Wednesday, January 11, 2006

This would change EVERYTHING.

Jackson Baker reports in the Flyer column above(click on the title for the story) something that I had figured would happen after I spoke with my Senator at the Shelby County Democratic Women's Christmas party - that Steve Cohen is a likely candidate for the 9th Congressional District seat being vacated by Harold Ford Junior.

Unlike 1996, when he lost to Harold the Younger, he would be facing a group of largely unknown candidates, with the possible exception of Rev. Ralph White, the former candidate for Criminal Court Clerk who was unsuccessful in 1998 and 2002 against GOP incumbent Bill Key.

Newer candidates like Lee Harris, Ed Stanton III, Nikki Tinker, and Tyson Pratcher could find it tough sledding against Cohen, who has served since 1982 in the Senate representing what was then mostly Midtown, but now extends further east and southeast into the city.

Ron Redwing, who is close to many of those folks in the Sidney Chism sphere of the SCDP, is also among those raising money right now and seems to be making solid progress as well.

However, should Cohen, with his years of service to the area and a very devoted base of support (both of volunteers and money) make the race, it would be difficult to see how he could lose, UNLESS..........

Some of the younger candidates get together, draw straws, and pick one candidate. Even then, it would be hard to stop Cohen, especially if the Man Who Would Be Senator holds fast to his stated neutrality in that race, which I suspect that he would.

What would a Cohen in Congress look like? I suspect he would go after the Bu$h policies like a rabid badger, and represent the 9th District like it hasn't been since, oh, 1996?

Look, I've known Steve Cohen since, well, longer than either of us would admit. I haven't always agreed with him, and I've let him know it. However, if he makes this race, I can't imagine supporting anyone else.

That's my bias, and you might as well know it up front.


John Wilfong said...

Cracker I have to disagree with you on this one. First I don't think that demographically he can win because a strong black candidate will eventually emerge from the pack, but I have a problem with his candidacy for some other reasons too. I am a longtime Cohen supporter and I supported him in 1996, but I will encourage him to sit this one out, for a number of reasons. First, Congress is for a young man. The name of the game is seniority. He is already approaching 60 and by the time he gets any seniority he will be 70 and we will be doing this again. Second, he is the lone voice of reason in Nashville and would serve us much better there as a counterbalance to our Governor, or as County Mayor or DA where his age and experience would actually be an assett. Also, I think his credibility on the hill as a true liberal will be irreplably damaged if he gets there by basically playing the race card and taking away the one district in the entire state that is represented by a person of color. How can he have credibility if he gets there like that? It would be the height of irony to think that 30 years after African-Americans in this state finally managed to get representation in Congress after having the Republican party try so hard to prevent it, that it would be taken back from them using a similar race card by a good Democrat like Steve who has been advancing the cause of civil rights in the city for the past 25 years. The last time he ran, at the end of the race he talked about how the African-American community won't support white candidates over black candidates. I think there is some validity to that, but if that is the case then he has to run a race focused on getting white votes and hoping that the black vote gets split and he slips throug and wins. It might be a potentially winning strategy for Steve, but not for our community. Sometimes leading is as much about what you don't do, as what you do. I hope Steve will take a crack at another office and not force the city to fight another race war like 1996. I have personally had it with that stuff. I love him to death, but this is the wrong race at the wrong time. For the sake of the city, and the principles we all beleive in please sit this one out Steve. Show this city that your belief in equal representaion isn't just theoretical, but is personal...even if it means that your personal ambitions have to be put on hold.

soandsodem said...

Just out of curiosity- when would Junior have to make that final decision to try for the higher office? IF the decision goes down to the last moment, does that help anyone looking to replace him?

BD Friend said...

Steve Cohen isn't shy about speaking out. Unfortunately, he gives many people the impression of being a spoiled child with limited understanding of the needs of families and regular people. Everyone crows about his handling of the Lottery amendment but I can't help from wondering that a more effective Senator, with a more even temparament and who could get along with people better, could have gotten it passed quicker.

I can see him making loud statements in Congress but not accomplishing much.

LeftWingCracker said...

I believe Junior has already filed the necessary Federal paperwork to run for Senatorl however, I don't know when the withdrawal deadline is and i have not heard that he has pulled petitions for his old seat.

polar donkey said...

