Should SCDP call for another People's Conference?

With the number of candidates for Mayor of Memphis growing everyday some in the Shelby County Democratic Party are saying there needs to be a convention where a consensus candidate is selected. The concern is that with so many Democratic candidates vying for the same seat they will split the votes to a point that a Republican could possible win. For others the issue is even deeper. With so many blacks announcing their intention to run some feel this could be a repeat of the 2006 Steve Cohen race where Cohen, a white, ran against fourteen mostly black opponents in the primary and eventually won.

The 1991 People's Conference, which was spearheaded by citizens and political heavy hitters like Shep Wilbun, and Harold Ford, Sr. elected the first African-American mayor of Memphis. That day is imprinted in my mind forever. I remember being at the Peabody celebrating Herenton's victory. I would not have that feeling again until I was back at the Peabody in 2008 to witness history being made when the first African American President was elected. I understand and appreciate that power of people coming together.

The issue today is does the Shelby County Democratic Party need to push for another effort to find that single candidate for mayor? My short answer is no. My long explanation is as follows...

The 1991 People's Conference was just that, a conference of people. The mission was justifiable - the city where Dr. King was assassinated had for 125 plus years never elected a black to one of its highest offices. It was truly time for change.

What we are experiencing now is simply Democracy in action. The right of the individual no matter how unlikely his or her chances are in winning to step forward and announce their candidacy. The SCDP has no business publicly getting involved in the prevention of this. Our mission is to promote the education and participation of citizens in the voting process, support democratic candidates against opposition parties, and insure citizens are able to exercise their God given right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...and the rockets' red glare! I know, I know, but I really believe in these things.

In the end the only "People's Conference" we need is the one that includes a voting booth.


Anonymous said...

The party needs to just let the special election take place. All who want to run will. The voters need to attend events, forums and read about the candidates to make an informed choice. The voters will decide.

Anonymous said...

NO! NO! NO! (As in like your mother used to scold)

This is one the SCDP should stay out of (just like it should have stayed out of endorsing somebody for the Shelby County Commission Chair)!

If they do anything, they should work to change the rules about run-offs.

Anonymous said...

My God are these people stupid or WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stay out of this let these people run their race. If they want to run for mayor fine by me

Anonymous said...

As a member of SDCP if this crap comes up am going to be the first to shoot it down. Every body know whos trying to do this. Dell Gill. This guy has nothing better to do than to do than cause trouble.

Anonymous said...

The political atmosphere is much different than in 1991. For one thing, all of the races from 1967 to that year were essentially Republican vs. Democrat even though it was officially non partisan. Every year until 1991, the Republican won. So the Peoples convention could have been regarded as a quasi Democratic convention.

I hope that we are headed, maybe crawling, towards a more sophisticated electorate where race is gradually losing its influence. The 1995 Herenton campaign showed signs of this. Then Herenton started more racially polarizing rhetoric. The Wharton campaigns showed it, and the Cohen 2008 campaign did as well.

A Republican could theoretically win but it's worth the risk to let the candidates run their races. One of the Charter Commission's many screw ups was not requiring, if not a majority, then at least a large plurality (like 40%) of the vote to win.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything that's been said.

Anonymous said...

Based on who he selected for his congressional campaign staff I'm not 100% sure we don't already have a Republican as Memphis mayor.

Anonymous said...

Jerry!!! Jerry!!! Jerry!!!

Why not? We can trade one king for another one!

Anonymous said...

The party has no business endorsing in this race, it will divide us even more. Many people have decided on a particular candidate. The person who proposed the idea tonight has an agenda that is not in the best interests of the party or the citizens of Memphis.

Executive Committee members please vote no to a convention.

Anonymous said...

Well the SCDP killed that idea. Not one person spoke up for the conference. It was another bad idea by Del Gill.

Anonymous said...

To July 16, 2009 11:06 PM
"Well the SCDP killed that idea. Not one person spoke up for the conference. It was another bad idea by Del Gill."

It is the same old routine, bring up something divisive, spend all the meeting time on that and parliamentary procedure and we don't have time for important issues. We need to take back the state house!!!

