As Memphis' Election Day nears, the Mayor's race will likely not include one common feature of local politics—a debate. Former Mayor Willie Herenton, now polling in second place, last debated other candidates in the mayor's race of 1999. That experience, in which he was roundly attacked by multiple opponents, soured him on facing contenders in a public forum.
Meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Jim Strickland says he would take part in a televised debate if all four top candidates participated. As political analyst Otis Sanford points out, Strickland—the frontrunner—would have little to gain and probably more to lose facing off against County Commissioner Tami Sawyer and LeMichael Wilson, the third and fourth place candidates respectively. This puts the onus on Herenton.
Sawyer's contention that Mayor Strickland is a conservative choice in a city that needs a more progressive agenda found some purchase this week when both Strickland and Herenton attended the Shelby County Republican Party's Lincoln Day gala, where they were regaled with pro-Trump speeches. Sanford says that while Mayors traditionally attend the function as civic leaders, in an election year where national politics is influencing local politics, attendance may have been bad optics for both Democrats.
Finally, the Mississippi governor's race will be between Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. Sanford says DeSoto County's influence on the election can't be understated.