Free to Readers

Three Memphis mayoral contenders clash at early campaign forum

By , Daily Memphian Updated: October 28, 2022 6:46 PM CT | Published: October 27, 2022 9:39 PM CT
The Daily Memphian is currently making its election coverage free to all readers. A sample ballot for the upcoming election can be found here. And please consider supporting local journalism and this community by subscribing to this site or by donating to our organization. Thank you for your support.

Three candidates for Memphis mayor all pledged Thursday, Oct. 27, to get out of the race if it looks like their candidacies can’t succeed and will instead split the black vote.

Retired Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown, former Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner and Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Young put in an appearance before Shelby County Young Democrats at a gathering at The Pocket bar. The forum drew a crowd of more than 100 to the basement of the Downtown business.

Rival contenders Sheriff Floyd Bonner and Michelle McKissack of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools board were also invited to the forum, but said they had other commitments.

Inside Sheriff Floyd Bonner’s move to run for Memphis Mayor

Young, who is campaigning on becoming the first trained city planner to lead the city as mayor, said he needs to build his name recognition.

“I need time to get my message out. I have no doubt in my mind that once these people know what I bring to the table, once they know who Paul Young is — it’s no question — I’m the best candidate,” he said. “If it doesn’t resonate — yeah.”

Turner, a former Shelby County Democratic Party chairman, favored unsuccessful attempts by some on the Memphis City Council earlier this year to get referenda on the ballot that would have allowed for city primary elections next year as well as returning the runoff provision in the mayor’s race if no candidate gets a majority.

<strong>Van Turner&nbsp;</strong>

Van Turner 

Memphis elections are nonpartisan races by the terms of the city charter.

“We are afraid of a non-progressive, non-Democratic candidate winning the office. We’ve had experience with this in the past,” Turner said. “There are going to be several candidates and we have to figure it out along this journey. I’m committed to making sure the best candidate gets in the mayor’s office.”

He also took a swipe at Young’s call for time to develop his following.

“This is not something where you’ve got to start,” Turner said. “We don’t have time. I’m ready right now.”

Turner also talked about Bonner’s candidacy without mentioning him by name.

Paul Young opens 2023 Memphis mayoral bid in Oakhaven

“We can’t just elect somebody that’s been in law enforcement for four years out of fear, taking that office and locking up our young people and put more officers on the beat,” he said. “That has to happen but more has to happen as well.”

Brown’s last bid for elected office was in 2014 as the Democratic nominee for Shelby County District Attorney — a campaign that saw Brown talk more about the late Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Turner than about his challenge of Republican incumbent Amy Weirich.

<strong>Joe Brown</strong>

Joe Brown

He also said Weirich was a lesbian in his pitch to get people to vote for him.

Republicans swept every countywide office in the election except Assessor of Property. Local Democratic leaders said the conduct of Brown’s campaign at the top of the party’s ticket helped to ensure the sweep.

“Yes, if they tell me I am a hazard to the interest of the people of this city, I will drop out and I don’t mind putting it to the test,” Brown said.

Moderator Kirsten Cheers acknowledged the forum was an early encounter for the field and for the politicos that packed the bar.

Sanford: For next year’s crucial city election, only serious candidates need apply

“I’m asking that you take this election seriously. Your pockets may be good. But it’s a majority of people in this city whose pockets are not. This is no laughing matter. There’s nothing to joke about,” she said at the end of a forum where Brown’s comments and sloganeering often drew laughter.

“You vote with your logic. You vote with your head and you vote with your money. Donate to these folks’ campaign if you believe in them,” she said. “Support them if you believe in them. If you don’t believe in Memphis, there are other cities to live in.”

Brown accused Turner of trying to sell the two parks bought by Memphis Greenspace to developers.

Turner is president of the private nonprofit that was sold the two parks containing Confederate monuments and had them removed from the parks.

Turner opens campaign for Memphis mayor where Forrest statue once stood

Turner announced his candidacy last month on the spot where the equestrian statue of Confederate general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest once stood.

Turner said the two parks can’t be sold for private development under terms of the contract with the city.

“If you can read, you will see that,” Turner said to Brown.

Brown later accused Young of being involved for personal gain in the One Beale multi-use project.

<strong>Paul Young</strong>

Paul Young

Young said as DMC leader he stood up for Black investment by others in the project that stands at more than 18% and minority participation in the project’s equity as well as its construction contracts.

“We want the mailbox income. We want to make sure that our minorities in our community are able to participate on the ownership side. That’s the answer,” Young said.

Asked about supporting a woman in the race for mayor, Brown said women have no place in the race.

School board chair plans run for Memphis mayor

“I don’t want to get crude about it, but some places you need to go to exercise leadership — some of the good ladies in here would get drug into an abandoned apartment and raped. That’s one of the problems,” Brown said. “Maybe when we get things cleaned up and squared away then a lady can come in here and she can have something that is decent.”

At the end of the forum, Democratic state Representative Torrey Harris apologized to “every Black woman” for Brown’s remarks.

“Oh, get over it,” Brown said to Harris.


2023 Memphis Mayor's race Memphis Mayor Paul Young Michelle McKissack Van Turner Floyd Bonner Jr.

Bill Dries on demand

Never miss an article. Sign up to receive Bill Dries' stories as they’re published.

Enter your e-mail address

Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


Want to comment on our stories? Or read the comments of others? Join the conversation by subscribing now. Only subscribers can view or add comments. Our commenting policy can be viewed here