Surveys were filled out, the results can't be considered a vote, since secret ballots are not allowed at any level of the Democratic Party. A vote will have to be taken at the next meeting.

Quit wasting the time of the members and making the SCDP look foolish and ignorant at a public meeting!!!

Anonymous said...

Last night was a waste of my time. I could have been at home with my family. All this bullshit over minutes and a conference. Why couldn't we vote on have the conference or not. Why the secrete ballot, why put off voting on the minutes? Now we have to still deal with this crap next meeting! Do you what to have a straw poll YES or NO. Do you what to have a Conference YES or NO it just that simple. That took about 45 minutes. We spent 30 minutes talking about the dam minutes and mailing them out. These are the same minutes we have had at every meeting, now something is wrong with them! We then had a 15 minute debate on if a question could be asked or not. Hell it would have took less time if he had asked the question. The chair said no questions that should have ended that. This is all bull. We looked like fools in front of all those guests. Dell Gill needs to be removed from the Party and Van Turner needs to grow a backbone.

Tom Guleff said...

The runoff provision was killed in a 1991 federal court ruling. U.S. District Judge Jerome Turner ruled the intent of the runoff provision in the 1967 City Charter was to prevent black candidates from winning citywide office. - Memphis Daily News

Anonymous said...

Van did a great job keeping the meeting going.

Yes, there are 4 or 5 people who like to disrupt. And unfortuntely they were all there last night.
We still got through our agenda.

There is more energy and more activity in these last 3 or 4 months than there was in the 2 years previous.

The Treasury is growing through the hard work of a lot of people and people are starting to once again attend our meetings. We had over 100 people there last night.

We as the Executive Committee can stop this disruptive behaviour if we let if be known in private conversations with certain individuals that we don't have time to tolerate this nonsense about minutes.

Anonymous said...

Van doesn't need to grow a backbone, the minutes are the best we have had in a long time, our financials are looking good. The party is the strongest it has ever been. We need to deal with these trouble makers that's all. Next time people need to speak up and don't sit back and let these people try to bully everybody.

No doubt about it. Del and his bunch embarrassed us all last night.

Reginald Milton said...

Let me throw my two-cents in this. I agree with many of you who feel Van is doing a great job. SCDP has not been this strong in a long time. I am proud to be a member.

I wish we all could treat each other with a little more respect. We're all adults and we should act accordingly.

I spoke with Del after the meeting. Del can become passionate sometimes. I feel he has good intentions but sometimes he forgets his words and actions can be a bit harsh.

We need to work with all our members and try to meet their needs. I will double my efforts to make certain people get copies of the minutes and I'm always open to new ideas on improving the process of recording our meetings.

Anonymous said...

Your minutes are excellent and that attendance chart is innovative. Keep up the good work! Being the secretary is a challenging,time consuming volunteer job. Thank you for your professionalism and dedication to the Party.

Executive Committee Member

Anonymous said...

"Del can become passionate sometimes. I feel he has good intentions"

Del Gill is a fool. Watch and see at the next meeting he'll find something else to grand stand about. The members should vote him out.

Anonymous said...

July 17, 2009 11:00 AM,
Do you want to organize and lead that movement?

Anonymous said...

The party lost its way a long time ago and needs to re-define itself as far as what it stands for and what's important as Democratic business. The reason is that hijackers from factional groups are allowed to take over the agenda of the party, demanding it to take care of their agendas in place of important business. As a result, the party spends all its time arguing with itself over things that shouldn't come up in the first place.

Good examples of this are the "ballot-gate" issue, the "convention issue" of last night and the "One-Man, One Vote" issue last year. They all ate up an extraordinary amount of party energy and time in place of other things more essential and accomplished not very much. In fact, they were very divisive issues which didn't deserve the amount of attention they got.

These are the kind of things that make the SCDP look foolish and ignorant at public meetings.

I agree ... its time to get control over these distractions and get focused on what matters.The party should stop allowing itself to be manipulated.

Anonymous said...

[Do you want to organize and lead that movement?]

After the meeting several people was talking about how tired their are of Gill. Hell yes we need a movement. Let's call it the real People's Conference. Am serious if we don't shut this guy up am out!

Anonymous said...

