MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Three years before Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton is scheduled to complete a record fifth term in office, many in Memphis' political circles are speculating that Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton may be gearing up for the job.
Reached for comment Wednesday, Wharton was non-committal.
"I don't answer hypothetical questions, so let's just see what happens," he said.
But Jackson Baker, political analyst for the Memphis Flyer, said a Wharton bid for mayor was a lock.
"He's gonna run," Baker said. "He intends to be our next mayor."
Baker said his assumption was based on a tip he received from a reliable source, "telling me that he had been in a meeting a week earlier in which Mayor Wharton said he was going to form a committee to run for Mayor in 2011."
Rumors of a Wharton bid for city mayor come as no shock, but Baker believes forming a campaign committee three years in advance might be a sign that Mayor Willie Herenton is still considering early retirement.
"Is there going to be a switch pretty soon, a hand off as it were, between Mayor Herenton and Mayor Wharton?"
Even the suggestion that Wharton has an inside track on Herenton's plans didn't sit well with former city mayoral candidate Carol Chumney.
"The next mayoral contest needs to be a contest and not a coronation," Chumney said.
A contest in which Chumney fully intends to participate.
"I have to ask, 'Why start three years early, when there are a lot of problems in the county that haven't been solved?'" Chumney said.
Wharton was too busy addressing some of those county problems Wednesday to even discuss his chances of winning an election three years away.
"My modesty prohibits my me even answering the question," he said.
But his actions may be speaking for him. Baker said if Wharton does announce his intentions to run for city mayor in the coming weeks or months, he'll get a jump on fundraising - a jump that may force other potential candidates out of the race before they even get in.