MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton dropped a shocker Thursday, announcing he's running for his old job again in 2019. Friday, voters processed the stunning news, some supporting Herenton's mayoral run, others - not so much.
“We are going to make history again in 2019,“ said Herenton Thursday. “God is not through with me yet. He continues to allow me to serve the great city of Memphis.”
Now that Herenton is in the race, the focus shifts to whether incumbent Mayor Jim Strickland will run for re-election.
Mayor Strickland told Local 24 Friday he hasn't decided whether he'll run for re-election, saying, “For me, it's too early to do that, I mean, the election is a year and a half off.”
He used the Herenton announcement to outline what he believes are his administration's big successes a little more than halfway through his first term in office.
“I'm so proud of the effort we've done,” said Strickland. “12,000 more Memphians working today than two years ago, increased minority spending at city government, trying to build wealth in the African-American community, paving more streets, hiring more police officers, we've got momentum.”
“We've got crime issues, we've got housing issues, we've got health care issues,” said Herenton.
Across the bluff city, it wasn't a challenge to get voters to weigh in on Herenton's eye opening campaign announcement, proof the former Memphis Mayor is still a lightning rod with his fair share of supporters and detractors.
“I wish the ex-mayor well, but it's about time out for him,” said voter Willie Jackson.
“I was ecstatic, hey, let's go,” said Kesha Gibson.
We caught up with voters at the Piccadilly's in Whitehaven where Herenton is a regular customer. Customers were divided on Herenton's bid for a sixth mayoral term, with the 77-year-old out of political office for nearly a decade.
“He was our mayor, superintendent, what have you, excellent I feel, have no problems, he has my vote,” said Gibson.
“So far, Strickland has really tried to get this economy up, and jobs are pulling through, wages are steady,” said Jackson.
Across town in east Memphis, other voters wondered about Herenton's campaign themes, and worried about a nasty, negative race should Strickland run for re-election.
“It's going to be interesting to see what his platform is and what is validation of him getting back in the race again,” said Carlton Sedverry.
“It would be a race on race, it would definitely be a divider,” said another voter.
In case you didn't have a calendar in front of you, the 2019 Memphis Mayoral race is still 18 months away.