Political community reacts to controversial Cohen statements - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Political community reacts to controversial Cohen statements

In a crowded field of candidates, analysts say State Senator Steve Cohen continues to make himself standout with controversial statements.  First he said his liberal voting record makes him look like "a black woman", and now comes word that, if elected, Cohen would seek membership in the Congressional Black Caucus.

"Well I think it's an incredibly bold move considering he hasn't won the primary," said political analyst David Matlock.

Rhodes College political science professor Mike Nelson agreed. "I'm sure his opponents are just pulling out their hair," he said.

Matlock said many have been left wondering about the purpose of Cohen's statements. "You really have to wonder," he said. "The person who's trying to enter the organization, why are they getting in?  Do they really have the same sentiments? Do they want to get in for the same reason that people are there? I'm not particularly sure about that."

Nelson believes it's simply a continuation of Cohen's efforts to prove that even though he's white, he's still the right person for the job.  "He's doing all he can to convince the majority of voters in this district that he could represent them just as well as somebody who didn't have white skin," he said.

It will be up to voters to decide just how much race matters in this race.

A total of 15 Democrats and five Republicans are on the Primary ballot.  Action News 5 contacted each Cohen's competitors in the Democratic Primary race.  Most said Cohen is pandering to the Black vote.  Individual written responses were as follows:

“As a candidate in the 9th, I am encouraging each in our community to no longer define ourselves by our differences but by what we have in common. There is only one race and that is the “Human Race.  A House divided cannot stand, and a “community” divided cannot solve its problems. We must speak as one voice if we are to ever improve education for our children or safety on our playgrounds," said candidate Mark White.

"I am not surprised of Steve Cohen's actions in pandering to the Black Caucus. This is what 24 years of experience has taught him to do. I believe he will do anything to get a vote and get elected. This is clearly a political move and will not help in solving the district's problems of crime, education, jobs, and protecting seniors. It is unclear how this helps, except for providing "false hope". Steve needs to return to Memphis and concentrate on what is important to the people. We have been represented long enough by people living in Washington DC. Steve phone home," said Republican candidate Tom Guleff.

"It's great...good for him.  I would probably do the same.  The Black Caucus is great.  Instead of focusing on race, we need our nation to focus on moving forward by creating a renewable energy dependence police for our nation," says candidate Jesse Blumenfield. 

"That's fine...I think it shouldn't really be a matter.  We need to reach out to our district and do everything we can, " says candidate Bill Whitman. 

"Well, he has the right to do whatever he wants to do, " says candiate Derrick Bennett. 

"It's inappropriate.  You need to respect people in their position and also it is disrespectful when you don't respect other people's position and just fit yourself in their organization," says candidate Beverly Jones Collins. 

"That's OK...If he decides to do that, that's OK.  That's fine," says candidate Rudolph Daniels. 

Contacted late Thursday afternoon, Cohen offered these remarks:

"I'm not pushing to have membership in a caucus.  I just want to have contact with the members.  If they gave me membership that's fine.   I'd just like to have contact with people that I respect.  I just want to have the maximum contact you can have, I want to go to every caucus, that's what I do, I seek out information and bring it back to the people.  The CBC has several members I have great respect for.  The more time I spend with them the better I'll be abreast of the issues," he said.

To see a complete list of candidates in all Shelby County elections, visit www.shelbyvote.com

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