Interesting election we had yesterday.
Harold Ford, Sr. was elected and re-elected to Congress from the 9th district for many years. If memory serves, 1994 was his last election, the one in which the Republicans achieved a majority, and in his distress over losing chairmanship of the Ways and Means committee, he made his famous statement about East Memphis "devils" who voted for his opponent. But he passed the baton to his son, Harold Jr., who appears to have better self-control and has had lots of favorable attention, and who has held that seat ever since. Now Jr. has set his sights on the senate seat that Frist is vacating, so that left the 9th district seat open.
One of the contenders for the Democratic nomination in 1994 was Steve Cohen, a state senator who lives in Midtown. As I recall, Cohen expressed some hope that Republicans would cross party lines to vote for him in the primary. Since he certainly isn't any less liberal or less of a Democrat than Jr., the only reason a Republican would have to do that would be because Cohen is white. To his dismay, we white Republicans didn't turn out to have the racial solidarity he hoped we would have, and he was soundly defeated.
But Cohen has come out on top in this primary, to the distress of many local black politicians. There were lots of people running in the Democratic primary. The second-up, Nikki Tinker, came really close to beating him. Walter Bailey, county commissioner, wished that some of those also-rans would clear the field so that a black person would win the primary. Because white people can't understand the "unique" needs of the 9th district: unemployment, for instance. Here is Bailey's letter to the Commercial Appeal. Because you have to register (it's free) I'll copy a bit.
The challenges that confront African-Americans in the predominantly urban Ninth District are unique. They include unemployment, poverty, crime, income disparity, lack of educational opportunities and the realities of racial discrimination. These challenges demand a congressional voice that would be more inclined, by virtue of the personal experience of being black, to have the necessary commitment, passion, knowledge base and undivided loyalty.
(Yes, we have a certain amount of crime in the 9th district. Just last week somebody broke into our 6-ft privacy fence and stole our lawn mower. I don't know how many mowers we have had over the years. We've never had the opportunity to wear one out before it's liberated.)
Lack of educational opportunities? Every child has access to a free education in the public schools. Moreover, besides University of Memphis, Christian Brothers University, LeMoyne-Owen, and Rhodes College, Southwest Tennessee Community College is right there, as well as various trade and technical schools. I don't know what more he wants.
And I have to wonder about the "undivided loyalty" thing. Is this a dig at Sen. Cohen being a Jew? Surely not.
Well, anyway, so Steve Cohen won the primary. Congratulations, Sen. Cohen. But he'll face the Republican primary winner in the general election, who ordinarily I'd say doesn't have a snowball's chance, except that Jake Ford (how many Fords are there? don't ask) will be running as an independent. For those who who think that seat belongs to a black person and/or a Ford, he will be a strong candidate. It will be quite interesting to see how this one turns out.
Oh, and I like the new voting machines.