People, people, chill, chill... the sky won't fall because Del Gill has proposed that a political party do what a political party exists to do: elect either its members or others to public office who values its ideals! Why don't the Anon NUT at July 16, 2009 10:48 PM get a copy of their Bylaws!

One more thing for thought... if Bloggers, neighborhood organizations, elected officials, news media organizations and others can produce an ELECTION BALLOT or STRAW POLL to influence public elections; then why on God's earth is it so horrendous for DEL GILL to propose a CONVENTION for a POLITICAL ORGANIZATION to decide which candidate(s) the DEMOCRATIC PARTY of Shelby County perfers the most???

Let's hear an intelligent response based on their PARTY's preamble!

Anonymous said...

Anon July 17, 2009 12:12 PM said...

"These are the kind of things that make the SCDP look foolish and ignorant at public meetings.

I agree ... its time to get control over these distractions and get focused on what matters. The party should stop allowing itself to be manipulated."
You are obviously a newcomer and/or hail from the "minority wing" of Democrats in Shelby County and simply don't understand the dynamics of political power. This special election and the elections of 2010 are pivotal elections in the Battle between Republican (Whites) and Democrat (Blacks). All of you that wish the Black and White of it would go away are not realists.

Why do you think a REPUBLICAN like Mike McCusker would show up at the Party meeting, speaking after Derrick Bennett had just apologized for being a Republican, and yet NOT reveal his own Republican voting record? Although McCusker works for Republican Bill Gibbons, he announced his intention to seek the DEMOCRATIC nomination for Criminal Court Clerk... this will never happen, my blind friend!!! McCusker’s apparent strategy is split Ralph White and Vernon Johnson with the Carol Chumney type voters to win the nomination!

These “minority candidates” whose only advantage is their ability to garner 80% of the minority vote in a Democratic Primary while 14 to 20 candidates battle each other to the death for control of the majority vote is NOT going to be a reality in Shelby County… not in the nominations of the Democratic Primary of 2010 nor in this special election for Memphis Mayor. This is the legacy left to the Party by Steve Cohen’s win of 2006!

Anonymous said...

No one spoke up in defense of Del's idea. So where were you when he proposed this Conference? Unless this is Del. That's my guess.

Anonymous said...

Del -

Why is it when a SCDP member suggests some common sense vetting of potential candidates to protect our brand these become draconian measures against Afircan-Americans.

Yet you propose a standard that any white who ever might have voted in a Republican primary, no matter the reason, is a Republican.

By your reasoning Steve Mulroy is really a Republican yet Sidney Chism remains a Democrat even though both voted for Joyce Avery.

Are you ever going to be able to move past race?? The real minority are those few individuals on the EC for which that matters.

Anonymous said...

Anon July 17, 2009 8:01 AM said...
"...We looked like fools in front of all those guests. Dell Gill needs to be removed from the Party and Van Turner needs to grow a backbone."

I was at the Meeting and recalls that Del Gill sat near the front left of the room, no where near Committeeman Boris Combest in the back right of the room, who was the one who raised the issue of the minutes not being "US MAILED" to him! The other two Committeemen who spoke on the minutes issue were Clemente Washington and James Catchings. My recollection is Del merely "cleaned" up the debate into a succinct motion to place the matter on hold until the next meeting... so why are you so upset with Del???

Del happens to be a very informed and talented politican and one of the most senior Democrats, based on party service, in this entire county. If you are going to attack DEL why not do so accurately?

Anonymous said...

Here are some logical reasons not to have a convention:
1) the party already has a vetting process for making endorsements in nonpartisan races. This process was voted on and approved during a previous election cycle. Using a convention to endorse a candidate flies in the face of current policies and procedures.
2) the likelihood of someone dropping out of the race following this convention is about as small as the probability of someone dropping out as the result of losing the straw poll, in other words, not very. However, a straw poll will EARN money for the party, whereas the convention will COST money.
Need I say more? I think not.

Anonymous said...

Anon July 19, 2009 6:02 PM said...
"...Need I say more? I think not."


