Jan 18 2015

District 5 free-for-all

Posted by Steve Ross in City of Memphis, elections, Memphis Politics

The entry of District 5 Councilman Jim Strickland into the race for Mayor of Memphis has set up a free-for-all in the race for his district.

Right now there are four people who have either declared, or are openly considering a run. I’ll be honest with you, I only know two of them, and a third, I only know anything about because of a Facebook post.

Hardly much of anything to go on.

Still, its a long way to October, and candidates have plenty of time to define themselves…or be defined by each other.

I’ll tell you what I know, and look at the way the district’s been voting. And if any of you candidates want to chime in with links or more information, do it in the comments.

The Candidates

Candidates listed in alphabetical order

Worth Morgan

Worth Morgan

Worth Morgan

I found out about Morgan’s potential candidacy through this Commercial Appeal article announcing another candidates run.

Morgan doesn’t have much of an online profile. His Facebook profile is locked down. As of this writing, there is no Facebook page, twitter handle, or website for his campaign.

What can be found is that he is the child of Musette and Allen Morgan, the latter of Morgan Keegan fame.

I also found this old MUS newsletter talking about Worth’s childhood liver problems, and the family’s commitment to funding research.

By virtue of his family, Worth could be a strong fundraiser (I know that’s a stereotype, but I don’t have much else to go on) or could possibly ‘self-fund’. As for positions, I have no idea. It seems odd to me that a potential candidate would put themselves out there without anything to begin defining them. But, if you subscribe to the money vs. message worldview (which I’m not sure I do because that worldview assumes mutual exclusivity) whatever message Worth comes up with, he’ll most likely have the money to get it out to the masses.

Does he have the public profile to compete in what will likely be one of the most competitive races this fall? That remains to be seen.

Charles ‘Chooch’ PickardFacebook

Charles 'Chooch' Pickard

Charles ‘Chooch’ Pickard

Pickard (aka Chooch) organized an exploratory committee for the District 5 seat in late 2014. An architect by trade, Pickard has been involved in several public and non-profit organizations over the past 6+ years.

In 2009 he was named Executive Director of the Memphis Regional Design Center, an organization that seeks to bring economic stability through land use, planning and design.

That may not sound like a big deal in Memphis, a city where folks consistently list crime and poverty as primary issues, but the wealth of vacant and blighted properties in Memphis only exacerbates those problems, and makes for convenient havens for crime. Those vacant properties also represent a decreased property tax base, which means less revenue, which then translates to fewer services and higher taxes. At the very least, land use is an issue that must be tackled in tandem with these other issues that grab more headlines.

Currently, Pickard serves on the MATA board and is the Executive Architect at City South Ventures, which is seeking to redevelop the U.S. Marine Hospital, which is just south of Crump and the South Bluffs area.

Pickard announced on his Facebook Page that he would have a meeting to make a decision about a potential run. So far, no word on whether he’s in for sure or not.

Dan Springerwebsite | Facebook Page | Twitter

Dan Springer

Dan Springer

Dan Springer announced his candidacy mere moments after Strickland announced his run for Mayor. The two articles were competing with each other on the CA website. But that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, Springer interned with the law firm of Kustoff & Strickland several years ago, so he likely had an inside track.

Currently Springer serves as the Director of Communications for Evolve Bank & Trust. Previously he served as an Executive Assistant to Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and a Legislative Aide to U.S. Senator Bob Corker.

According to people who know Springer, his GOP bona fides notwithstanding, he’s moderate and open minded. Its hard to say how Springer’s GOP background will play in District 5…which has been a swing area in the past two County elections (Luttrell carried the area, but Democrats were voted in on the County Commission). By virtue of his relationship with Mayor Luttrell, there’s little doubt he will have a strong fundraising operation.

Mary Wilder

Mary Wilder

Mary Wilder

Wilder has been a fixture in the Evergreen Vollentine neighborhood for as long as I’ve been in Memphis (which means even longer than that). Wilder is a strong advocate for neighborhoods, and has been active in several civic and political organizations for quite some time.

In 2007 Wilder was named to the Tennessee State House District 89 in an interim position after State Senator Beverly Marerro won the Senate District 30 seat. In 2007 she ran for Memphis City Council District 9 position 3, losing to Reid Hedgepeth in a tight 3-way race.

Wilder is retired but was most recently the Facilities Director at MIFA.

Wilder’s strong ties to the community and neighborhood advocacy make her an early favorite, especially with the Midtown corridor of District 5. The Midtown area has very high voter participation compared to other areas in District 5 and Wilder is a well known and respected quantity in those areas.

Mary’s track record as a community advocate will also likely play well in the struggling neighborhoods within District 5. Many of those neighborhoods have been thirsting for a strong voice on the Council and feel a bit like an afterthought in both Council and County Commission discussions.

