If one of the servers at the Whitehaven Plaza Piccadilly during the Saturday rush looks like Mike McWherter, it’s because it will be Mike McWherter donning a hair net and wielding a serving spoon.
The restaurant is the latest in a series of campaign appearances McWherter has done across the state where he goes to work for several hours at a local business.
McWherter has picked a spot with an established political record. The Piccadilly at 3968 Elvis Presley Boulevard is known as a favorite haunt of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton. It’s also usually packed during the weekday lunch hours making it a prime spot for politicos courting the Whitehaven vote.
On Friday afternoon, McWherter included Hutchison School in East Memphis in his campaign rounds. He spoke to over 250 students in the Upper School about public service and told them he believes the governor’s race will be won during the early voting period before the Nov. 2 election day. Early voting begins across the state Oct. 13.
McWherter’s prediction is a sign that his campaign as well as that of Republican contender Bill Haslam plan to devote lots of campaign money and effort at the early vote. Haslam noted during the August primary campaign that he wanted to take advantage of early voter turnout in other parts of the state where the early vote frequently accounts for half or more of the total voter turnout including election day.
In Shelby County, the percentage of the turnout that is early voting is usually lower, around 30 percent or 40 percent depending on the election cycle.
McWherter dropped in on a few classrooms after the Upper School assembly.
He attempted to explain what a governor is to a group of 13 first graders exploring, among other topics, monarch butterflies.
“It’s the most important office in Tennessee,” McWherter said. “The only person who outranks the governor is the President. It’s a real big job.”
McWherter posed for a picture with the group, taking a seat on a rug as the class huddled around him.
After the pictures were taken, McWherter asked “Did anyone put horns over my head?” Instantly a dozen of the girls pointed to the remaining classmate as McWherter laughed.
McWherter explained to a fourth grade class that his father was once governor before any of them were born.
The visit recalled a visit during Ned McWherter’s tenure as governor to a Bartlett grade school. The elder McWherter arrived at the school as several boys who had misbehaved were serving their time on an outside porch of the building. The group of four stood apart from each other. Each with their arms folded, no doubt contemplating what they had done. All four heads turned as McWherter made his way across the parking lot and approached them. One of the boys broke formation and McWherter stopped to see what was on his mind.
“Are you really the Governor?” the boy asked.
“Yes, I am,” McWherter said sensing that the boys were probably not the school’s welcoming committee.
After acknowledging why they were on the school’s back porch, the boy stepped back to his original position and McWherter was allowed to pass.