Cohen Starts the Week With the Big Mo, But There's a 'But' Clause



Cohen presides over foreclosures hearing
  • JB
  • Cohen presides over foreclosures hearing
If Saturday had been a day in which Willie Herenton got to rekindle his dreams of a political comeback, Sunday may have seen a swinging of the pendulum back to Steve Cohen, the 9th District congressman whose reelection the former Memphis mayor has challenged.

And on Monday, by virtue of his being an incumbent, able to schedule congressional activities that were simultaneously photo-ops, the day was altogether Cohen’s.

On Sunday, both candidates had made the rounds of African-American churches, as is customary for all manner of candidates at this stage of an election season but certainly mandatory for these two — contestants for the favor of the predominantly black 9th congressional district.

By the luck of the draw or whatever chance, Herenton — though treated with respect at the churches he visited — got no chance to speak and to build on the momentum he had generated with a pair of barnburners he had delivered to early-voting-bound supporters on Saturday, from a portable stage at his South Third headquarters.

The former mayor was accompanied on Sunday by Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism, aide Michael Gray, and City Court Clerk Thomas Long, the group making visitations at Berean Missionary Baptist and Mount Mariah East Baptist Church, at both of which locations they were introduced and given prime seats but not invited to speak. An extended sermon by a guest preacher at the latter church — dedicated largely to the theme of fantasy vs. reality — allowed time for little more than a brief hello to departing churchgoers at the next location, World Overcomers on Winchester.

Herenton et al. at Mt.Moriah East Baptist Church
  • JB
  • Herenton et al. at Mt.Moriah East Baptist Church

Cohen also made the church rounds — New Direction Christian Church on Winchester, Mississippi Boulevard Church on North Bellevue; and Thomas Chapel in northeast Memphis. He would reckon his reception at Mississippi Boulevard, where he was introduced by city councilman Harold Collins, as “unbelievable,” he explained to the Thomas Chapel congregation, whom he was invited to address by the church pastor, former Memphis School Board member Hubon “Dutch” Sandridge.

“Memphis and the he 9th ?district is going to be the District on the hill that shows the rest of the country that we vote on past deeds, on present deeds, on future deeds, on character, on qualifications, on issues, and not on race,” Cohen at the close of a well-received speech

Also speaking at Thomas Chapel was the Democratic nominee for sheriff, Randy Wade, who had served as Cohen’s local district director and who now was the congressman’s de facto running mate. Early in his own remarks Wade called Cohen back to the pulpit and stood alongside him, declaiming rhetorically, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
The question, of course, was a send-up of the one so famously appended to rival Herenton’s famous flyer showing the 11 members of the Tennessee congressional delegation — nine House members and two Senators, all white.

But the answer from the congregation at Thomas Chapel, confronted with the sight of the two candidates — one white, one black — standing together was a resounding “Nothing!”

The morning service, which had begun with a total-immersion baptism and continued with an emotional gospel-ized rendering of Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be” by a church soprano, would end with Cohen, Sandridge, Wade and others holding hands and swaying as the same young women led several choruses of “We Shall Overcome.”

How could Cohen top this? Perhaps by bringing in congressional colleagues. Scheduled to make appearances Monday at a hearing on foreclosures at the University of Memphis Law School downtown, chaired by Cohen as chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law were John Conyers (D-Michigan), Judiciary Committee chairman, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Judiciary colleague.

A scheduling snafu prevented the appearance of Conyers, — who has, however, appeared in Memphis several times with Cohen and endorsed him — but Lee, one of several members of the Congressional Black Caucus who back Cohen, arrived in time for the hearing.

Earlier Monday morning Cohen appeared at a Women for Cohen luncheon at the Just for Lunch restaurant where he broadly hinted that poll results would be forthcoming on WMC-TV, Action News 5, Monday evening that would show them well ahead of Herenton — perhaps more so even than previous polls that had showed him comfortably in the lead (one with a 62 to 9 edge over Herenton).

One caveat offered by the congressman about his opponent: “He’s hard to poll.” So he advised his supporters to “forget” the results as soon as they heard them Monday night and “keep working.”


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