There was a lot of political activity going on around town on this last day of early voting.
Rev. Al Sharpton came to town Thursday morning to rally about 100 consolidation opponents at the AFSCME union hall at Beale and Danny Thomas Boulevard.
Those in the crowd were mostly AFSCME members. Also in the crowd, Memphis city council member Wanda Halbert, Shelby County Commissioner James Harvey, state Representative Barbara Cooper, local Democratic party chairman Van Turner and city school board candidate Sara Lewis.
The American Federal of State County and Municipal Employees is one of the big three municipal unions. Warren Cole, executive director of the Memphis local, said consolidation would mean fewer government jobs during a recession.
Sharpton said it would dilute Memphis voting strength and added it’s not fair since the six suburban municipalities will keep their charter in the proposed merger.
“You are being co-opted,” Sharpton said to cheers from the crowd. “In a poker game, everybody got to put up.”
The arguments about diluted voting strength and less representation on a 25-member metro council are the precise arguments the suburban mayors have been making against consolidation for different reasons.
They claim the population outside Memphis will be at the mercy of Memphis voters – voters they point out who elected Willie Herenton to office five times in 18 years.
After the rally, Sharpton was asked about the similar arguments for very different reasons.
“Sometimes there are unusual alliances. Sometimes you can get to the same place for different reasons. I think that is all the more reason that this should be defeated,” he said. “You have people from different perspectives that agree with the same conclusion.”
Sharpton’s presence in town was noted at a rally Thursday evening by consolidation charter supporters at the National Civil Rights Museum.
Rebuild Government chairman Darrell Cobbins said Sharpton had added a “controversial tone” to the last stage of the campaign.
Metro Charter Commission vice chairman Andre Fowlkes said opponents have been spreading “fabrications and myths.”
“All of their fears and their excuses are location specific or circumstance specific. It’s only specific to their pocket of the community,” he said. “I have never heard an opponent say that it’s bad for the totality of the area. I haven’t heard that once.”
The Rebuild Government rally drew a crowd of around 30.
As it was underway, Democratic nominee for governor Mike McWherter was stumping for votes outside the Glenview Community Center as a line of people waited to vote in the last hour of the early voting period.
McWherter had some help from state House speaker Pro Tempore Lois Deberry as well as state Representatives G.A. Hardaway and Mike Kernell.
McWherter believes there are still some undecided voters waiting to election day. He believes his criticism of Republican rival Bill Haslam’s recent statements on gun permits have gotten enough political traction to have something to do with that.
Earlier, McWherter had said he believed the race would be decided by the early vote. He will be in town Friday for the first part of his “72 hour plan.”
Once the early voting sites closed, campaigns on the Nov. 2 ballot then all moved into their 72 hour strategy, as in 72 hours to election day on Tuesday. The campaign strategy is based on the premise that election day voters have different motivations than early voters who tend to be the most committed and active supporters of a given candidate.
No true political event is ever without other undercurrents.
Some in the crowd at AFSCME were still convinced the Aug. 5 election count was fraudulent. One t-shirt spotted in the crowd read, “Did My Vote Count?” While in Memphis, Sharpton also said he has his doubts about the Aug. 5 election results although the Chancery Court challenge of the vote count was dismissed earlier this month.
Elsewhere in the crowd, word was circulating of a fundraiser tonight for General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson, who is weighing a bid for Memphis mayor in the 2011 elections. That after Jackson ran unsuccessfully this year in the Democratic primary for Shelby County mayor.
Look for our breakdown of the early voting stats from us as soon as we have it. The figures tell us everything but who you early voters selected.
Our game plan on Nov. 2 is the same as it has been in recent elections. We will tweet (@memphisdaily) election results starting after 7 p.m. that night and post at least two web stories during that. The first web story will be the early voting results which are the first results announced, usually between 7:30 and 8 pm. The second web story will be a comprehensive wrap up of the overall results once the last precinct is in, no matter how late.