Council endorsements spark controversy

With the election a mere weeks away, endorsements are starting to pour in. One set comes 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 that 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. Priority one: a Bill Morrison victory in the race for the district one seat. The slides list Morrison as the only white candidate in a district listed as 50-percent white. It maintains that the other candidates will split the black vote. One of those candidates is current school board member Stephanie Gatewood.

"Disappointed that a group such as this is going around trying to play those same old politics," Gatewood says. "It's very disappointing."

The document does not pick a candidate in the district four race, but does list candidate Wanda Halbert as "not dependable." She says her anger has nothing to do with that tag.

"This is the type of divisiveness that prohibits us from going where we need to be as a whole city," Halbert says.

The endorsements and subsequent plans come from an independent group of Memphians. Businessman Karl Schledwitz is on that group. He says the goal is to help elect 10-to-11 councilmen who will challenge the status quo and act as agents for change. He says race is not a factor.

"That's preposterous," Schledwitz says. "That's absurd. Five of the six candidates are African Americans. And in four of the races, 100% of the choices are African American. So if you choose one over the other that you feel is more qualified how can somebody say that's racial."

As for the district one race, Schledwitz says that group simply believes Bill Morrison is best for the job.

We don't have reaction from Bill Morrison on this issue, the endorsement is listed on his campaign website.

Meanwhile Schledwitz says the controversy is merely an attack from those not endorsed.

Anything else, he says, is a mischaracterization.