Yeah, you sure do need to say much more... a minority candidate like a Jim Strickland or a Kemp Conrad can surely produced many more DOLLARS than VOTERS. A democracy is based on one VOTE per PERSON. A straw poll is based on PAYING (usually $25) to CAST a VOTE! You must be a "minority Democrat of Shelby County" to believe your foolish idea of a Straw Poll is going to prevail!

BTW, you wouldn't have enough Democratic Party EXPERIENCE to recall that a CONVENTION was invoked on this local Executive Committee pursuant to state statues requiring a CONVENTION of 38 of the previous congress of 67 committeemen in the selection of Kathrine Bower's replacement... Sen Reginald Tate in Sept 2006???

Or... A CONVENTION was again required pursuant to state statues in the selection of Paul Mattilla to become the "replacement" Democratic nominee on the ballot in 2008? The fact that the "meeting" was a "CONVENTION" and was "forced" on the unwilling leadership of the previous Chairman by Del Gill is beyond your knowledge! However you might want to thank Del Gill when this EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE prevails in the Federal Court lawsuit it is CURRENTLY involved in!!! Oh... you my blind friend, don't know about this!!!

FYI... I don't suppose you recall that the rules of the '09 County Convention specifically allowed Lynn Strickland to "collect" dues at the convention???

I suppose you were also pleased to hear Nate Jackson open his mouth before he opened his mind and opposed the CONVENTION idea even before he understood the details?

Anonymous said...


What are you guys talking about? Break it down for us common people.

Anonymous said...

Del - big difference, this is not to produce a candidate, this is to produce an endorsement. There is a process in place we set up last EC to endorse a candidate and it starts with filling out a questionnaire.

and lay off the minority Democrat garbage - under one man, one vote - a vote from a minority Democrate is worth just as much as your vote

and what does the contributing member program have to do with anything. Surely you aren't suggesting the revenue from the contributing member program paid for the convention??

Brad Watkins said...

I'll say one thing about the SCDP, it's never boring.

I don't think the SCDP should get involved in a "People's Convention" per say, however I do think this special election is a rare opportunity for grassroots organizations to raise a campaign of a "People's AGENDA". This special election has a large number of candidates, who will in short order need to build coalitions of supporters in order to win.Sadly it looks like there will be little real discussion on the issues beyond vague non committal statements about crime and education.
I have been advocating that instead of promoting candidates, we should instead begin promoting and organizing voters around ISSUES. "Mata Reform,Code Enforcement/Community Enhancement,Public Works, Public Health/STD's,Homelessness, Workforce Developtment...etc" Then begin a lobbying/voter education effort to urge the candidates to publicly pledge that those issues will be top priorities in their administrations if elected. That will tell you who's who and what's what. The Peace and Justice Center is looking at launching such a campaign.

And in fairness, I do think that a straw poll is kinda like a poll tax. It's really not a fair test of what level of support a candidate has, but more of a demonstration of how many people a candidates can get to pay to enter a fund raising event.

Anonymous said...

No rational person believes a straw poll is anything other than a fund generating event. Across the country, it is used by political organizations to raise money. It is competitive, some people like the idea, some don't.

Brad Watkins said...

That's a good point, Anon 10:28 and something that should be discussed.

The reason political organizations use straw polls as a fundraising device is that the while winning it does not mean much, it looks bad for a "major" candidate to lose it by a wide margin, also the winning candidate could get some "undeserved in the opinions of some" earned media out of it.
Some see it a shakedown, and it's hard not to see their point. Back in 2006 some Congressional candidates decided not to participate on those grounds.

Those that do not like this process have concerns that it excludes the opinions of some loyal democrats who simply do not have the money to participate and potentially creates the impression of Party support for a particular candidate that does not necessarily exist. This makes some people,"granted a minority" uncomfortable.

In short if everyone knows it's just a fund raising gimmick, then why would anyone participate? There is an implicit endorsement given no matter how minor or inconsequential.

Anonymous said...

Points about drawbacks of straw poll well-taken; the comparison between straw poll and convention was based upon the choice presented. Convention,like straw poll, will still be a test of which candidate can get the most backers to attend. Certainly not a good way to endorse a candidate in the mayoral race. As for previous conventions, I was not aware of any previous conventions to either select candidates in nonpartisan races or to endorse in a nonpartisan race.

