Friday, August 19, 2016

Thank You, Madame Chair!

Today, TNDP Chair Mary Mancini did what we have been urging her to do, decertifying the Shelby County Democratic Party, sending it to a farm where it could run and play with other defunct institutions.

It had ceased to function as a political organization a long time ago, unable to deal with the Bryan Carson situation.  No matter what you may think of the Bryan Carson situation, it is August 2016, we have a Presidential campaign and legislative campaigns this fall, and they need help.  It's not Michael Pope's fault; at this point, there's really NO point in assigning blame, because there is work to be done and this Executive Committee is incapable of doing any work other than arguing, so it is time to move on.

They appear to want to have a re-organizational meeting soon; however, I think that we have the people here to get through the election without it.

We need a lot of work with a new EC, but we need people who put the Party's needs ahead of their own agendas.  We need people who are not looking to profit from the Party.  We need people who are willing to do the hard work of organizing, registering voters, raising money, training candidates and campaign workers, and raising a new generation of leadership.

Without folks who are willing to do that, there is not much hope here, no matter what the demographics might suggest.  I am hoping for the best, because the now-former Committee had been reduced to meaninglessness.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Millennial Rally on July 28 and the rest of my picks

The rest of my picks for people who deserve your support are in the Democratic Primaries.

 First, let's get the toughest out of the way first. With regard to Senate District 30, I like both Beverly Marrero and Sara Kyle. If I lived in that district, I would vote for Beverly because I know her better and believe that her views are a tad closer to mine than Sara, because Beverly would not have voted for the Bible bill. That said, I also understand that the majority of Sara's constituents may not believe that that was a bad vote. They are both good people, but my vote would go to Beverly. 

 There are NO Democrats running against Mark Norris in Senate 32, so I have no dog in that hunt. 

 Now, for the House races; you might see that I tend to favor incumbents. Well, I know most of them and have for a while now, so yes, other than House 90, I tend to support our folks in Nashville. 

Larry Pivnick is unopposed for the nomination in House 83, he will challenge incumbent Mark White in the fall. 

 Joe Towns is unopposed, period, ih House 84 and I am happy for that. Congratulations! 

Johnnie Turner deserves re-nomination and re-election in House 85, she is a powerhouse. Also note that the Keith Williams listed as opposing her is NOT the Keith Williams who ran for City Council last year or County Commission two years ago. it wouldn't matter to me any way, no reason that Ms. Johnnie should not win! 

 Barbara Cooper is unopposed for renomination in House 86 and will face a Republican, probably George Edwards, in the fall. Barbara Cooper works her butt off for the district and is more than worthy of your vote. 

 No one was dumb enough to challenge Karen Camper for re-nomination or re-election in House 87, and she would have beaten them like a drum any way. She is one of our stars in Nashville. 

 Larry J. Miller, a veteran and one of the foundations of the Shelby delegation, faces Stephen Christian in the House 88 primary. Stephen is a good guy, but I am backing Larry Miller here. 

 Well, I know I buried the lede here, but Raumesh Akbari, the worthy successor to the late Lois DeBerry in House 91, was named yesterday as THE ONLY TENNESSEAN to speak at the Democratic National Convention next week. She will be one of the speakers on Thursday night before Hillary Clinton officially accepts the Democratic nomination. Huge congratulations to a true rising star in our city and state! 

 Congratulations to GA Hardaway for his renomination and re-election in House 93, he is unopposed.

 No Democrats in House 95, so I have no interests there. if the GOP insists on renominating Curry Todd, that's on them. 

In House 96, Dwayne Thompson has opposition in the Democratic Primary in charter-school advocate Earl Leflore. Even if Dwayne Thompson weren't one of my political godfathers, the mere fact that LeFlore advocates for charters, which I truly believe exist only to suck money away from public schools, that would be enough to endorse Dwayne for nomination. 

 House 97 has no Democrats, so Jim Coley is re-elected. I know him, if we have to have a Republican, he is the one to have. 

 Now, in House 98, Antonio Parkinson, another of our rising stars, has been targeted by the pro-charter community because he fights endlessly to save our public schools. He busts his butt for workers AND small businesses in Raleigh and Frayser, and that's before we even get to his annual Block Parties for Peace. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU SEND THIS MAN BACK TO NASHVILLE; we cannot afford to lose him. I am not even going to bother to tell you who his opponent is; just renominate Antonio Parkinson. 

 Republican Ron Lollar is unopposed in House 99, so no Democrats, no endorsement. 

 I hit the high notes in the first post, so there you go with the rest of them, and please come out to Celtic Crossing next Thursday, even if you are an old fart like me! Oh, and VOTE EARLY! You have until July 30 to do so.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Early Voting starts today at the satellite locations. Here is a list of my choices.

