MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With just two months to go before voters head to the polls, the candidates for Memphis mayor are trying to get their messages to voters, with the three main candidates focusing more attention on each other.
At a rally Saturday morning, former Mayor Willie Herenton criticized current Mayor Jim Strickland for the city's high crime rate.
"We are going to bring to the attention of people that this mayor said that he was going to reduce crime and today when I read the headlines, we are the third highest crime rate per capita in the nation," said Herenton. "Mayor Strickland understands that he made promises to the Memphis community that he did not keep."
Herenton's comments came just days after Strickland criticized his record on crime.
"When (Herenton) resigned as mayor, he left the city with high crime, high poverty and low educational achievement. He failed," Strickland said. "We're trying to fix his failures right now."
On Saturday, Strickland said he did not want to blame any individuals.
“I’m not going to blame anyone individually. I just think we all need to do more. I think parents need to do more. I think the justice system needs to do more, the schools need to do more,” Strickland said. “People feel the momentum in Memphis, but we also know we’re not done with all our challenges.”
Steven Reid, Strickland campaign consultant, later said in a statement: “Mayor Strickland is creating more jobs, making investments in our core city and offering opportunities for our youth, including universal needs-based pre-K. Mayor Herenton, on the other hand, raised taxes and cut services, resulting in people and businesses fleeing Memphis. It was under Herenton’s watch Memphis first made the list of the most dangerous cities in America, and it’s going to take more than three and a half years to clean up the mess he left behind.”
Mayoral candidate Tami Sawyer says both men deserve blame for the crime rate.
"I think that we have to blame both of them," said Sawyer. "Both of them have to be held accountable."
Crime isn't the only issue getting attention.
Herenton raised eyebrows, seeming to dismiss Sawyer's campaign as "a distraction."
He said the black vote won’t be divided.
"The young lady is a distraction, a very minor distraction," Herenton said. "This is a race between Jim Strickland and Willie Herenton."
Herenton made his comments before an audience of 350 men. The event, “Donuts with Doc,” was organized for men only. According to the Facebook event page, the campaign has an upcoming women’s conference.
Sawyer responded to Herenton with tough words of her own.
"We will see on October 3rd if people think I'm a distraction," said Sawyer. "We will also see if people continue to support a misogynist old-school person such as Dr. Herenton."
WMC Action News 5 and the Commercial Appeal are hosting a debate between the mayoral candidates on Sept. 19th.
The Memphis mayoral election is on October 3rd.