Obama endorses Cohen in 9th Congressional District race

Rep. Steve Cohen
Rep. Steve Cohen
Dr. Willie Herenton
Dr. Willie Herenton

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - President Barack Obama endorsed Rep. Steve Cohen's bid to be reelected to Tennessee's 9th Congressional District seat Tuesday.

"Congressman Cohen is a proven leader in the United States Congress and a strong voice for Tennessee," Obama said in a statement released by Cohen's campaign. "Together, we passed historic health care reform and together we're continuing the fight to renew our economy and bring jobs back to the American people.
"I am proud to stand with Steve and support his re-election to Congress."

Reached for comment just before departing Memphis for Washington, Cohen was visibly moved by the endorsement for the August 5th primary.

"To receive an endorsement from the President of the United States is deeply, personally gratifying," he said. "I just wish my mother could recognize it and know it."

Cohen's mother has been in poor health.  His challenger, former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie Herenton, followed the announcement with a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

"This endorsement does not change the reality that African Americans are not represented in the Tennessee Delegation," Herenton said.

Herenton said is Cohen outnumbered because, according to his research, Herenton will get 80 percent of the black vote, and this favor from the president was another desperate antic.

"Trying to act black, trying to bring back the plantation days. None of that's going to work," he said.

Herenton's campaign slogan is 'Just One,' meaning, Tennessee should have at least one African American representative in the state's most predominantly African American district.

Cohen said it's about content of character.

"If race was the issue, President Obama wouldn't be president," he said. "He was elected based on his promise to the American people, his capabilities, his charisma, his vision and his issues."

But to Herenton, Obama's endorsement was purely political.

"I going to always be respectful to the president, but he doesn't know the aspirations of people in this community," Herenton said. "He made a political decision."

Cohen said Obama didn't deliver the message personally because of the Gulf oil spill, but the president or first lady may come to Memphis later this year.

As Cohen returns to Washington, Herenton is planning to hold a freedom tour Friday, where his campaign will caravan early voters to the polls.

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