Don't know where to go?  Visit this site and it will give you the locations.

First, I have the Federal Democratic primary for the 9th District:

I have had four Congressmen since living in Memphis, three of whom I have had the ability to vote for in an election.  That Steve Cohen is able to do all that he does for this city and its constituents despite being in the minority, party-wise, speaks to his abilities as a legislator, which he has done for a decade in Washington and 24 years before that in Nashville.  I am not even mentioning the people who filed against him, because they have no relevant records to match his.

I am proud to have called him by friend for well over 30 years, and I trust him to do right by Memphis, I am voting for Steve Cohen's re-election and I hope that you will as well.

In State House District 90, it is past time for a change.  Once upon a time, John Deberry would vote with the Democratic leadership on economic issues, then vote for the most right-wing issues imaginable on social issues, which could be kept in check by the Democratic leadership.  Once the GOP assumed super-majority status, he has, sadly, become a shill for those who would destroy public education. Mailers are being sent out on his behalf by PAC purporting to support children.  They support children the way Colonel Sanders supports chicken.

Fortunately, as I mentioned a few months ago, those of us in House District 90 have a MUCH preferable option in Tami Sawyer.  She is an activist in every sense of the word, and works for the betterment of EVERY citizen in the district, regardless of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, class or any other division.  She is out there every day meeting with voters and letting them know they don't have to settle for someone who sells them out in Nashville.

I ask you to vote for Tami Sawyer in House 90.

Now, to the judges and General Sessions Court Clerk.

I have a solid rule about judges: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  I am not an attorney nor do I play one on TV, so I rely on their opinions about who would be the best candidates for each office, and they have yet to let me down.  I understand that there are those who feel that since the majority of attorneys tend to be white, this works against qualified African-American attorneys seeking these positions.

Which leads to my second Rule: if this is a non-partisan race, and you are a challenger to an incumbent, you have to make two cases.  First, you have to explain why the incumbent needs to be replaced (presumably due to malfeasance or misfeasance of duty) and second, why YOU should be the person to replace them.

For those reasons, I am supporting three incumbents.   For General Sessions Court Clerk, I am supporting Democratic nominee Ed Stanton for re-election with the caveat that his office needs to be helpful with the project that Just City is trying, with little success, to apply in Memphis.  I have heard of no other problems with his stewardship, so I am voting for him.  But I will be watching.

In Circuit Court, Division 3, Valerie Smith was appointed to fill the massive void left by the passing of the legendary D'Army Bailey.  She is a solid fair, jurist to this point and is highly respected by her peers.  I am voting to keep her in office.

Here's the tough one for me:  Jim Newsom was appointed to fill the unexpired term of  former Chancellor Kenny Armstrong, who moved up to the state Court of Appeals.  He, too, is respected by his peers at the Bar Association.  One of his opponents is Joe Jenkins, whom I have met on more than one occasion and I like him a lot.  I think either would be worth your vote here.

Tomorrow, I will talk about the races in which I don't have a vote, except for the 8th District GOP primary.  Any race where Mark Luttrell is attacked as a "Obama Liberal" is beyond comprehension and they are clearly trying to reach people who no longer live on this planet.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's time to drop the BIG ONE on the SCDP (UPDATED)

UPDATE - June 29: As the events of the last few days have indicated, This post is now more needed than ever. Even if it means Bryan Carson walks away scot-free (and I refuse to assign his actions to deviousness when simple, ok, complex, ineptitude will do), the SCDP needs to go.


 Anyone who thinks that this party as currently constituted can provide ANY assistance whatsoever to any Democratic candidates is deluding themselves beyond reasonable measure. Their focus, no matter WHICH side we are talking about, is NOT about doing the things that elect candidates: raising money, registering voters, training candidates and volunteers in the campaigning arts and sciences, you know, THOSE THINGS THAT HELP PEOPLE WIN. 

I am more done with them than a two-hour steak, even if I admit that Del Gill initially had the correct idea: Drop the amount below $25,000, go get a judgment against Carson in General Sessions, and be done with it. No, the SCDP couldn't even do that right. There are people working to try and make it work, but, you know what? I do not believe it's workable. As for the rest of my argument, I made it down below.


 Don't MAKE me replace the Randy Newman video with a video of the end of OLD YELLER. Put it out of its (AND OUR) misery


Let's face it, we have all been in denial for a while now. The Shelby County Democratic Party has been dying for several years right under our noses, and all of us, INCLUDING ME, have been whistling through the graveyard while pretending that it actually meant something.

