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POLITICS 2019: ‘Women for Herenton’ rally hears call to vote ‘in record numbers’

Hundreds of women gathered Saturday to support mayoral contender Dr. Willie W. Herenton at his first “Women for Herenton” rally.

Between the sounds of soul music, chants and cheers, Herenton issued a call to action to the women who’d gathered at the event. He asked them to help get him back into City Hall, calling them to vote during the early voting period that begins September 13.

Dr. Carnita Atwater registered her support for Dr. Willie W. Herenton for mayor. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

“In every election women have voted overwhelmingly for me and I’m just asking that you do it again, and this time during early voting.” Herenton said. “In Memphis, technologically they can steal elections. I want you to feel me. We’re going to win overwhelmingly so they can’t steal the election. I need you to come out in record numbers.”

The rally took place at Herenton’s campaign headquarters in Southwest Memphis. The women-only audience transcended age and socio-economic status, as the group came together to support the man they heralded as “the boss” during Saturday’s event.

“You can’t be in the presence of Dr. Herenton and not know he’s a boss,” said Gail Tyree, executive director of AFSCME Local 1733. “He walks like a boss. Talks like a boss. Because he is a boss.”

AFSCME is one of several local unions that has endorsed Herenton. The others include the Memphis Police Association, The Firefighters Association, and IBEW Local 1288.

It’s the union ties that garnered Herenton the support from some of the women who attended the rally.

“I honestly think it is exciting that a black woman is in the race and I’m a big fan of hers too,” said Grace Eweka, referencing one of Herenton’s opponent, Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer. “But because I support AFSCME and they are backing Herenton, I’ve decided to go with the AFSCME pick.”

(Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

Other women at the rally relied on the former mayor’s history as reason enough to back him again.

“I love the way Herenton operated when he was mayor before, said Herenton supporter, Linda Porter Keith. “He’s so outspoken and that’s what the city needs right now.”

During the rally, Herenton didn’t address Sawyer’s labeling of him as a misogynist but his supporters did.

“I’ve met Dr. Herenton and followed his work and he’s never struck me as a misogynist,” Eweka said.

Sawyer made the remarks earlier this month after Herenton referred to her as a “distraction” in the race.

Most recently, Sawyer criticized both Herenton and Mayor Jim Strickland about their attendance at a GOP fundraiser.

“Mayor Strickland and Dr. Herenton have yet to agree to debate and appear in front of you,” Sawyer wrote in a campaign message. “But they had no problem going to the GOP’s annual fundraiser last night and listening to calls for Trump’s re-election, how Democrats hate the principles of government, and rubbing elbows with those whose policies are set to devastate healthcare coverage, increase privatized prison populations, keep wages low, and privatize education.”

Herenton has defended his attendance saying that he previously supported Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican and former governor as well as former Republican Gov. Don Sundquist.

While Herenton didn’t expound on many policy issues during the ten-minute speech at the rally, he did make references to the city’s current administration.

“The present administration is weak on crime,” he said to the crowd. “And a lot of people in our community have no hope and have given up and have no inspiration.”

As the race heats up with less than 40 days away from the general election, Herenton and his supporters said they are confident that he’ll be the city’s next mayor.

“We’re taking him back to city hall,” Tyree said to the crowd as they erupted in cheers.

Herenton reiterated the AFSCME leader’s statement.

“It’s late in the evening for me,” he said referring to his decision to run at 79-years-old. “But the God I serve is still using me. Victory is ours!”


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