Herenton considers congressional run - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Herenton considers congressional run

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton is considering a run for congress, according to a statement released Tuesday.

Herenton - who is in his fifth term as mayor - issued a statement Tuesday saying he is forming an exploratory committee to look into a possible run for the U.S. House seat for Tennessee's 9th Congressional District.

The seat is now held by Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, who is up for election in 2010. In his own statement released late Tuesday afternoon, Cohen said he was surprised by Herenton's announcement, and had not been contacted by the mayor.

City Council Chairman Myron Lowery was also very suprised.

"Last year, he wanted to be head of the school system again," Lowery said.  "This year, it's Congress. Next year, he may run for re-election as mayor."

But Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin backed up his boss.

"I think he's still got a got in him," Godwin said. "He's got my support.  I think if that's what he wants to do, he's got a lot of support in this community."

Jackson Baker, policitcal analyst for the Memphis Flyer, said he too was shocked by the announcement.

"I have not been so flabbergasted about a city development since Mayor Herenton announced he'd retire and then didn't retire," Baker said.

Political analysts Larry Moore called a potential primary showdown between Herenton and Cohen a grand development.

"It's almost like Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier in the city of Memphis," he said.

If Herenton is sworn in as 'Congressman Herenton' in January of 2011, that would leave his mayoral chair empty.

"Whoever the chair of the Council is will assume that position for up to 180 days, and then there'll be a special election," Lowery said.

Lowery quickly added it's too soon to speculate anything.

"We'll have to look at if he resigns, if he wins," Lowery said. "There are so many ifs on this -  this is just full of confusion.  We'll just have to wait and see."

Herenton began a fifth four-year term as mayor in January 2008, making him the longest serving mayor in Memphis history.

He talked briefly last year about resigning as mayor if he could become the city's superintendent of schools, but he ultimately dropped that idea.

Herenton was superintendent of Memphis City Schools before his first run for mayor in 1991.


COMPLETE TEXT OF THE STATEMENT RELEASED BY MEMPHIS MAYOR WILLIE HERENTON:

"The transition from public service to the private sector has been contemplated by me for a considerable time after retirement from my current office.

"However, after receiving considerable encouragement from citizens to become a candidate in 2010 for the U.S. House of Representatives Ninth Congressional District, I am seriously evaluating the opportunity to represent the Memphis community at the federal level. My thirty years of public service has uniquely prepared me to represent Memphis at the federal level as our national leadership faces some very difficult challenges.

"I am forming an exploratory committee and anticipate making a decision in the near future."


COMPLETE TEXT OF RESPONSE ISSUED BY REP. STEVE COHEN:

"I was surprised to learn of this announcement by the Mayor’s office just now while reading the Commercial Appeal as I have been contacted by neither the Mayor nor any of his associates.  I have an excellent working relationship with the City of Memphis as evidenced by the number of projects that received federal funding under the last budget.  I believe that the overwhelming margin of victory during my reelection campaign last year showed that the people of the 9th District of Tennessee enthusiastically approve of the job I've been doing in Washington, D.C.  In my nearly thirty years of public service as a legislator, I have always fought for the people of Memphis, and I plan to continue to do so in the U.S. House of Representatives for the foreseeable future."


Stay with Action News 5 and WMCTV.com for updates on this story.

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