Withdrawal deadline for Ford is in April.
It seems many progressive democratic activists have started working with various current congressional candidates, but how many of those activists will jump ship and go work for Cohen if he declares his candidacy in March? I'll bet quite a few.
As for the candidates, Pratcher knows a lot about how Capital Hill works, but can he create a base of support in a few months? Tinker has an image problem. It's called "corporate shill." A corporate lawyer on the wrong side of discrimination cases who has little track record of public service. Can she buy a base of support in a few months? Perhaps Morgan Freeman, Justin Timberlake, and Pat Kerr Tigeret helped with that recently. I really don't know much about the others. But the more the merrier. Lets have a slobberknocker of a primary, just watch where the candidates get their money. With so many races here locally, there isn't much money floating around, so candidates will go looking for money outside the state, i.e. DC, NYC, etc. That's when you start asking who do they really represent. Because no one gives money for nothing. Just ask the financial services companies about Harold Ford's vote on the bankruptcy bill and SEC oversight powers.

autoegocrat said...

John - How could Cohen possibly play the race card? Do we now have a prohibition against palefaces in the 9th District? Steve Cohen is Jewish, which makes him a minority in this town no matter how you slice it up.

You seem to think that simply because Uncle Junior has black skin that it automatically means that he represents the interests of black people. He does not. If he can be said to represent anyone well at all, it is wealthy white evangelical conservatives. It is Uncle Junior's political ambitions that get the best representation from him.

BD Friend - I wouldn't expect much out of a freshman congressman except for the occasional loud statement, and they are badly needed here in any case. More babies die in Memphis than anywhere else in America. That's worth making some noise over.

Polar Donkey - You said "slobberknocker." My computer screen is much cleaner now that it's been sprayed with a mouthful of Corona.

LeftWingCracker said...

BD, also on the lottery, he was trying like hell to get it passed, but he couldn't convince Andy Womack (D-Murfreesboro) or tom Leatherwood to vote for it; he had all the other pro-lottery votes in his pocket.

When A) womack left to run for Governor and B) Leatherwood left to run for Register, they were replaced by Larry Trail and Mark Norris, both of whom agreed to vote for the lottery.

SalsaLarry said...

John, it really irritates me that you (and others) apparently believe that this seat belongs to a black person and that without a black person in the seat then blacks in TN don't have any representation. That attitude only serves to further racism. What happen to the idea of voting for the best person instead of skin color? I'll vote for Cohen in the primary.

He has better name recognition even among blacks. I think he'll do better in the black community than many think. He won't have to fight the Ford name.

John Wilfong said...

SalsaLarry and Auto, how can you say that black folks will have representation even if there isn't a black person in the seat? That just makes no sense. 99% of blacks will not vote for Steve. In 1996 Steve himself told us that there is no way blacks will vote for him. He was right. What I find interesting is that none of you will deal with the fact that Steve will try to win this election based solely on the fact that there are tons of black folks in the race and he can simply get out the white vote and win. We all know that is his plan. If he does that every real liberal in this city should be outraged. All those who aren't should be ashamed of themselves, because it would show how little progress we've really made in this city racially. The first moment we can try to deny black folks representation we take it? That's not our way. Are we Tom Delay's now? For decades the Congress drew districts to deny blacks representaion. They would always draw them to ensure that there would never be enough blacks in any district to send one of them to Congress. We all (at least I did) fought like hell against that. Eventually the courts agreed. We thought there should be minority districts and that blacks should be represented just like everybody else in Congress. It would be sad to see us now violate those tenents. If Steve was so gung-ho about the seat, and about what Jr wasn't doing in Congress, he sould have stood up and took him on one-on-one and allowed the community to decide. But he didnt because he knew he would lose. He is now trying to take the backdoor approach to deny black people representation and there is no way I am going to be a part of it. No way. See, I don't just live my politics when it is convenient for me. I think it is horrible when black leaders use race to divide us and I think it's horrible when white leaders do it to. I criticize Ford when he does it, and I am going to criticize Steve too. I remember when Steve used to criticize it all the time, but it looks like the only thing he was really mad about was that he couldn't use racism to his own advantage. This just all makes me sick. This is not what we are about guys.

Formerly Considered Moderate said...

I'm chiming in somewhat late but just caught up on blogs. If long-term friend Steve were to run, I believe he would win and would be capable of serving all the residents of the district better than they have been served in the past decade or so. He would be a great congressman for the 9th. However, he would not have the seniority to get much done in the first term, and more depressingly, I am convinced that he would only be allowed by the electorate to serve one term before being replaced by an African-American and then we would have no seniority in DC all over again. Also, importantly, we really do need him to temper the rural conservative mindset in Nashville. Perhaps Steve is getting tired of beating his head against stone walls in Nashville trying to be a progressive, and he could certainly be forgiven for that and for wanting to do something else. What cannot be forgiven is some of the opinions that a majority black district must have a black representative to receive representation. Obviously, Jr. missed the memo on who he represents...and maybe folks need to be reminded, especially this weekend, that MLK dreamed that people be judged by not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.