Current, Former Officials Back Wilkins; Cohen Responds with Own List

Supporrters of challenger include several who publicly backed incumbent congressman Cohen in prior elections; name of Fullilove challenged.

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Wilkins with supporters at Thursday's press conference
  • JB
  • Wilkins with supporters at Thursday's press conference

With a press conference Thursday unveiling some 21 endorsers from the ranks of current and former public officials, lawyer Ricky Wilkins upped his game in his effort to unseat 9th District congressman Steve Cohen in the August 7 Democratic primary.

Most of the 21 people listed on Wilkins endorsement list were present for the press conference, and several made verbal testimonials. In answer to a question, many of them confirmed that they had publicly endorsed Cohen, who was first elected in 2006, in some prior race.

The list:
- TaJuan Stout Mitchell, Former City Council Chairwoman
- James Harvey, County Commissioner — District 3
- Justin Ford, County Commissioner — District 3
- Barbara Cooper, State Representative — District 86
- Sara Lewis, Former School Board Member
- JW Gibson, Former County Commissioner — District 10
- Martavius Jones, Former School Board Member
- Sidney Chism, County Commissioner — District 3
- John Ford, Former State Senator — District 29
- Barbara Swearengen-Ware, Former City Council Member
- Eddie Jones, County Commissioner Elect — District 11
- Patrice Robinson, Former School Board Member
- GA Hardaway, State Representative — District 93
- Reginald Tate — State Senator — District 33
- Edmond Ford, Sr. — Former City Council Member
- Edmond Ford, Jr. — City Council Member — District 6
- Ophelia Ford — State Senator — District 29
- Janis Fullilove — City Council Member — District 8
- Harold Collins — City Council Member — District 3
- Joe Ford — Former Shelby County Mayor
- Dr. WW Herenton — Former City Mayor

(The Cohen campaign would express doubt about the validity of including the name of Fullilove, who was not present Thursday, and claimed her, in fact, as a Cohen endorser.)

All the names on the list are of African Americans. Asked about that and whether he could win the election and best represent the district without visible support of whites, who constitute a substantial minority in the 9th District, Wilkins noted that the list was limited to current or former office-holders and said he had several white supporters, who would come forth and be announced in due time.

In any case, the list announced Thursday was clearly an impressive one, and, while several of those who spoke on Wilkins’ behalf expressed concerns about the timeliness and extent of Cohen’s involvement in “local” issues — ranging from the 2010-13 controversy over the Memphis City Schools charter surrender and subsequent city/county school merger to the current debate over cuts in health-care benefits for city employees — there was an under-current of appreciation for Cohen’s past service, consistent with Wilkins’ often-used tagline, “If you liked Steve Cohen, you’ll love Ricky Wilkins.”

Or, as Wilkins also put it at Thursday’s press conference, “There is good, and there is better.” Referring to the acknowledged fact that many of his endorsers present on Thursday had previously been Cohen supporters, Wilkins said, “That corresponded to the facts of the time. We have some new facts now.”

One of the subjects discussed at the Wilkins press conference was the fact of President Barack Obama's having endorsed Cohen. Wilkins responded that "nobody has heard President Obama" announce such an endorsement, but acknowledged the likelihood of the congressman's having received a presidential endorsement,

Wilkins said it was not uncommon for sitting presidents to endorse sitting congressmen of their own parties and said, if elected, he had no doubt he, too, would receive such an endorsement from the president.

In fact, the president's name headed an extensive list released later Thursday by Cohen of his own endorsements.

That list:


· President Barack Obama

Congressional Black Caucus

· Congressional Progressive Caucus

· AFL-CIO Labor Council

· AFSCME Local 1733

· CWA

· IBEW Local 474

· Memphis Building Trades Council

· National Organization for Women (NOW)

· NARAL Pro-Choice America

· Planned Parenthood Action Fund

· Sierra Club

· Memphis City Councilman Shea Flinn

· Memphis City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove

· Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris

· Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery

· Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland

· Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey

· Shelby County Commissioner Melvin Burgess, Jr.

· Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy

· Shelby County Commission Nominee Willy Brooks

· Shelby County Commission Nominee Reginald Milton

· Shelby County Commission Nominee Van Turner

· General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton, Jr.

· Assessor of Property Cheyenne Johnson

· Former Memphis City Councilman Mike Cody

· Former City Councilman Fred Davis

Former Memphis City Councilman John Vergos

· Former City Councilman Dr. James Netters

· Former School Board Member Dutch Sandridge

· Former School Board Member Jeff Warren

· Former School Board Member Rev. Kenneth Whalum, Jr.

· Former School Board Member Dr. Freda Garner-Williams

· Former State Rep. Mike Kernell

· Former State Rep. Jeanne Richardson

· Former State Sem. Kathryn Bowers

· Former State Sen. Beverly Marrero

· Shelby County School Board Member Billy Orgel

· Apostle Bill Adkins—Greater Imani

· Rev. Julius Beasley—East Trigg Avenue Baptist Church

· Reverend Elaine Blanchard—First Congregational Church

· Reverend Cheryl Cornish—First Congregational Church

· Dr. Tyrone Davis - Featherstone Temple CME Church

· Pastor Myron Donald —Greater Lewis Street Baptist Church

· Pastor Rickey Dugger —Norris Ave. MB Church

· Reverend Charlton Johnson —Mt. Olive Cathedral CME Church

· Pastor James Kendrick—Oak Grove Baptist Church

· Deacon Henry Littleton —Our Lady of Sorrows Parish

· Dr. Mark Matheny—St. Luke’s United Methodist Church

· Pastor Dwight Montgomery - Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

· Dr. James Netters—Mt. Vernon Baptist Church

· Reverend Kenneth Robinson —St. Andrew AME Church

· Dr. William Rosser—Shiloh Baptist Church

· Pastor Hubon Sandridge—Thomas Chapel Baptist Church

· Pastor Elmer K. Shelton—St. Stephen Baptist Church

· Apostle Benjamin Smith—Miracle Temple Ministries

· Dr. Melvin Charles Smith—Mt. Moriah East Baptist Church

· Dr. Stacy Spencer—New Direction Christian Church

· Dr. Grady Thomas—New Asuzu Ministries

· Father Nicholas Vieron—Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

· Reverend Martha Wagley—First United Methodist

· Reverend Kenneth Whalum, Jr. — The New Olivet Baptist Church

· U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee

· Ms. Ruby Wilson

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