(WMC) - The gloves are off in Tennessee's Ninth Congressional District race. Tuesday morning, challenger Ricky Wilkins called incumbent Steve Cohen a "political bully."
Wilkins originally scheduled a news conference at the Memphis AFSCME union Tuesday to announce that Cohen's AFSCME endorsement claim was false.
When the media arrived, the subject of the news conference took a sharp turn. Wilkins told the media Cohen bullied the Memphis chapter from publicizing Wilkins' endorsement by pressuring the national AFSCME office in Washington, D.C.
"This man has no respect for them and goes around them and above their head," Wilkins said.
WMC Action News 5's Kontji Anthony spoke with Cohen by phone in D.C.
Cohen told her he has no idea what Wilkins is talking about. He says he has been working hard on legislation and touted his long history with AFSCME.
Cohen says AFSCME has endorsed him in almost every campaign. Earlier this month, the U.S. representative released a list of local leaders, organizations, and unions that he said endorsed his re-election.
Anthony called the Memphis AFSCME office, and their vice president said the local union has not endorsed anyone.
But the national office released a statement that said in part:
"The national union has supported Cohen in the past and will continue to support Congressman Cohen."
Cohen said AFSCME rates him 100 percent and points out the national Coalition of Black Unionists gave him their Lucy Award.
"He [Wilkins] hasn't come up with a single idea. His whole campaign is based on his background growing up poor, leaving Memphis, getting a law degree and working for a law firm," Cohen said.