Conclusion

Of course, its still early, and perhaps too early to make any decisions about anything, but Springer came out of the gate strong, and that means the other candidates have a little catching up to do.

It will be interesting to see what the candidates report on their early financial disclosures next month.

The deadline for petitions isn’t until July, but the race, like it or not, is well underway.

District 5 has some of the highest turnout, and has more concentrated wealth than perhaps any other single member district that will be in play this cycle. That means candidates will have to raise a lot of money, and have robust organizations to get their message out.

District 5 is also a 50%+1 district, meaning, with at least four people (so far) vying for the seat, there’s the very real possibility of a run-off election a month after the October election. This makes organization and fundraising even more critical in the months before the July petition deadline.

Its going to be very interesting. As I find out more about the individual candidates, I’ll update this post.

Ed. Note – If you’re a candidate for District 5 and have more information you’d like me to include in this post, shoot me a note via my Contact Page.

Nov 30 2014

Populism alone won’t save Southern Democrats

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, National Politics, TNDP
Complete Devestation

Complete Devestation

Friday, the AP published an article pushing for more populism from Democratic candidates in Southern states to help revive the respective state party organizations.

I agree that a more populist message would help motivate Democratic voters, and possibly move some swing voters our way, but the notion that populism alone is the answer is moronic.

Because any messaging tactic one might bring to a campaign is worthless without the apparatus to effectively deliver that message. That’s where Democrats in the South, and plenty of other places, have been failing.

I constantly hear from Republicans to be ready to do battle with “Democratic Machine Politics”, but I’ve not seen much evidence of a machine at all in recent years. Certainly not on the local and state levels.

That’s where we’re getting destroyed. And the destruction will have long lasting effects on the politics and policies of individual states, and the federal government going forward.

But its not just Tennessee, its happening all over.

Here’s what they’re saying in Arizona about their state party structure.

“There’s got to be a serious autopsy. And I say autopsy because I think we’re dead at this point. The infrastructure is dead, the party structure is dead….

It’s not just money, we have a much bigger problem than that. I can’t blame anybody. I’m part of the problem, too.”

– Arizona House Minority Leader Rep. Chad Campbell

If this refrain sounds familiar, it should. I’ve been saying something similar to this since 2008.

I suggest you go and read the whole thing, because there’s a glimmer of hope in the statement from AZ House Minority Leader Chad Campbell…recognition.

Unlike Democratic leaders in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and other deep south states, Campbell actually understands two critical problems:

  1. That the state political structure is dead.
  2. That he is at least somewhat responsible for killing it.

That kind of recognition is absent from far too many of the discussions being had around here.

But this post isn’t about blame…because that’s not productive. In fact, I have no interest in calling names or anything like that, because we’re all responsible on one level or another.

This post is about the transformative power of recognizing the problem.

The Arizona Democratic Party actually has a chance now…if only its leaders will act on the recognition of their State House Minority Leader.

We need our leaders, including school board members, County Commissioners, State House and Senate members, State Executive Committee members, and US Representatives, to recognize the role they play in contributing to the problem…and begin working on concrete actions to start building something…anything.

That means finding something for campaign teams to do once the election is over.

We can’t just build campaign teams for the election and then let all that talent get scattered to the wind once the cycle is over. We have to keep these folks in the fold, so all that time training and mentoring doesn’t go to waste.

We have to build a bench, and keep that bench game ready.

But we don’t do that…ever. We fight amongst ourselves about petty party issues, and pigeon-hole people as one faction or another (that we have decided we don’t like) and let that get in the way of building. Its stupid.

Its funny to me that Democrats are the Party that professes to stand up for the little guy, when we consistently squander the “little guy” campaign talent as soon as the election cycle is over.

Then, two years later, we come calling on these folks, hoping they’re still around to help us…and more often than not, they have done what any self-respecting person would do…they’ve moved on.

Republicans don’t do that. They keep their people busy. And while some might say they have more money than we do…part of that is because they don’t ever stop campaigning. They keep their army busy fundraising, advocating, and recruiting.

We don’t, and that’s what’s killing us.

I’ve been saying the same thing for more than six years now, and I don’t care if you’re tired of hearing it. No one has really, effectively put anything in motion for any period of time because we spend so much time second-guessing ourselves into inaction, and ultimately, failure.

Until we decide to get over ourselves, and stop looking around the corner for the next internal boogeyman, we’ll never be able to take on the real villain that’s right in front of us…and has taken over.

Nov 29 2014

The Comedy and Tragedy of James Harvey’s Mayoral Aspirations

Posted by Steve Ross in City of Memphis, elections

Its more of a tragedy than a comedy

This is more of a tragedy than a comedy

In the blur of pre-Thanksgiving preparations, and the shadow of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision, a process that even Justice Scalia thinks was nuts, comes this article on the “non-traditional” campaign of former County Commissioner, James Harvey for Mayor of the City of Memphis.

