Herenton vs. Cohen: The battle is on for the 9th district - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Herenton vs. Cohen: The battle is on for the 9th district

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

It's early in the race, but Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton is already taking aim at his District 9 Congressional opponent, incumbent Congressman Steve Cohen.

In a special commentary in Friday's Tri-State Defender, Herenton writes, "Our children need to see as many successful African Americans in positions of leadership as can be achieved."

Cohen says he agrees with that statement.

"Well, they do. But the questions is: who do they need to see? And there are lots of good African American role models in the community today," he said.

In the commentary, Herenton also calls Cohen's apology for slavery a condescending gesture. And he says Cohen's attempt to become a member of the Congressional Black Caucus was an effort to play on the sentiments of an African-American constituency.

Cohen says the mayor's criticism off the slavery apology is way off base.

"The United States Senate took it up and passed it 100 to nothing," he said. "Tom Harkin was a champion for doing it. It was praised by the Congressional Black Caucus, and my work on it was praised on national television for it. So, it's very, very, very minority opinion on his part."

And the congressman, who just received the National Civil Rights Museum "Man of the Year" award, says his support comes from many places.

"From George Brown, Jr., the first African American Supreme Court justice, to Russel Sugarman and Vasco Smith and Maxine Smith, who are civil rights leaders who are enshrined here in this building - who gave birth to Willie Herenton, but are supporting me."

Cohen says that no matter what Herenton says, the congressman's record speaks for itself.

"I read that, but all I do is do my job. Last week, President Obama praised me for the job I'm doing."

The congressman says that no matter who runs against him, he'll continue to work hard for the 9th district.

At a community picnic Saturday, the mayor defended his commentary, which some have called racially-divided.
"It is easy for me as an observer to submit that Steve Cohen played a race card when he entered this race," Herenton said.

"He knew full well that the African American community would be divided, there would be numerous candidates, and that he strategically entered this race. There are many of us who believe the race card was played in that particular instance," he continued.

"So, I'm not going to get caught up in the race. I believe I'm a far better candidate to represent the 9th Congressional District."

Click here to watch Kontji Anthony's exclusive Web-only interview with Mayor Herenton in its entirety.


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