Politics » Politics Feature

Herenton Endorses Ford; Bredesen, Chism Support Cohen

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They didn’t exactly jump through burning hoops or shout “Hallelelujah!” to do so, but three prominent politicians who had been regarded in some quarters as possible holdouts made their election-day preferences known on Friday in the cases of senatorial candidate Harold Ford Jr., and congressional candidate Steve Cohen.

Ford got a boost from a longtime rival of the larger Ford political clan, Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, who was one of the attendees at a Ford-sponsored prayer breakfast held at The Peabody. The mayor afterward said that in the interests of Democratic Party unity he would support Rep. Ford’s bid for the U.S. Senate, ending speculation that he would sit out the Senate race or even support the congressman’s Republican opponent, Bob Corker.

“At the urging of a group of clergy and business leaders, I agreed to endorse Congressman Harold Ford in his bid for the United States Senate,” said the mayor in an interview with The Flyer. “I can look at the big picture,” said Herenton, who said the decision was taken “in the interests of Democratic Party solidarity,” and , he emphasized, ‘in the context that I have previously endorsed Governor Phil Bredesen for reelection and state Senator Steve Cohen for Congress.”

The mayor said he had “deliberated for the last two weeks” on the matter of an endorsement and noted that, while Rep. Ford had requested an endorsement “in passing,” as they had encountered each other in recent weeks, there had been “no Memphis conversation” at which the congressman had sought his support.

Herenton contrasted that with the fact that former Chattanooga mayor Corker had “appropriately and respectfully” requested his support and discussed with the mayor his plans regarding Memphis, if elected. “In that sense, I might have had a greater respect for Mr. Corker had an endorsement of him been possible.”

But, said Herenton, he had made it clear to Corker that no such endorsement would be forthcoming and that, for reasons of local unity and party solidarity, the choice for him came down to one of non-endorsement or endorsing Rep. Ford. He said that his endorsement, which has still not been communicated directly to the congressman, would not be “left-handed” and that he was at Ford’s disposal for campaign appearances.

Meanwhile, Cohen, the Democratic state senator from Midtown and Democratic nominee for the 9th Congressional District, got a stamp of approval from Governor Phil Bredesen, who confirmed his support for Cohen, the party nominee for the 9th District congressional seat. Asked about the race (which includes Republican Mark White and independent Jake Ford, besides Cohen) the governor, who was in Memphis for announcements about a new industry and a state-county anti-crime initiative, said he intended to support every statewide Democratic nominee, “and that certainly includes Senator Cohen.”

Also acknowledging his support for Cohen was former interim state senator and current Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism, who expressed himself similarly to the governor, saying, “I am going to vote for every Democratic nominee, including Senator Cohen.”

Bredesen and Chism, along with Cohen, were attendees at the prayer breakfast, where they reaffirmed their support for Rep. Ford.

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