2005/07/06

Speaking of political factions …

From Jackson Baker’s latest Memphis Flyer column.

When Germantown Democrats gathered back in early June for their monthly meeting, there were two candidates on hand to offer themselves as successors to Bowers (who did resign that post) as local party chairman. By Saturday, when the club met again, the number of would-be chairmen had grown to five.

Or maybe just four. It depends on how you look at it. In addition to Joe Young) and Cherry Davis), the original two wannabes, there were now David Cocke), a two-time former chairman, and Talut El-Amin), the current acting chairman.

The fifth prospect was Matt Kuhn), a seasoned — if youngish — part-activist who introduced himself to the Germantown group as a willing draftee should factionalism prevent the consensus choice of one of the other four at the local party’s convention later this month. Kuhn declined, however, to join the others in a Q & A session following initial presentations by all five.

Anticipating a ritual protestation from other candidates that they did not themselves belong to factions, Young began his remarks with an acknowledgement that party factionalism did indeed exist.

Cocke, whom many think of as representing a “Ford” faction and Davis, considered by several to belong to a “Herenton” faction, deplored both the rumor and the fact of factionalism in eloquent, seemingly sincere speeches that surely did them no harm. So did Talut El-Amin, who has been less often pinpointed as belonging to this or that group.

None of that prevented bitterness from welling up in the Q & A — in which a number of audience members raised questions about the party’s use of local financial contributions during the 2004 election cycle and wondered aloud why the party was behind on the rent for the local Democratic headquarters.

Notable in the animated debate that followed was Cocke’s assertion that, as vice chairman last year, he did not “call the shots,” as well as Davis’ acknowledgement that “there was always this force pulling people one way or the other” during the last two years on a party executive committee that was evenly divided by what could only be called factions.

At press time, more ruckus seemed to be in store for the candidates at a candidate forum scheduled for this Tuesday night. Members of a group of newly participating Democrats now calling themselves “the Convention Coalition” posed most of the tough questions on Saturday.



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