Anonymous said...

A convention is still a very silly idea. So is a straw poll except as a fund raiser. How does the SCDP get suckered into these things? Maybe a forum would be good as a public service, but I'm sure the League of Women Voters will have one.

"Avoid loud and agressive persons for they are vexations to the spirit" ..... Desiderata

Anonymous said...

THis is my last point on this but what we have is people in SCDP trying to destroy it from the inside. When we have fundraisers they aren't there. We need to speak up when this happens.

The straw poll is fine. The People Conference isn't.

Anonymous said...

To: Anon July 22, 2009 8:37 AM

In a DEMOCRACY the minority is HEARD, however the end result is, they are just hollering or making noise from the LOSING side...

A MEMBER of the local MAJORITY!

Anonymous said...

Those Exec Com members who traditionally complain the most, do the least. Support the party, make it strong and productive!

Participate in the fund raisers if you can, at least send in $20 and be a contributing member. Get involved in a positive way.

Anonymous said...

Damn-it Reginald post something new! Because I'm coming to your site two and three times a day and seeing this topic gets me pissed again. ;-)

Enough is enough though. Everybody is going to have to start speaking up when this bull starts! Van, Reginald, Barbara and all the other steering members are working their butts off to help this group and they don't even get paid! Now it got me pissed again, see!

Seriously we can't let these people embarrass us again. These are friends of Norma and it is making her look bad too. So she needs to tell them to backoff.


Anonymous said...

What a joke. And you goosey boos are trying to secretly organize to take over the city by pushing the trash to the curb and hope that it will get elected.

No way, no way, no way.

Anonymous said...

One dropped out,another entered.

Anonymous said...


Since we now know the date of the Election, and the last date to file, your "BORED" ANON @ July 23, 2009 8:39 AM who said,
"POST SOMETHING NEW!"... well, I'll bet they are really worried about whether the Shelby County Democratic Party will be bold enough to be relevant or will it become what many in the "minority wing" of the Party wants: a social club!

The Party exists to elect its members to public office and therefore it is mandated to provide the necessary influence for that to happen. Tools generally available to do that include "conventions" which are the equivalent of "polls" conducted using live bodies! The Party has used the “Convention” to place a name on the public ballot pursuant to state law when a “Primary” was not available… ex. Paul Mattila, Democratic nominee for Trustee in 2008!

This nonsense about a convention causing divisions and fractures in our ranks is as worthless as worrying about eating food because it causes gas... it goes with the territory and is tolerably expected sometimes! The simple fact is every time this Party has held a convention, it has in fact has caused many of the pre-convention hard feelings to subside ex: the Van Turner election!

In support of a Convention:
We have 61 days from today's date to the last day to withdraw. Meanwhile the CANDIDATES should start distinguish themselves (issue platform, campaign HQ, raise money, advertise, post signs, attend forums, etc.) and demonstrate which of them know the difference between a TUNCIA CASINO and the Memphis Mayor position that pays $171,500 a year... unfortunately many of the applicants simply want and/or need a good paying JOB in the wake of this recession and this is their gamble!

A CONVENTION would be the PARTY's opportunity to say: Based on the candidates PERFORMANCE at this CONVENTION, this set of candidates should withdraw on Sept 24th and/or THE PARTY recommends to Democrats of Memphis that they be ignored and DEMOCRATIC VOTERS should decide among the top 3, 4, or 5 candidates!

POLITICAL PARTYS have PRIMARYS every two years, so competition among Democrats is nothing NEW or overly OFFENSIVE!!!

Reginald Milton said...

As I move on to a new post I want to thank each and every one of you who came here and expressed your views in an intelligent and professional manner.

The vast majority of the comments were well thought out and showed how we can have a discussion without all the name calling and mud slinging.

Some final points. The jobs of the Steering Committee are very challenging and time consuming. It is a learning process which requires patience and support. In fact today is Saturday and instead of enjoying the day I’m here trying to turn my notes from our chaotic last meeting into something resembling minutes. I’m telling you now these are going to be the shortest minutes we have ever had.

