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

Aug 16, 2019

Political analyst Otis Sanford
Credit WKNO-FM

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 an oppressor 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."