 Don't think so? Really? When is the last time a Presidential Campaign sent money to Memphis for a national campaign? 1996, that's when, the last re-election campaign of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. It was also the last year Harold Ford SENIOR was in office (to distinguish himself from his succeeding offspring, who looked just liked him but voted NOTHING like him). That was the last year something that could reasonably be called the Ford Machine existed; most of those who helped Senior from 1974 in his historic campaign for election have gone to meet their maker or retired from politics

The political kids Senior raised tried to keep it going, but found themselves out-organized by different groups such as those led by Sidney Chism or Desi Franklin. The last of the old-time chairs was the late, lamented Rep. Kathryn Bowers, whose term came to a premature end due to the TENNESSEE WALTZ Scandal. She knew not only how to raise money, but to increase turnout, which she did without any DNC money for the 2004 elections.

This, of course, was also the beginning of the end for Democratic dominance in Nashville, which accelerated when Senator Rosalind Kurita, having just been shafted by the DCCC in her race against Harold Ford JUNIOR in 2006 (Kiss My Ass Chuck Schumer), got her revenge by flipping her vote for Lieutenant Governor from the aging John Wilder to the pro-business, pro-Randian Ron Ramsey of Blountville.  The downward spiral reached its nadir with the 2010 elections, when white people who had always voted Democratic because THOSE DAMNED YANKEES THAT KILT MY GREAT GREAT GRANDPAPPY were astonished that the Party of Lincoln was now the Party of Jefferson Davis and that Democrats had gone and elected one of them (BLEEP)S as President.

In addition. the attempts by the local party to elect people to countywide offices that had no business running, accelerated the decline.  Chairs came and went, and only Rita Clark (3 terms as Assessor), her hand-picked successor Cheyenne Johnson, General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton (who might not be re-elected, not because of job issues, but because of a TN-08 GOP primary that will jack up turnout) and AC Wharton, whose two elections as County Mayor were marked by high white GOP support, were elected to County offices as Democrats.

The good ole boys who had filled the offices before, and did not really feel like these offices should be partisan, felt like they had to file for re-election as Republicans.  Why? Because, they felt that they could not win a Democratic Primary against opponents and a Democratic electorate that was populated by a majority of people of color.

Because they had run their offices quietly without hints of trouble and because they were competent, they won re-election easily.  With Democratic candidates make promises and statements that had nothing to do with the offices themselves (or showing any real KNOWLEDGE of how those offices worked, with the notable exception of Wanda Halbert), Democrats were routed at the polls.

And the Democrats who were supporting these candidates never figured it out.  They believed that if you claimed to be a Democrat, you OWED these candidates a vote, because the opponents were REPUBLICANS.  While for legislative offices and policy making offices like Mayor or Sheriff, that may have made sense, for Court Clerk positions, where the real issues involved competence, that was flat out crazy.

You see, for these folks, it was about getting OUR people in those offices so they could fire THEIR people and hire OUR people.  Not about competence or any trivial matter like that, but about jobs and patronage.

Y'all, this is NOT Cook County and we do not roll like that. Not since Crump.  And, frankly, it's not ever going to be like that again.

This is the major part of the problem, what separates this party into camps, is that we have no clue what we stand for.  You have the old-guard white liberals that fought against the County primary idea in the 80s, and the people who came into power with Mayor Herenton in the 90s who want to hire their folks over the old folks.

Now, it's time for the first tough truth-telling:  THIS is the point where we began to lose white folks, and I have talked about this a decade ago, and no one would listen to me.

Say, and why not, you are in the middle of a county-wide campaign, and you are attempting to ask a friend or neighbor to vote for a Democratic candidate for one of the County offices.  You get into the spiel before you are stopped and told this:  "Look, I vote Democratic in the legislative and executive races, but I have a spouse/child/sibling/parent/friend who works in that office, and if the Democrat is elected, they lose their job, and they really need it.  I just can't go there with you."

What on earth can you say to that?

Let's look at another major problem we have:   Because of the way legislative districts are drawn, there are rarely competitive races in the general elections any more.  Look at this year.  Outside of District 96, what seat has the possibility of changing hands in November?  NONE.

The races are all in the primaries, which hurts because Democrats do not turn out in the primaries, thinking that the only races that matter are in November.  Because our Countywide races are in August, we start out at a disadvantage.  Not only that, but our incumbent legislators, who are trying to turn out THEIR voters but NOT those of their primary opponent, aren't really much help.  Frankly, they don't turnout their folks in November any more, because they have already been re-elected at that point.

So, what does all this have to do with the SCDP?  With no real strong figure in charge, the Executive Committee is filled with the people who are looking to make money off the party on one side, and the old guard who want to elect Democrats, but are outvoted and overrun by those who obsess over procedural matters.  Why else have we as a Party done NOTHING to stop sample ballot peddlers who use our Democratic name to fool voters???  They are leeches who add no value to what we are supposed to do.

Because we have no power in Nashville, and no power in the county Building (where there are a couple of Democratic Commissioners willing to sell out the party at a moment's notice), and because we can't seem to manage our money properly, who in their right mind would give the SCDP one red cent?

