Saturday, June 25, 2005

Fresh Crow For Dinner!

And I am the first to eat! Today's Shelby County Democratic Party Ward & Precinct Caucuses were, well, an absolute lovefest, and that's no joke! The bloodbath that I shrewdly (and incorrectly) predicted for today was NOTHING like that, and it could not have gone smoother.

Today's winners? I don't know about any of the candidates for Chair, but a HUGE shoutout has to go to Democracy for Memphis and its' defacto leader, Desi Franklin. It appears that they may have brought as many as 150 (!) new people to the Caucuses. It's now yet known how many of them were elected as delegates to the July 23 SCDP Convention (again at the U of M University Center, a terrific central location - props to John Freeman!), but they had, and WILL HAVE a serious effect on who will be on the next Executive Committee, and as such, the next chair.

Heavy applause must also go to Myra Stiles and Joyce (Akehurst) Quintrell for their excellent management of this convention. It's unimaginable how the show could have run without them and their crack staff (yes, I'm one of them, Joyce won't allow me to miss it!).

So who wins the chair? Damned if I know; stay tuned and we'll see what happens on July 23.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Well, here we go....

We are less than 48 hours from the Ward & Precinct Caucuses for the biennial Shelby County Democratic Party re-organization and bloodbath, after which the two main groups tear each other to pieces (and then deny it) and then barely work with each other for the next two years. Sounds like fun, eh? I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Shortly after David Cocke, who has been around the Party structure since 1978 in one post or another, including two prior terms as chair, announced that he wanted to run for his third go-around, this apparently incensed former SCDP Chair, current State Executive Committee member and recent State Senator Sidney Chism.

Chism told Jackson Baker of the Memphis Flyer that "They’ve got a lot of nerve trying to shove David Cocke on us, when there are three other candidates, all African Americans, ready and willing to serve, said Chism last week. “David Cocke will never be chairman. I guarantee it! If it comes down to it, I’ll put myself in the running rather than let him be elected."

I'm sure that pleases Cherry Davis to no end, given that this already-announced candidate's base of support comes to a great extent from friends and supporters of Chism.

While David Cocke himself prudently let Chism's comments hang in the air with no response, that didn't stop David Upton from charging, according to the Baker column, that Chism was playing the race card and that Chism ran a poor ship during his 1994-95 term as SCDP Chair.

Upton, who opened up a website in support of Cocke at, sent out emails to large numbers of the party faithful asking them to attend a pre-caucus breakfast supporting Cocke, and proclaimed that no less a trifecta that Congressman Harold Ford Jr., county Mayor AC Wharton, and County Assessor Rita Clark were also supporters of the two-time chair.

For many of us in the county who have worked with the Party, this scenario is all too familiar, and we are tired of it. While I like and respect David Cocke and have no problems with a third term, I want to reiterate my support for Joe Young, candidate and former field director with the Tennessee Democratic Party. He claims no fealty to either side, just to the Party and the things that it stands for (or should, at least).

I am hopeful yet cynical. I have always gotten along with folks on either side (and yes, there ARE sides) and it KILLS me when this stuff starts. As the party is at a crossroads in the shadow of Operation Tennessee Waltz, what happens now could affect whether Harold Ford Jr. becomes the first African-American to be elected to the Senate since reconstruction, and whether Phil Bredesen gets another term in which to destroy TennCare and cause the needless end of life for thousands of Tennesseans.

I'll see you there!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Things are really getting strange around here

Although it's not yet on the Tennessee Democratic Party website yet, the following press release was sent out this afternoon:

June 7, 2005
CONTACT: Corinne Ciocia
OFFICE: (615) 327-9779

(Nashville, Tenn.)—In an announcement released today, Chairman Randy Button has stated his decision to resign as Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. His decision stems from his desire to return to the real estate business. In a statement, Chairman Button said,

“My term as the Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party has been a tremendous experience. I would like to thank Governor Bredesen for this incredible opportunity, my staff for all of their hard work, and all of the great Democrats across this state that have supported me during my tenure. Although I am sad to see this period of service end, it does not conclude my desire to continue to work on behalf of the Democratic Party. With the continued leadership of Governor Phil Bredesen, the state Democratic Party has a secure and promising future. Jackson Day 2005 was the most successful event in the history of the state party. I believe that the turnout of support was a testament to the kind of unification that the Democratic Party is enjoying in this state.”

