Vowing to run hard against “two millionaires, actual millionaires, one in the primary, one in the general election,” 9th District congressional candidate Tomeka Hart opened up her headquarters in Chickasaw Crossing on Poplar Thursday night.
Addressing a group of supporters drawn heavily from the ranks of New Path, the activist group that gave her a start in politics by boosting her for the Memphis City Schools board in 2004, Democrat Hart promised to focus on local issues in a way that she said the incumbent Democrat, Steve Cohen, has not.
Hart even managed to turn a supporter’s suggestion that she might have considered running for mayor or the City Council first into a slam against Cohen. “I get that a lot,” she said, contending that such advice reflects a sense in the district that the current congressman is “not about local issues, but all about national politics....That seat should be completely about what’s going on in Memphis.”
Having reviewed her role as a prime mover on the MCS board in 2010 for the charter surrender that forced the ongoing city/county school merger, Hart said she had asked Cohen for aid and support of the merger movement but had been turned down. “The response was he wasn’t getting involved in local issues,” Hart said.
The reference to “two millionaires” was Hart’s way of designating Cohen, whose political war chest is known to be in the neighborhood of $1 million, and George Flinn, the wealthy radiologist/radio magnate who is a candidate for the 9th District seat in the Republican primary.
“I represent the future of Memphis,” Hart said. “Forget what you might hear. We’re in this.” As evidence, she noted her decision, announced this week, to take temporary leave of her job as head of Memphis' Urban League chapter.
Acknowledging her relative lack of fundraising success so far, Hart said, “Pundits want to see how much money you’ve got in the bank, and then they write you off. If it was about money, I wouldn’t be out there, ‘cause we knew in April I wouldn’t have money, right? If it was about money, I’d have been gone a long time ago. But it’s about work.”
Although Hart, an African American, made no direct appeals to the 9th District’s majority black population, she did note that blacks in the district were “three times more likely than whites” to be in the poverty bracket and said, “What’s far more powerful than money is a vote. Poor people should be the most powerful.”