A C Wharton first new Memphis mayor-elect in nearly 2 decades - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

A C Wharton first new Memphis mayor-elect in nearly 2 decades

A C Wharton A C Wharton

Action News 5 Team Coverage

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton is the first new Memphis mayor-elect in nearly two decades.

There were more than two dozen candidates vying to serve Herenton's unexpired term.

The Shelby County Election Commision must certify Wharton's victory. Pending that approval, the 65-year-old will be sworn in October 26 or 27.

VIDEO GALLERY: MEMPHIS MAYORAL ELECTION

"Memphis is ready to come together at last," Wharton said in a passionate victory speech at a packed Minglewood Hall Thursday night.

Almost 50,000 people, about 11.5 percent of the city's registered voters, took advantage of early voting.

With 100 percent of the unofficial votes counted, Wharton had 65,491 votes, or 60 percent. Myron Lowery, who has been mayor pro tem since longtime Mayor Willie Herenton resigned in July, was in second place with 15,185 votes, or 17 percent.

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Former state legislator and Memphis City Council member Carol Chumney came in third with 9 percent.

"He (Wharton) had two years to campaign. I had six weeks," said Lowery. "He had more money than I had. He was better prepared. I focused for the first month on being the mayor of this city, and not on a campaign and that showed tonight. What's next? What's next is that I continue serving the citizens of this city."

Much of the campaign discussion has been about how hard to pursue a consolidation of city and county governments and schools, violent crime in the city of 670,000 people, open government and the future of the signature of the city skyline, The Pyramid.

When the early voting and absentee totals were released within an hour after the polls closed, Wharton already had almost 64 percent. That set the tone for the rest of the returns as no candidate threatened the lead.

"The past few months have reminded me so much of why I love our city so deeply," Wharton said. "The events I've attended, the neighborhoods I've spent so much time in, the people I've gotten to know have affirmed to me over and over and over again the belief I held when I started this campaign: Our best days are still ahead of us."

Herenton is running for the 9th Congressional District seat held by fellow Democrat Steve Cohen.

The Shelby County Election Commission must certify the results, a process that could take as much as a week.  Wharton, who spent over $300,000 on his campaign, has until October 25 to resign as county mayor.

The victory will cause a domino effect in local politics. Joyce Avery, the current County Commission chairwoman, will serve on a temporary basis for up to 45 days. Then the 13-member county commission will select an interim replacement later this year.

The interim county mayor would serve Wharton's unexpired term until an Aug. 5, 2010 general election.

Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery will return to his post on the Memphis City Council.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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