Candidates claim race a factor in some endorsements

The race for seats on the Memphis City Council heated up Monday, as some candidates claimed race was becoming a factor in certain endorsements.

Monday, controversy rose from one set of endorsements from a series of political action committees that banded together to form a plan. Some candidates are upset, claiming race is a factor in those endorsements, a claim the group of PAC's denies.
The document is 15 pages: a series of 29 slides that endorse six city council candidates and outline a plan to get them elected.

"(I'm) very disheartened," said Memphis City Council candidate Wanda Halbert.

Halbert's reaction was based on what is listed as priority one- a Bill Morrison victory in the race for the District One sat.

The slides list Morrison as the only white candidate in a district listed as 50% white.  The slides maintain the other candidates will split the black vote.  One such candidate is Stephanie Gatewood.

"(I'm) disappointed that a group such as this is going around trying to play those same old politics," Gatewood said. "It's very disappointing."

The document does not pick a candidate in the district four race, but lists Halbert as "not dependable."

Halbert said her anger has nothing to do with that description.  "This is the type of divisiveness that prohibits us from going where we need to be as a whole city," she said.

The endorsements and subsequent plans come from an independent group of Memphians.

Businessman Karl Schledwitz, part of the group, said their goal is to help elect 10-to-11 councilmen who will challenge the status quo, and act as agents for change.

Schledwitz said race was not a factor in their endorsement decisions. "That's preposterous," he said. "That's absurd. Five of the six candidates are African Americans, and in four of the races, 100% of the choices are African American."

As for the District One race, Schledwitz said the group simply believes Bill Morrison is best for the job.

Action News 5 could not reach Bill Morrison for comment, but the endorsement is listed on his campaign website.

Meanwhile Schledwitz said the controversy is merely an attack from those not endorsed.  Anything else, he said, is a mischaracterization.

You can download and view the presentation by clicking here.

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