The Memphis municipal elections are less than 90 days away and the pool of contenders vying for the city’s top spot is full.
So far, 15 candidates have pulled petitions for mayor, including incumbent Jim Strickland, Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer and former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton. All three candidates have filed their petitions ahead of the July 18 qualifying deadline.
While there is still time to enter the race, the leading candidates have already geared up for a spirited campaign. On July 9, Sawyer unveiled a new progressive plan calling for inclusive policies that focus on the rights of minorities, immigrants, and those in the LGBTQ community.
“I want a city where everyone is welcome, where we are all included, and where we are actively represented by the government,” Sawyer said in a Facebook live post. “We have the opportunity to take City Hall back, and we have to make sure that the people we elect to serve us are doing it for everyone.”
Saywer was chosen as the “People’s Candidate” at the 2019 Memphis People’s Convention in June. The original convention that took place in 1991 helped Herenton become the first African American elected mayor, but the former city leader declined to participate in the 2019 convention.
Not one to mince words, Herenton has been vocal about what he deems a “lack of experience” from the current slate of mayoral challengers.
“As I looked at the platform of individuals, I didn’t really see anybody with the experience, the leadership, managerial experience, and courage to tackle these very difficult times,” he said while speaking with Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams’ during a recent episode of “Wake Up, Memphis!”
Herenton also laid out his plans, touting a platform focused on education, economy, poverty abatement, juvenile justice reform, minority economic empowerment and next-generation leaders.
“We want to address basic human needs before we address all of these development projects,” he said. “The next four years are a critical time for the great city of Memphis.”
While Herenton and Sawyer are calling for change, Strickland has said that he hopes to keep the “Memphis momentum” going with a second-term.
Monday, Strickland’s campaign reported raising $1 million in donations, all of which he plans to use before the October 3 election.
“I would be term-limited, and this is my last race ever,” he said in an interview with The Daily Memphian. “Just like a ballplayer, we are going to leave it all out on the field.”
Both Sawyer and Herenton reported raising about $25,000 each in the first-quarter campaign financial report. The second reporting deadline was June 10. At TSD presstime, the Shelby County Election Commission had not released recent fundraising totals for Herenton or Sawyer. However, Sawyer noted on her Facebook page that her campaign has raised close to $90,000.
Others who have filed petitions and formally announced their candidacy include business owner Lemichael Wilson and Black Lives Matter activist Pamela Moses. However, Moses may be disqualified – on Monday, a judge ruled that Moses’ sentence for a prior felony conviction is still in effect.
In addition to the mayoral race, all 13 city council seats are open. So far, more than 100 petitions have been pulled between the positions.
The qualifying deadline to file petitions is noon, July 18, and the deadline to withdraw is July 25.