Herenton says he will not run for mayor - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Herenton says he will not run for mayor

Dr. Willie Herenton Dr. Willie Herenton

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton says he will not run for mayor in the October special election.

Herenton made the announcement during an appearance on the Thaddeus Matthews radio show Monday afternoon.

"I will not be a candidate for the office of city mayor during this special election," Herenton said. "I will not be a candidate. You will see me focus all of my energies to become the candidate for the 9th congressional district."

Herenton set the special election in motion when he resigned from his post as mayor last month to focus on his run for a seat in Congress against fellow Democrat Steve Cohen.

Herenton said he will not change his mind about not running for mayor, going on to say his future congressional opponent is an "a**hole." He said Cohen was one three weeks ago, and still is today.

"I can't think of a better description," he said.

Herenton said he picked up a petition to run for mayor because he could, and to spite Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery.

"He's just a sham," Herenton said of Lowery. "He doesn't have any scruples. He will do anything to get elected."

Matthews later asked Herenton if he ever did drugs.

"The only medication I take is an aspirin," Herenton said. "If you want to, say I'm a drug addict, because I love a good merlot."

Herenton, who is almost 70, told Matthews he has never done illegal drugs, works out, and is usually in bed by 10:00 p.m.

The former mayor also had some words for our own Joe Birch, who interviewed him live on Action News recently.

"I didn't want him to think he could say what he wanted to me," Herenton said. "I was nice to him and I didn't go South Memphis on him like I want to."


FLASHBACK VIDEO: Joe Birch interviews former Mayor Willie Herenton.


Herenton was the first black man to be elected Memphis mayor, and was reelected four more times, retiring after 18 years in office. Cohen became the city's first white congressman in more than three decades when he was elected in 2006.

Herenton, who was superintendent of the city's schools for 12 years before becoming mayor, oversaw a major revitalization of downtown Memphis and improved economic development in the city.

However, the 6-foot-6 former Golden Gloves boxer also has had his share of controversy.

Herenton, who is divorced, publicly acknowledged four years ago that he had fathered a child with a 31-year-old woman he was dating.  However, that disclosure and Herenton's quick acceptance of paternity caused him little trouble politically.

In 2007, Herenton was re-elected in a contentious three-way race after claiming that political enemies conspired to tarnish his campaign by involving him in a sex scandal.

Gwen Smith, a former cocktail waitress, said she was offered money to seduce Herenton and videotape their encounter.

His July resignation happened as federal investigators question how he used extra money from a pricey annual Christmas party attended by prominent businesspeople, according to the Commercial Appeal.

The newspaper has reported that the money, acknowledged by Herenton's lawyer, is being scrutinized by FBI and IRS agents.

Much of that probe has focused on a separate venture involving a $91,000 payment Herenton received while pushing a public plan to redevelop Greyhound's downtown property.

The election commission in Memphis has set a special mayoral election for October 15.  The qualifying deadline to run in the election is September 3.

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

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