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IN POLITICS 2022: Harris, Moody staking out Democratic Primary ground for Shelby County mayor

Opening campaign headquarters, executing mapped-out strategy and reeling in endorsements are in high gear as the candidates for Shelby County mayor position themselves for the Shelby County Primary on May 3.

With only a month before early voting begins April 13, Ken Moody, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination, opened his campaign headquarters on Saturday (March 12) with fanfare and revelry in the Whitehaven community.

Former Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton greets Ken Moody, who credits Herenton with opening a door that has led Moody to 20 years of public service. (Photo: Fabian Matthews, Spotlight Productions.)

Spirits were high as supporters and volunteers enjoyed music and food in abundance. The event, which came the same week Moody received the endorsement of the Afro-American Police Association, was “truly a day for celebrating,” he said. “After today, it will be time to get down to business.”

Moody, who has worked decades in government and presently serves as special assistant to Mayor Jim Strickland, officially announced his challenge of incumbent Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris during the first week of 2022. Those on hand for the headquarters opening included  former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton, whom Moody credits for giving him “a way to provide for my family and a new beginning in public service that has lasted 20 years.”

As a mayoral candidate, Moody repeatedly has questioned Harris’ ability to unite the municipalities of Shelby County. 

Andre Turner, who played basketball with Ken Moody at Memphis State (now the University of Memphis), was among the former teammates, family, friends and other supporters as Moody opened his campaign headquarters. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

“This county government over the past three-plus years has failed to support city government and the other municipalities,” said Moody, a former standout in the University of Memphis basketball program. “And that is what you will get from me as county mayor – uniting Memphis and other municipalities to move the county forward.”

Harris has countered Moody’s claim, touting coalition-building as one of his great strengths. In his re-election announcement, he credits his ability to bring people together as the impetus for his 2018 win.

“Four years ago, we built from scratch a multi-racial, multi-generational coalition that spanned our entire county,” said Harris.

“We showed that a kid from Whitehaven, the son of a high school guidance counselor and a repairman, could serve and lead in our community. Together, we changed the conversation. We showed that our greatest strength as a community is our people. Over the past four years, we have accomplished so much together. We can do it again.”

Incumbent Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris: “Our Plan A is to talk to voters about the importance of centering the work of government on the lives of working families. If that doesn’t work, we go to our Plan B, which is do even more work on Plan A.” (Photo: Twitter)

Franklin Dakin, Harris’ campaign manager, pushed back on the assertion that Harris’ administration has not worked with Memphis and other municipalities.

“Just think about the fact that Mayor Harris headed the Joint Task Force dealing with the pandemic response,” said Dakin. “He was able to work with mayors of different parties and different ideologies because that’s what he does. This administration has always brought people together.”

Harris has garnered the endorsements of 20-plus elected state, county, and municipal officials, in addition to several of the city’s largest labor organizations.

Incumbent Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris outside of this rolling advertisement for President Biden, Democrats and the call to “Build Back Better” (Twitter)

In a Wednesday morning post on his “leeharrisfor901” site, Harris said, “Our Plan A is to talk to voters about the importance of centering the work of government on the lives of working families. If that doesn’t work, we go to our Plan B, which is do even more work on Plan A.”

Memphis City Councilman Worth Morgan (Dist. 5) has no challenger in the GOP primary. He will face the winner of the Democratic primary in November.

“I have talked to people across the county,” said Morgan. “And they all have similar stories. Lee Harris does not show up for people in the community. I decided to run because we deserve better. That’s not just campaign jargon. That is our slogan. We deserve better. The people of Shelby County deserve better.”

Memphis City Councilman Worth Morgan, Dist. 5, has no challenger in the Republican Primary. He will face the winner of the Democratic primary in November. (Courtesy photo)

In a news release announcing his campaign, Morgan said it is time to address high crime rates, reading levels, poverty and high taxes. He also has highlighted “honesty, transparency, and accountability.”

“Elected leaders are the servants of the people. With both passion and measured judgment, I have endeavored to protect your family, friends, and neighbors.… (O)ther communities around the country have thrived, Shelby County has settled for less than the status quo. You and I both know that we deserve better.”


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