The 9th District congressman got it from the preacher whose invocation inveighed against “racial divisiveness and those who would attempt to divide us.” He got it from the radio personality (known as “Mother Wit”) who said, “I’m for him. I don’t care who knows. You need me to fight? I got me a stick”
He got it from former right-hand man and current Sheriff’s candidate Randy Wade, whose rhetoric went into overdrive. And he got it from a large crowd — estimated at between 200 and 300 — that happily sweltered (and, yes, there is such an oxymoronic thing) on the parking lot outside Cohen’s new campaign headquarters at Union and McNeil.
“Sometimes he talks too much and he says the wrong damn thing, but I do know that his heart is always in the right place. That’s what matters,” said Wade, who rose to preacherly crescendos in his celebration of his “brother from another mother.”
Like the other speakers, Wade strove to refute the black/white aspects of a contest in which Cohen’s Democratic primary opponent is former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton.
“It’s not about black or white, Hispanic, Chinese, Asian, it’s about doing, what, the right thing,” said Wade, who went on to cite Cohen’s work on behalf of establishing the Lottery in Tennessee, as well as the several legislative successes of the congressman’s two terms in Washington.
“Evil has no place in this campaign. Race baiting has no place in this campaign,” declared Wade, and the theme was picked up by Cohen in his own remarks.
Looking out over his impressive and diverse parking-lot crowd, Cohen said, “This is a great picture. This is Memphis together… a community united and a united community.” He promised, “We’re going to win this campaign and win it big.”
Reviewing his work in Congress, Cohen mentioned, among other highlights, his vote for the health-care bill, his work in securing “a Medicaid fix for the Med,” his sponsorship of an infant mortality measure, alternative energy bill, and a financial reform package, and his efforts on behalf of Hate Crimes legislation.
The longtime state senator, who first won election to Congress in 2006, mentioned that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had dubbed him “the conscience of the freshman class,” and that he was one of only a few members of that class to have become a committee chair and a whip.
Toward the end of his remarks, Cohen said his campaign would “make Memphis look good on the national stage, “ and he noted, “The national media’s going to be covering this campaign, and Memphis is going to come out a winner.”
In what seemed to be a reference to opponent Herenton, who resigned from the mayoralty last summer, Cohen said, “I do not quit!”
And his chastisement of Herenton continued in a brief press conference with reporters afterward, in which he was asked about Herenton’s surprise withdrawal this past week from a scheduled July 11 debate on WREG-TV, News Channel 3. Contending that the station’s assigned panelists, Norm Brewer of Channel 3 and Otis Sanford of the Commercial Appeal, would be “unfair,” Herenton has suggested rescheduling the debate on other TV stations.
"I’ve always been willing to debate Mayor Herenton. In fact, I would enjoy debating Mayor Herenton,” Cohen said. But: ”He’s not going to dictate the terms of this debate to me. He’s not going to dictate the terms of this debate to the Memphis public."
Cohen said he wanted to debate Herenton “eyeball to eyeball, chin to chin, knee to knee, toe to toe,” but, “We agreed to do it on July 11 on Channel 3, and, if he doesn’t do it, he’s a coward.”