Challenger downplays Obama's endorsement of Cohen

(WMC-TV) - President Barack Obama endorsed Congressman Steve Cohen, while his primary opponent downplayed the move Thursday.

"The only other two Congress people who've received it have been John Conyers, the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Jesse Jackson, Jr.," said Cohen.

The president's endorsement came on the same day Cohen's Democratic primary challenger, Tomeka Hart, officially filed to run.

"I've run against an incumbent before, successfully," said Hart.

The unified school board member and Memphis Urban League leader believes Cohen's incumbency was the reason he was endorsed.

"That's what comes with incumbency," said Hart.  "If I was the incumbent, guess who he'd be endorsing.  He'd be endorsing me."

"There's a lot of Democratic incumbents who don't have it," said Cohen.

Obama, who delivered the commencement speech at Booker T. Washington High School last year, cited a close working relationship with Cohen.  He added in a statement, "He also never fails to pitch me on the city of Memphis, whether it's Booker T. Washington High School, Memphis basketball, or barbeque.  I urge you to vote for Steve Cohen, a tireless advocate for the 9th District."

"And our polls indicate that we're stronger than ever," said Cohen.

Hart said she is confident that is a challenge she can overcome.

"I can tell you I've talked to a lot of people, and people are ready," said Hart.  "They understand my vision, they get my vision, and realize we need to go in another direction."

Primary election day is August 2.

There are at least four Republicans hoping to unseat Cohen if he wins the Democratic primary, including former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn.

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