This, of course, was capped a couple of weeks ago with the resignation of SCDP Chair Randa Spears, who left due to an increased workload at her day job.  Ryan Poe wrote about it at the CA yesterday, if you missed the story.

Yes, in seven of those years (1997-2003 and 2014), I sat on the ExecCom and I have to take partial responsibility for what has occurred.  The fact remains, with no money coming in or any real reason for there to be any money coming in, the local party, in the county with the largest Democratic voting bloc in the state, finds itself completely irrelevant.

This is why I respectfully request that the Tennessee Democratic Party and its terrific Chair, Mary Mancini, put this body out of its (and OUR) misery and pull its charter.  We really have to destroy the Party in order to save it.  Get a group of good Democratic lawyers, along with with solid Democrats, young and old, who have campaign experience, to re-write the bylaws in order to drive the leeches out of the party, and to have an Executtive Committee that has the same damned number every time, for the sake of stability's sake.

And let's give them time to do it.  For heaven's sakes, the Party nominee for president will carry Shelby and four other counties regardless if there is a SCDP structure in place.  Same with the legislators, same with the Congresspeople.

Every second we wait is a second that we fail to have a real Democratic Party structure in the largest Democratic Party in the south outside Atlanta (Florida never counts), and we cannot truly hope to re-establish Democratic strength in Tennessee until this happens.

Mary, it's time.

Your ardent fan and supporter,

Steve Steffens

Thursday, April 07, 2016


I have known John Deberry, my current State Representative for District 90, for many years.  He is a nice man, a minister when he is not in the Legislature.  I supported him for Senate District 29 in a special election several years ago, which he lost to Ophelia Ford.

He had a reputation as a social conservative then and still does.  A lot of bills he supported then were quashed when Democrats controlled the legislature, and for good reason.  On fiscal issues, he voted with the Democrats, as he should have.

Then, 2010 happened, redistricting happened, and in the GOP rush to eliminate as many white Democrats as possible, they threw Deberry in with Jeanne Richardson, wiping out her old District 89 in the process.  Something else happened as well: pro-"education reform" advocates began to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Deberry's behalf.  That, combined with the removal of most of Richardson's support from the new district, ensured that Deberry would be elected with ease, and he was.

Since then, he has voted with the GOP more often than not, hardly reflecting the values of his district, which is a damn shame.  It is time for a change, and we have a way to make that change.

Activist Tami Sawyer filed today for House District 90, and I am proud to announce my support for her.  Educator, veteran, entrepreneur, she does it all, serving on boards of civic organizations like the local branch of Planned Parenthood,  and working with other organizations such as The Links and  Hattiloo Theatre.

I believe Tami Sawyer more accurately reflects the values of the entire district, and I wholeheartedly support her for this race.  I hope that you will as well.

For more information, please visit her website at

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Big Dog comes to Whitehaven High on VERY short notice

For those who may not have heard, the greatest Democratic orator since Franklin Roosevelt (and I MEAN that) and the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, is coming to town to speak at my alma mater, Whitehaven High School, this evening.

Whitehaven, people, which, as my friend and brother Del Gill will tell you is the center of the Democratic universe in Shelby County.  It is the center of what remains of middle-class African-American life in Memphis.

To my brothers and sisters of the Democratic faith who are supporting Hillary: Go and enjoy and revel, because hearing The Big Dog preach the Democratic gospel is one of the great joys of life.

To my brothers and sisters who are, as I am, supporters of Bernie Sanders, let's think about this for a moment.  The DAY after taking a whipping in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign decides to send Bill Clinton to WHITEHAVEN, on the SECOND day of early voting, BEFORE THE SATELLITES HAVE EVEN OPENED.  Where Hillary should be worshipped as a goddess, where she should theoretically have no problems in the March 1 election, am I right?

Think about that for a moment, but not TOO long.  That TELLS you they are vulnerable and we as Sanders supporters have to SEIZE this moment and take every advantage of it.  WE CAN WIN SHELBY COUNTY.  If it were out of play, 42 would not be speaking tonight at Whitehaven High School.

It's up to us.  Gotta go to work, enjoy the day, people!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Senator Harris makes the correct call

Jackson Baker has broken news that we all should rejoice at hearing:  State Senator Lee Harris (D-29, Senate Democratic Leader), has decided NOT to challenge Congressman Steve Cohen in the August Democratic primary.

He had yet to issue an official statement, but it IS the right decision.  I do think that, further down the road, if the Congressman decides he has had enough, Harris would be the out and out favorite to succeed him in the 9th District.

Right now, though, we need him in Nashville fighting Ron Ramsey and the Koch Brothers, so thank you, Senator, for a wise decision, and keep up the good fight on Capitol Hill!