State Senate Democratic Leader Lee Harris confirmed Thursday that he won’t challenge U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen for the District 9 seat in the Nov. 8 election, a possibility he had previously raised.
That could open the door to other challengers (to Cohen), including Republican Shelby County Commissioner Steve Basar, who said he’ll decide in late February or early March whether to run for the office.
Harris, who has represented District 29 in Memphis since 2014, said he was approached late last year by several Memphians who wanted a new generation of leadership. The two Democrats have supported each other in past elections.
But after talking to voters, family and colleagues at the state-level, he said “now is not the time for me to run for Congress.” Instead, he said, he’ll focus on making progress on a Democratic agenda that includes education, criminal justice and public infrastructure reforms.
Asked if he would seek federal office in the future, Harris laughed and said he’s trying to get out of politics, but keeps “getting sucked back in.”
“I don’t necessarily believe it’s in my best interest, or anyone’s best interest, to spend a very long time in politics,” he said.
…Asked about Basar’s chances, Harris said he likes both Basar and Cohen, but would support the Democratic nominee.
“I think Cohen has been around for a long time, and I think he’s going to be ready for any challenge, probably,” Harris said.
Basar, who doesn’t face reelection until 2018, said Cohen has “done a great job of beating back anybody who tries to run against him.”
“From what I’ve seen, it would be a very difficult race to win at this time,” he said.
For now, Basar said he’s focused on local issues like education, and a murder rate that’s “going through the roof” this year.
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