It is clear that there are some who harbor bitter feelings. I pray God can reach into their hearts and ease their anger; short of that, the heck with them. The Chair has made it clear he wants the Steering Committee to stay respectful no matter how others may act. So I will just grin and tolerate any attacks.

We are facing too many important issues to allow ourselves to move backwards.

Anonymous said...

Before you leave... Here's an excerpt from Sunday's Commercial Appeal Viewpoint article that covers two full pages!

...Possible solutions

Those interviewed for this story said the easiest way to address the "mandate" concern is to have partisan primary elections like contests for county, state and federal offices.

Candidates for city offices are not listed on the ballot under political party labels.

Primaries narrow a race down to the respective winners of the two primary contests.

"I wish we had partisan politics in Memphis," Adkins said. "You can screen out the candidates that way."

He added: "What I'm seeing today. ... I never dreamed that we would see 9-10 people running for the same office. It's a travesty. ... It's bizarre. Some people aren't running to serve. They are running for a job and a reason to be served."

Also, a citizen could petition the federal court to lift its ruling banning citywide runoffs. The city itself would have a better standing to make such a request, but those familiar with the process said the Justice Department likely would oppose such as move.

Higgs wondered what arguments could be made to underscore a request.

"What would the points of argument be? Would whites argue that they have been disenfranchised? Could Hispanics argue the same thing?

"You could not find a constitutional argument to restore runoffs," Higgs said.

Rhodes College political scientist Marcus Pohlmann said an argument perhaps could be made that, because of current demographics, Memphis has moved beyond the need for such federal safeguards.

"You could probably argue before a federal judge that we're institutionally beyond the court order ... kind of like school desegregation orders that have been lifted," he said.

Shelby County Democratic Party officials have explored hosting a convention to pick a candidate to endorse in the special election to replace Herenton.

Party chairman Van Turner said it's important for the party to back one candidate so Democrats don't split the vote...

Anonymous said...

The job of choosing a mayor belongs to the electorate, not the Shelby County Democratic Party. And, it does not belong to those who can most successfully pack busses with voters and haul them to a "Convention", either.

Nor does it belong to wild-eyed, near-manic, overbearing, blovating Executive Committee Members to pursue their special interests, whatever they may be.

Let the voters decide in an open, un-biased election!

Anonymous said...

Anon July 27, 2009 6:25 AM said...

"The job of choosing a mayor belongs to the electorate, not the Shelby County Democratic Party. And, it does not belong to those who can most successfully pack busses with voters and haul them to a "Convention", either... "

Obviously, you must be some wild-eyed neophyte Democrat (or former Republican) to even THINK we'd have a CONVENTION where all you had to do is "bus load" to WIN!!! You'd wish for such an opportunity!!!

The odds are we WILL have a CONVENTION that will be apportioned based on votes for Obama! and BTW, if you voted in a Republican primary in 2008... don't even show up, you won't be allow to participate! And we will have your voter record available!

Now, Let THOSE voters decide in an open, un-biased CONVENTION who most DEMOCRATS OF MEMPHIS perfer in the OCT 27th election!

Anonymous said...

Who says we would use the votes for Obama.

This is wide open - there are no rules for this.

It would probably be more accurate to use votes in the last mayoral election. That is what we are voting for.

For that matter, let's use votes from the last city-wide special election.

In fact, let's say we can only endorse a person who has supported the SCDP in the past year. Let's say support means attendance at conventions - the list of eligible endorsees just shrank to who??

Del- there are no rules for this so who knows what might happen.

Heck, you've changed your mind on this already. Originally you wanted one person endorsed, now you say endorse up to 3 or 4 or 5.

I think it would be cheaper and a lot less work if you just called peripheral candidates like Whalum or Harvey or Carpenter and ask them to drop out because they have no chance.

Anonymous said...

Del said: "Now, Let THOSE voters decide in an open, un-biased CONVENTION who most DEMOCRATS OF MEMPHIS perfer in the OCT 27th election!"

Unbiased my a$$. Del, you know that you want this so called "Convention" only because it's the only chance that your guy, Herenton stooge Charles Carpenter, has to win.

Anonymous said...

Boris Combest is Del Gill, Jr. his daddy tells him what to do.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the circus Wanda.