phone calls [for fund-raising]," Chumney says.
After the Frayser Exchange Club luncheon, Chumney heads back to court for a settlement conference regarding one of her cases.
When she's not campaigning or performing City Council duties as chair of the MLGW and budget committees, Chumney heads a law firm that specializes in just about everything — family law, divorce, worker's compensation, automobile accidents, wrongful death, criminal law, sexual harassment, you name it.
From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (sometimes later), Chumney works tirelessly, juggling her duties. It sounds exhausting, but she considers herself an old pro. Chumney's been practicing law since 1986, served 13 years in the state House of Representatives, and has been a City Council member since 2003.
"One thing I did do differently for this campaign is that I stopped taking new law cases in March," Chumney says. "So now I'm just working with the cases I had before then."
As the only serious female mayoral candidate Memphis has seen in years, Chumney should theoretically be feeling some pressure to prove her legitimacy. Just before she arrives at an early-voting site in South Memphis Thursday night, three Willie Herenton supporters (the only ones present) approached the 20 or so Chumney fans and tried to start a war of words.
"It's a man's world! It's a man's world!" yelled one man, sporting a Herenton T-shirt bearing his "Shake Them Haterz Off" slogan.
But Chumney says she rarely gives the gender factor a thought.
"Truthfully, I really don't think about it that much, because I've been one of the few women in the legislature many times," Chumney says. "I think [gender] barriers are being broken down in America."
Gender barriers may be falling, but much ado has been made lately over what female presidential candidate Hillary Clinton chooses to wear at campaign events. Female candidates, of course, do have more choices when it comes to clothing: Are pants too masculine? Is cleavage really an issue?
Chumney, who tends to stick to conservative suit jackets with matching skirts and complementing blouses, doesn't concern herself with fashion quandaries.
"I just stick to what I've been wearing as a professional woman. I don't spend that much time on it," Chumney says. "Most of my time I spend thinking about policy, platform, raising money, getting my message out."
Chumney says she hopes to curb the city's crime problem through better management of the Police Department. She wants to "clean up" Memphis Light, Gas, and Water and focus neighborhood revitalization in places other than downtown.
How well that message is resonating — or not resonating — will be revealed on October 4th, but until then, Chumney plans to hit the campaign trail harder than ever.
And she doesn't plan on letting the stress get to her:
"It's been a lot of fun. And when we're having fun, it's easier to attract people to your campaign. The social aspect is very important."