Tag Archives: 9th District

Lee Harris decides against challenging Cohen

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.

From the Commercial Appeal:

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.

Note: Previous post HERE.

Lee Harris bows out of challenge to Cohen?

State Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris has decided against challenging U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen in this year’s Democratic primary and has so advised the congressman, according to Jackson Baker, though Harris has not confirmed the report.

Cohen, who said he would defer to Harris concerning any statement on the matter, acknowledged having received a message from Harris.

Note: Previous post on Harris eyeing a challenge, is HERE.

Harris eyes challenge to Cohen

State Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris says he may challenge U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen in the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary this year, according to The Tennessean.

“I’ve got to take a serious look at how I can best serve this community,” Harris said, adding that Memphis is facing challenges in many areas, including high poverty and crime rates. “We’re at the top of all the wrong rankings.”

Harris noted that Cohen has been serving as a public official in various capacities for 36 years.

“The question becomes whether it is time to pull the curtain back,” said Harris, adding that politicians can be in office too long and become “out of sync with the priority of the masses.”

Harris specifically pointed to Cohen’s opposition to Tennessee Promise, a state program that offers free community or technical college to eligible high school seniors. In December 2014, Cohen expressed his opposition to the program and praised the HOPE lottery scholarship in an op-ed printed in The Tennessean.

…When reached Monday evening, Cohen said he plans to run for re-election and despite Harris’ criticisms, he stood behind his record and ability to serve the district. Cohen pointed to his position on progressive issues, adding that he has had a “strong voice” on women’s issues.

“I think it is more important than ever that I continue to represent Memphis,” Cohen said, noting the city has benefited in many ways thanks to the connections and relationships he has made while serving in Congress.

“I think I get better and better each year,” Cohen said.
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Cohen triumphs in 9th District Democratic primary

MEMPHIS (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has surged to victory in the Democratic primary as he seeks a fifth consecutive term in the House seat representing Tennessee’s 9th District.

With about 3 percent of the 9th congressional district’s precincts reporting, Cohen had more than 65 percent of the vote Thursday. His closest challenger, attorney Ricky Wilkins, had about 32 percent.

Cohen, who is white, once again defeated an African-American challenger. Cohen has represented the majority-black district, which includes Memphis, since 2006.

Cohen served for more than 20 years as a Tennessee state senator before winning the seat held for more than two decades by Harold Ford Sr. and his son, Harold Ford Jr.

Cohen faces Republican Charlotte Bergmann in November

In 9th District, Cohen and Flinn Looking Past Primary to Fall Clash

Thursday’s Republican and Democratic primaries for the 9th Congressional District seat look like anything but a toss-up, observes Bart Sullivan. Name recognition and funding heavily favor incumbent Steve Cohen and challenger Dr. George S. Flinn Jr.
In fact, in a speech to the United Transportation Union’s meeting at The Peabody last week, Cohen was already predicting a Democratic primary win over Memphis City Schools board representative and Memphis Urban League CEO Tomeka R. Hart.
“Then we’ve got a general election going up against a self-funder,” Cohen told the union members. “He’s going to spend probably $3 (million) or $4 million dollars.”
He wasn’t talking about 2010 Republican nominee Charlotte Bergmann, who has raised $19,495 this election cycle and had $531.93 in cash on hand in her most recent Federal Election Commission report this month.
Flinn, 68, raised $3,385 in the period between July 1-13, has loaned his campaign committee $1 million, has already spent $354,417 and has $442,948 in his FEC account.
…Flinn also appears to be looking to November, and Cohen. He said he will take issue with Cohen’s liberal voting record, saying “my views are more in line with Memphis and Shelby County,” which he said he believes are “middle-of-the-road conservative.”
…Flinn, who owns more than 40 radio stations from California to Florida, including Hot 107.1, a hip-hop station in Memphis, said he will spend “whatever it takes to get the message out.” Flinn spent $3.6 million in 2010 in his loss to Fincher in the GOP primary.

