Mayoral Candidate Rep. Karen Camper with her mother Etta M. Rayborn.

By Tony Jones

District 87 Representative and House Minority Leader Karen Camper went back to her roots with a press conference staged Friday (Nov. 11) on the front porch where her grandmother lived in the Longview Heights neighborhood in south Memphis. 

Themed “I Am Ready!”, Camper’s announcement confirmed long held speculation that she would enter the race, now up to 5 officially declared candidates: Floyd Bonner, Shelby County Sheriff; Joe Brown, former Shelby County Criminal Court Judge; Van Turner, former chair of the Shelby County Commission; and Paul Young, president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission. Memphis and Shelby County School board chairwoman Michelle McKissack has announced a potential run, but has yet to make an official declaration. 

Should Camper prevail, she would become not only the first woman to lead the city, but the first black woman as well; factors that could give her campaign significant boost in the long run stretch to the October 2023 mayoral election date. 

Keeping within the non-incendiary style she’s become known for, neither fact was emphasized in Camper’s launch speech. Instead, surrounded by family and friends, she stuck solely to the vision she hopes to excite voters with during the campaign, a “front porch” tour of the electorate. 

“From the front porch of every house in Memphis, we can see if our city is succeeding or if it is failing our people. From the front porch, we can see the conditions of our streets that are littered with potholes; we can see and hear the engines roar from out of control street racing; and hear the gunshots that ring out too often… 

“Memphis needs a mayor that is willing to meet you on those front porches; that wants to know you and your story and the story of your day to day life so that the city can go to work for you, the taxpayer”

It was also Veterans Day, denoting her career as a U.S. Army retiree. Another significant plus she said, “As minority leader I’ve been able to stand up to this conservative majority on issues that would hurt Memphis. But at the same time, I’ve been able to stand with them on issues that would help Memphis. I will work with anyone that has Memphis’s best interest at heart.” 

Her closing statement gave a more personal view of the city she hopes to lead.

“We have big challenges, but within those challenges we have big opportunities that with the right leadership could make Memphis a national leader in reform and revitalization. Our city is home to hit makers, rainmakers, artists, entrepreneurs, world class health care systems, Fortune 500 companies and an enduring spirit that anything is possible and that no dream is too big for us to chase. We have diverse backgrounds and beliefs, but we share common goals. We need our next mayor to lead on bringing us together so that we can create a Memphis that is as good as the Memphians that live here.”