WMCTV5 and the League of Women Voters held an informative and entertaining forum at Opera Memphis featuring candidates for Mayor of Memphis last night. I say forum, because the event was not structured for debate. A debate would have been difficult to moderate with 9 candidates. I was lucky to be a member of the live audience. There was not a great deal else going on behind the scenes (unless you count Prince Mongo's bare feet and rubber chicken), if you weren't present. Television viewers who watched now have a glimpse of the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate on the issues and on style.
In the end, it's the issues in this contest that should most concern us, and the LGBT community and their allies can be pleased that relevant questions affecting our community were posed to the candidates.
In a round of viewer questions in which candidates were asked to respond with a "yes" or "no," ALL candidates said they supported non-discrimination policies for Memphis city employees similar to those pursued with Shelby County government last spring. That's outstanding news and a tribute to the work that citizens of Memphis and Shelby County have done to move the political conversation into new territory. The unanimous response gives a boost to the campaign to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in the Memphis City Council.
While the non-discrimination question was a high point, the low point came when Jackson Baker of the Memphis Flyer asked Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum if he would explain what happened to the two women who visited his church last Sunday. Whalum began by saying "absolutely nothing." He said everyone knows what happened and asked people to "come over and find out." Whalum's response only heightens the mystery of what really happened at New Olivet Baptist Church and casts a shadow of doubt over his affirmative answer to the non-discrimination policy question posed earlier in the forum.
Check TDN Blog, Vibinc, Jackson Baker, Wendi Thomas, and Memphis Liberal for further reactions to the forum.
Watch the video here.