9th District GOP Primary: The Millionaire vs. Bergmann

It has been a long time since Memphis and Shelby County saw a truly competitive Republican primary race in the 9th Congressional District, observes Bart Sullivan. And then came 2012.
Charlotte Bergmann, 59, a Republican businesswoman who won 25 percent of the general election vote in 2010 when she ran against incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, drew a primary election opponent this year in deep-pocketed Dr. George S. Flinn Jr., 68, a former Shelby County commissioner. Two other candidates, Ernest Lunati and Rollin Wilson Stooksberry, both of whom have little support and few resources, are also on the GOP ballot this year.
…Bergmann had two little-known Republican opponents in 2010 and won the nomination with 13,285 votes. Voting records dating back to 1980 show only seven contested Republican Party primaries in the 9th District and nine uncontested races.
The contested race this time, and the prospect of big money being spent, “shows that there’s a lot of interest on the Republican side to replace Steve Cohen,” said Justin Joy, the Shelby County Republican Party chairman. With the changes in the 9th District’s boundaries that resulted from this year’s congressional redistricting, he added, “there’s a possibility” a Republican could win.
Flinn ran in the 8th Congressional District in 2010 and lost in a three-way Republican primary to political newcomer Stephen Fincher despite spending $3.6 million, most of it his own money
Flinn has loaned his campaign $1 million, and according to his most recent quarterly statement to the Federal Election Commission in April, he had raised $11,599 and had $699,092 in the committee bank account. Bergmann had raised $7,497 and had $3,283 in cash on hand in April.
Bergmann’s campaign manager, Randy Lawson, resigned last week because of what she described as “the impact of the current severe economic conditions.”
Flinn’s campaign-spending history translates into a man accustomed to “dropping big bucks” with nothing to show for it, according to Bergmann.
“I respect Dr. Flinn; don’t get me wrong,” she said. “His heart is in the right place. But he’s been a nine-time loser. It’s not only just money that enables one to win a campaign.”

On Cohen’s Democratic Challenger, Tomeka Hart

There’s a historical precedent for what Tomeka Hart is trying to do, reports Bart Sullivan. In 2004, she took on a powerful, 17-year incumbent, and beat him with 68 percent of the vote to win a seat on the Memphis City Schools board.
Now a member of the unified school board that is carrying out the merger of Memphis and Shelby County schools, Hart is aiming higher this year. Her sights are set on three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary that is tantamount to outright election in the heavily Democratic 9th Congressional District.
She said she is “absolutely not” running just to raise her profile for a future shot at the seat.
“I’m running to win right now,” said the 41-year-old former school teacher and labor lawyer who’s on leave as president and CEO of the Memphis Urban League. “The district can’t wait until he (Cohen) retires to get the kind of leadership I’m talking about.”

Cohen: Redistricting Removes Jewish Voters from 9th District

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen says a congressional redistricting plan being considered this week by the Tennessee legislature would remove all of the major Jewish institutions and much of the Jewish vote from the 9th District, reports the Commercial Appeal.
Cohen, the first Jewish congressman elected from Tennessee, said the plan draws an “appendage” west from the proposed 8th Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Stephen Fincher, up the Poplar Corridor as far west as The Links at Galloway Golf Course.
Detailed copies of the congressional district maps have not been released publicly despite plans to introduce and pass them this week.
“Nearly every Jewish person in my district would be taken out because the Jewish people in Memphis all live out east,” Cohen said. “There’s a handful in Downtown and Midtown.”
Politically, Cohen said, he wants those voters in his district because he has represented their interests in the state senate and in Congress for 20 years.
“There’s a commonality of interests from social issues as well as foreign policy where there’s been a connection over the years,” he said.
John Ryder, chairman of the Republican National Committee’s redistricting committee and a Memphis lawyer advising the state legislative leadership, said that to the best of his knowledge, “nobody took into account the location of any religious institutions.”

Cohen Has a Challenger

Tomeka Hart, one of the Memphis City Schools board members who has led the charge to force consolidation of MCS with Shelby County Schools, said Tuesday that she will run for Congress. More from the CA’s Zack McMillin:
Hart, 40, said she has not decided when she will officially file to challenge U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., but plans are in motion.
She wrote in a Facebook message: “The worst-kept secret in Memphis is that I’m planning to run for Congress.”
Hart, president and CEO of the Memphis Urban League, lives in Midtown in what is currently the 9th Congressional District, a seat held by Cohen, who also lives in Midtown.
Cohen, 62, said he expected a challenge but, citing a visit by Hart to his office two months ago, is surprised by the source.
“She told me, ‘We know you are always right on the issues and you always vote right and do right,’ ” Cohen said. “She sounded like one of my strongest supporters. Other than that I haven’t ever heard from her on any issue at all.”

See also Jackson Baker, who got word via Twitter.