MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton is running for Congress, but many across the nation may have been surprised by the tone of his first campaign speech.
Unlike many politicians, Herenton did not avoid the issue of race. Instead he spoke very candidly.
"I want all the white citizens that are fair minded and believe in a representative form of government to understand us and to join us," Herenton said.
Herenton's first campaign speech centered around the fact Tennessee does not have an African American congressional representative.
Incumbent Congressman Steve Cohen became the 9th District's first white member of Congress in more than three decades when he was elected in 2006.
The former professional boxer threw some punches at the federal investigators who targeted him in a corruption probe.
"Some of the most treacherous, cruel, mean-spirited treatment that any elected official has endured in the history of our system,all because I am a man," Herenton said. "But when you're in a racist society sometimes being a man can be a crime."
Cohen is winning the fundraising race with more than $1 million on hand.
Herenton has not yet reported any fundraising activity.
But Herenton, who was elected a record five times as mayor, knows how to run a grassroots campaign.
"We will win this election," Herenton said.
Congressman Cohen is popular within the African American community. He was reelected by a large margin in 2008.