In what sponsors of the occasions — as well as the beneficiary himself — would later say was one of the most successful fundraising events in Memphis political history, 9th District congressman Steve Cohen was feted at the Goodwyn Building downtown Tuesday night for the second of two fundraisers assisted in part by an old political foe, former congressman Harold Ford Sr.
Ford, a successful Capitol Hill lobbyist now living in Florida, had backed his son Jake Ford’s independent candidacy against Cohen in 2006 but has maintained a good working relationship with Cohen in Washington and materialized several weeks back as a co-sponsor of two fundraisers for the incumbent congressman — one in D.C. last week and the Tuesday night affair in Memphis. Ford, however, was not an attendee here.
Among those in the crowd Tuesday night were such other former opponents as Pinnacle Airlines executive Phil Trenary, who had been a major supporter of Niikki Tinker’s bid against Cohen in the last two Democratic primaries. Longtime Cohen backers like mega-developer Henry Turley were on hand, as were luminaries of the civil rights movement like Maxine and Vasco Smith.
The importance of the latter was that the Smiths and others present like former Judge Russell Sugarmon had been well-known supporters of Rep. Cohen’s current declared opponent, outgoing Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.
Aside from an obligue reference to revving up his fundraising earlier than expected, Cohen made no reference in his remarks Tuesday night to the Herenton challenge per se, focusing instead on constituent affairs and the congressional business at hand. Indications are that this is the tack the congressman will pursue throughout the campaign months to come.
Herenton himself was more head-on in his approach to the contest, including provocative remarks about Cohen in this week's Flyer cover story, "Willie Herenton: The Exit Interview," now on the streets.