A new Chairman will be elected at the state’s Executive Committee meeting scheduled for June 18th of this year.

I had no idea that real estate was such an exciting profession. This smells fishy to me, and I will be making phone calls this evening to gather more information. Given that the TDP just completed what I had heard was a successful Jackson Day, this is bizarre.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Come Strong or Don't Bother

To those who are running for chair of the SCDP, I have one word:


What these chairmanship races are about is who can turn out the most people; one of the reasons that you see the same people again and again is that they know how to find people in every precinct who can A) get elected as a delegate and then B) vote for the people who will go to the Executive Committee and elect them as Chair.

Two years ago, it was the closest race in history, a one-vote margin. If one is running this time, it would help to A) have developed a good organization or B) become good friends with someone who has done so. It does help to bring new faces into an old organization; if you have done several conventions, as I have, one gets tired of it, even if it IS only once every two years.

In order for any one of the announced candidates to get an edge prior to the convention, one should have a PUBLIC show of strength by having all the elected officials and activists at a rally in your behalf. Watch for this to happen; if no one does in advance, then this race is wide open, and ANY ONE can win, because, it's always who shows up "fustest with the mostest".

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Let's review the process, shall we?

How does one get to be the chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party? Well, you had better know people, lots of them, who will come out to elect OTHER people to the Executive Committee, who will in turn elect the chair after the close of the convention on July 23.

There will be 67 slots spread out over 15 State House districts, and each district gets slots in accordance with the vote they provided the Kerry Edwards ticket in 2004.

The purpose of the Ward/Precinct caucuses (June 25) is to elect delegates from each precinct to the County Convention (July 23) who will in turn select each district's ExecCom members who will in turn elect the new chair. Confused yet?

Very rarely does enough people show up in a precinct that you actually have to hold a delegate election, but it DOES happen. Usually, one candidate's group controls a district so it doesn't matter how many seats they have, the district is solidly behind one candidate.

So, when you show up at the U of M University Center (and if you're registered to vote in Shelby County and a Democrat, I hope that you DO), try to have a voter's registration card ready, because we are going to check where you are registered. It would also be helpful to know, if possible, your precinct number/name and the number of your state House district. If not, we will have people on site to assist, so don't be put off.

Hopefully, we will see you at 9 AM on the 25th to get things going. If you don't show up, you have no one to blame but yourself...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Gee, what a shock! Who knew?

Jackson Baker at the Flyer has dug to find that the person that I alluded to in my post of last night has turned out to be none other than two-time former chair David Cocke. He certainly fits the two requirements listed: an experienced old hand and someone who is thisclose to the Ford family.

I served under David Cocke, and he would be a good chair, everything that Harold the Younger seeks in a chair for the largest county (especially DEMOCRATIC county) in Tennessee. I like him, I have no thoughts at all that he would be anything less than a solid leader.

However, as I stated below, I believe that's really the last thing we need right now. I'm not necessarily arguing for utter chaos and anarchy, though it might help to dissipate any leftover hard feelings from the last few years. This needs to be a bottom-up, grassroots effort to rebuild the party, and status quo (which, really and truly, would be all you would get from any of the names listed in the article except for Joe Young or Cherry Davis) is and should be cast aside.

Why, do you ask? 1) we are coming into an OFF-YEAR election. Who is at the top of the ticket but our boy Phil Bredesen, who is one of my favorites, as you well know. He's got more money than Croesus for his re-election bid, and probably will face only a sacrificial lamb on the Republican side. And why not? He's certainly governed like a Republican!

