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TN Politics: Three Ways to Run for Memphis Mayor (and One Way Not to)


As the end of summer nears,the three top candidates running for Memphis Mayor are embracing different campaign styles.

Incumbent Jim Strickland, whose job approval rating is polling at 73 percent, is playing a safe and positive campaign. With $81,000 spent already this month in television advertising, he is banked to vastly outspend his opponents all the way up to the Oct. 3 election.

While former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has secured endorsements from the police and municipal workers' unions, political analysit Otis Sanford says he still hasn't made a clear case for replacing the current mayor. 

Finally, the most socially progressive candidate, County Commissioner Tami Sawyer, is also running the most problematic campaign, according to Sanford. Last week, political activist Angela Rye came to Memphis on her behalf and called Mayor Strickland a racist and "Dixiecrat." At Thursday's taping of WKNO's Behind the Headlines, airing tonight on Channel 10, Sawyer described Mayor Strickland as anoppressor of black people and "especially black women." Of Strickland, she said that he's "not... anti-racist."

Sanford says there is scant evidence that the mayor is running a racist administration. "We have to be careful when we throw out that term because we have to back it up with specifics and proof," he says. "There have been plenty of racially tinged mayoral elections in this town, this year is not one of them."

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher has covered Memphis news, arts, culture and politics for more than 20 years in print and on the radio. He is currently WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.