Coalition announces campaign to "Draft A C"; Wharton gives no definitive answer

After months of pressuring Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton to run for Memphis City mayor, a group of Memphis citizens dubbed "Draft A C" went public Wednesday with their support.

At a press conference headed by Memphis minister Bill Adkins, the group made their intentions known.

"We see Memphis as a sick patient in ICU, and Dr. Wharton is the only one that can bring the right antibiotic," Adkins said.

The group of local ministers, businessmen and politicians made the recruitment effort public around 11:00 a.m. Wednesday.  During the announcement, a group of about 50 citizens came forward in support of Wharton.   Rev. LaSimba Gray pledged $1,000 to the cause, and others followed suit, donating nearly $8,000 to "Draft A C" in just minutes.

"A C Wharton is the only candidate we have that can bring us together," Gray said, "and I'm hoping A C will hear us today and step up."

By 1:00 p.m., Wharton responded at a press conference of his own.

"I certainly will oblige to give this effort the serious thought that it deserves," he said.

Lois Stockton, Wharton's campaign chair for his last two elections, said Wharton doesn't want to go back on his word.  Wharton has always said he will not run if Mayor Willie Herenton is in the race.

Members of "Draft A C" seemed to disregard that statement.  Former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris said Wharton is the only man who can unite the city.

"He brought together people in the rural areas of Shelby County. He creates compromise," Morris said.

Insiders said Wharton must also consider how the run would impact his family and current position.  After this all-out effort, Wharton said he will get off the fence and make a decision.

"I will give a definitive answer just as soon as humanly possible," he said.

Wharton has just over a week before the deadline to file.

There may be legal implications if Wharton runs for Memphis mayor.  Shelby County Attorney Brian Kuhn said no where in the county charter does it specifically say that Wharton must vacate his seat as Shelby County Mayor to run for the office of city Mayor.

However, according to Kuhn, it may not be that clear.  "I don't give legal opinions to anyone other than my clients," Kuhn said. "The county Charter, however, does have a provision that says the county mayor must devote his full attention to the duties of his office."

Kuhn said if the Shelby County mayor's seat is vacated for any reason, the County's Chief Administrative Officer, John Fowles, would take over until a special election is held.

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