That brings us to the Senate race. The legal problems of his Uncle John certainly can't help our congressman become the southern Barack Obama (except that he was Obama before Obama) and there is the question of how his I'm-just-a-Blue-Dog-under-the-skin act will play in rural and suburban areas. While folks out in the rest of Tennessee (you know, the ones that want to give Shelby County to either Arkansas or Mississippi) may think that he is a nice young man who is nothing like the rest of his family, I have my doubts that they will vote for him.

No, it's not really even because of race, either. The late, lamented Harry S Truman once noted that, "if you only give people a choice between a quasi-Republican and a REAL Republican, they'll take the real one every time". Even though he wants to come across as a middle of the roader, his vote for the Bankruptcy Bill, practically a blank check for the credit-card companies, is nothing a real DEMOCRAT would or SHOULD vote for, even though the whole damned delegation voted for it.

He should beat Rosalind Kurita, unless she challenges him to a skeet-shooting contest. However, warmed-over Republican slop is NOT going to beat Ed Bryant or Bob Corker or whoever else the GOP comes up with.

This is why the party should not put all their eggs in one basket on the chairmanship. This isn't just Ford's party, or Chism's Party, or MY Party, it's EVERYONE'S PARTY, and we need to build it to last. The status quo is just not acceptable this time.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Well, talk about a state of flux

Tonight, Kathyrn Bowers tendered her resignation as chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party, in an effort to keep the party from suffering while she fights her indictment for bribery.

She was not planning on running for re-election, with the county party's re-organization coming up at the University of Memphis's University Center on June 25 and July 23. So, who picks up the pieces and moves on? Bowers DID lead the party to one of its' finest showings ever, producing a larger margin of victory than even Al Gore had received four years earlier.

Joe Young was the first to announce his candidacy; the local activist has already had a meet-and-greet for party activist earlier this year. I have been advised also that local activist and ExecCom member Cherry Davis is also seeking the post.

However, there are rumors circulating that our congressman and would-be senator is apparently unhappy with the choices, wanting someone more well versed with the party structure and fundraising for next year's pivotal election, when Harold the Younger attempts to become the first African-American Senator elected from the South since Reconstruction.

Chris Davis reported in the Memphis Flyer this week that Ford's primary opposition, state Senator Rosalind Kurita of Clarksville, came off like the second coming of Annie Oakley at a Midtown meet-and-greet held by local activists Happy Jones and Paula Casey. In an urban setting, even an anti-Ford crowd was lukewarm, according to Davis.

So, with a primary victory all but assured, our congressman should be happy no matter who our new SCDP chair is, right?

Uh, think again. Rumors are flying that our congressman is not exactly giddy with either candidate, and is reportedly looking for another chair candidate. Apparently Mr. Ford would prefer an older, steadier hand at the wheel for next year's elections, someone who has held the position before.

There are several people who A) have held the position before and B) are close to the Ford family, so let the wild speculation begin.

My take is this: As an old hack from way back, you might think that I would agree with Junior that an old hand is what we need. You would be wrong.

Given the indictments of the previous week, with more reportedly on the way, we need NEW blood. Period. Joe Young is a friend, and I am supporting him, but I have also served with Cherry Davis, and she would be a good chair as well. The fact remains, with the SCDP's reputation being dragged through the mud because of the eCycle scandal, a clean break with the past is EXACTLY what is needed to move this party forward.

Just as Howard Dean is rebuilding the national Democratic party from the BOTTOM UP, so should the Shelby County Democratic Party. We need someone with new ideas, some one who believes there is more to winning elections than turning out South Memphis and Whitehaven on election day.

We need to build this party so that WE tell the ELECTED OFFICIALS what to do, not vice versa. I say this despite the fact that I am friends with elected Democratic officials, and some mighty fine ones at that.

Either Joe Young or Cherry Davis would do well. I have known Joe longer, so he has my vote. if Cherry should win, I will also applaud and support her. The time has come to move forward, or else.