Now, Harvey’s illustrious eight years on the County Commission are remarkable, only in that he was never seriously challenged…which says something about the sad state of affairs in politics in Shelby County.

The most notable item about his time on the Commission is his unique ability to begin speaking in favor of an issue, and by the end of his external monologue, have talked himself out of his own position, which doesn’t say anything about his ability to see both sides of an issue…rather, it speaks to just how few convictions he has on anything.

Veasey’s article frames Harvey as conducting the beginnings of a non-traditional campaign, working independent of money, to win the hearts and minds of Memphians a full ten months before the election…and at least five months before the campaign begins in earnest.

Now, if you’re one of those disappointed in the leadership at City Hall, and there’s a growing group of people that feel that way, you might be interested in looking to something fresh and new. And while that instinct may not be misplaced, any faith in Harvey’s ability to turn the City around is absolutely misplaced unless you think he can do that with his ample supply botched platitudes and mixed metaphors.

And while there’s no doubt that money alone doesn’t buy Mayorships, the fact that Harvey has raised less than 10k, nearly a year after announcing his candidacy, says something about his support citywide…that there isn’t any.

This fact should be well understood by looking at previous efforts to get elected to something…anything by Harvey.

In 2011, he ran for Mayor against Wharton and Edmund Ford Sr. Harvey managed to eek out just over 2000 votes in the effort, putting him in 3rd place behind Wharton’s 48.6k and Ford’s nearly 21k.

In the only other race that Harvey has faced an opponent and won, the 2006 Primary Election for County Commission, Harvey won just over 4700 votes, for 41% of the vote. Hardly a mandate.

But what’s most comical is that anyone would think of Harvey as a contender in a race against a sitting Mayor, who has a proven record of fielding a vigorous campaign, and a growing list of capable candidates seeking to unseat that Mayor…of which, Harvey is far from being in the top tier.

So while its understandable that…as we get closer to the October election, there should be a discussion of the declared candidates, the comedy and tragedy of it all is that Harvey is even mentioned as viable. He’s not.

If you’re one of those who feel Memphis needs new leadership, pinning your hopes on James Harvey is an exercise in futility.

Look elsewhere…anywhere else.

There will be more viable candidates emerge as we get closer to the filing deadline.

As for Harvey, I’m glad the CA got this fluff piece out of the way when no one was really paying attention. Hopefully they’ll decide to ignore him along with the crackpots and maroons who will inevitably file to run.

We need to have a real discussion, not distractions, about the top spot at City Hall…and no amount of framing will place Harvey at the big boys table in that discussion.

Nov 24 2014

The Steve Ross Show – Episode 2

Episode 2 of the Steve Ross Show is up and ready for your viewing pleasure.

You can watch it below or by clicking here.

This episode includes an interview with Rebecca Terrell, the Executive Director of Choices – The Memphis Center for Reproductive Health.

Rebecca and I talk about the state of reproductive healthcare in Tennessee in the wake of the Amendment 1 constitutional amendment.

I also take some time to touch on the President’s Executive Order on immigration, and the reaction to it, changes in Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, and the race for TNDP Chair.

For ‘My Take’ I talk about the attempt to suppress union organizing at the Chattanooga VW plant, and the company’s decision to work with the unions in the wake of that interference.

Hope you enjoy the show!

Nov 17 2014

The Steve Ross Show – Episode 1

It took a week of work, from the first concept, to the interview, to the writing, the hours of editing and trying to remember how to do all the things I haven’t been doing for the better part of 2 years now, but the very first episode of a video blog I produced is now up and online.

You can watch it below or by clicking here.

I’m really proud of the Freshman effort on this. Its not perfect, and I know for sure there are things I want to change for future episodes, but considering this wasn’t even something I was considering ever doing just 10 days ago, I feel pretty good about it.

This episode includes an interview with former Shelby County Commissioner and U of M Law Professor, Steve Mulroy. I talked to him about the marriage equality decision handed down by the 6th Circuit Court of appeals just over a week ago, as well as issues related to the Federal bench.

I also touched on some of the top stories in national and statewide politics, as well as the just passed mid-term elections.

So, I hope you like it.

Special thanks to Steve Mulroy for being the first guest.

Also, thanks to comedian and progressive talker Matthew Filipowicz for inspiring me to throw myself headlong into the project. I got to meet Matthew when he was in town two weeks ago.

I also want to thank my beautiful bride Ellyn for putting up with my OCD and self-doubt while I was putting this thing together…and giving me some very good advice while I was putting the finishing touches on it.

So, there ya go. Hope you enjoy it!