A four-piece band played neo-soul as the crowd swelled, hitting thebuffet and the cash bar. There was a palpable buzz as television screens showed Cohen's lead building to insurmountable numbers. Theroom was thick with politicians — Myron Lowery, Jim Strickland,Edmund Ford, to name just three — and longtime Cohen supporters likeHenry Turley, Russell Sugarmon, and civil rights icon Maxine Smith,mingled with tables full of supporters.
In the end, the insiders turned out to be right. Cohen beat formerMayor Willie Herenton by a 79 to 21 percent margin, a resoundingvictory by anyone's standards.
After an introduction by Smith, who recalled her decades-longsupport of the congressman, Cohen took the stand. He first praisedHerenton for his "service to Memphis," and cited a number of projectsthat he and the former mayor had worked on together. He noted thatHerenton had called and graciously conceded.
Cohen then began a rousing speech, his voice rising to a shout,saying the nation would be watching the results of the 9th Districtcontest and that Memphis was sending a "message to America that a newday has dawned and that Memphis is on the move." He added that therewould be "no more elections decided by race."
Strong words, but on this night, as a diverse and happy crowdcelebrated their man's victory, anything seemed possible. They weregoin' — and so was Cohen.
Oh, and, of course, there was a victory dance:
— Bruce VanWyngarden.