Tonight marked the first debate for the office of Mayor of Memphis. This was, quite simply 90 minutes of some of the most bizarre TV ever. The candidates present were required to have filed their petitions, which cut the field to nine. The candidates present were; Charles Carpenter, Carol Chumney, Wanda Halbert, Robert “Mongo” Hodges, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Kenneth Whalum, AC Wharton, and Sharon Webb.
Like I said, this was highly entertaining, if you take some time to suspend the reality that there is a possibility of a very strange outcome in the Mayoral race. There were some winners, and losers, and people that really had no business being there, or in public life for that matter. Here’s my rundown.
Myron Lowery – Myron totally exceeded my expectations earning him the top spot in my “Winners” column. There was nothing flashy about Myron’s presentation. His answers, for the most part, were concise and to the point. He tooted his own horn, but more to show that even as a “Mayor Pro Tem” he was taking the job seriously. Myron’s answers served to dispel some of the criticism levied on him by former Mayor Willie Herenton. He was sharp, that’s all there is to it.
AC Wharton – AC was polished and had it totally together, but that just earns him a second place finish in my mind. I’m being a little unfair because as the frontrunner expectations are higher than they probably should be. Still, expectations are part of the game and as the front-runner, AC is in a position of defending his frontrunner status. I think he defended his position tonight, but I don’t feel that he gained any ground. This is AC’s challenge as the frontrunner, gaining ground to reach a mandate, and that didn’t happen tonight.
Charles Carpenter – Carpenter comes in a distant third. He’s a winner because he did something to distinguish himself both from the field and from the shadow of his former candidate. I don’t agree with some of his positions, but his ability to articulate them coherently, puts him in the top three.
Jerry Lawler – The candidate with the most name recognition in the race, Lawler’s answers were short on substance. He started out clumsily, as if he was not comfortable with the format, and then relied on right wing talking points to further his cause. I respect Lawler’s commitment to Memphis, and his desire to make things better, but it might behoove him to spend some time working IN the city, through non-profits, etc. before he tries this again.
Carol Chumney – As the second place finisher in the 2007 Mayoral election, Chumney’s expectations were high. Unfortunately, she came off as cold and combative early on, and continued that trend throughout the debate, including an exchange with County Mayor AC Wharton involving the performance of City and County employees after the last big storm. Chumney had the opportunity to shine in this thing, with a polite, but firm, “I told ya so” message, that she never got to. Between that, her virtual absence from the campaign in the past month, and her lightly populated, but nicely designed site that she pimped in the debate, she’s got a big hill to climb to win this thing.
Kenneth Whalum Jr. – The best of the losers, Whalum also started off combative, and then relied on initiatives that he’s led to prop up his platform. Really, his message wasn’t horrible, but the way he delivered it was reminiscent of our most recent former Mayor, which was a turn-off. Also, his unwillingness to clear the air about the incident at his church this weekend raises questions that CANNOT be answered until he addresses them.
Not Worth Mentioning
Halbert, Hodges and Webb were the sideshow. Halbert came closest to being a real candidate, but just about every time she spoke, I found myself wondering what the hell she just said.
Hodges (Mongo) had several lines of the night, including arming people with Uzi’s, flushing the political class down the toilet like turds, and putting comic books and video games in Libraries.
Webb was disjointed and confused, and at one point, couldn’t answer a question because she couldn’t stop laughing, which I can understand considering the dumb stuff that was probably said right before her answer. Still, that’s no excuse, and she never really said much anyway.
The debate wasn’t a success or a failure, it was a sideshow. The inclusion of people that weren’t serious casts serious doubts on this part of the process. Still, it happened, and we have to live with it.
You can watch the debate here.