Tomeka Hart to Challenge Cohen in 9th District

Urban League head and MSC Board member could be congressman's toughest opponent.



Tomeka Hart
  • Tomeka Hart
“I haven’t filed yet, but I plan to.” With those words, texted to the Flyer on Tuesday, Memphis City Schools board member Tomeka Hart confirmed persistent recent rumors that she intended to challenge 9th District congressman Steve Cohen in the 2012 Democratic primary.

Cohen himself had taken note of the likelihood during an interview earlier this month in Washington. At the time he had not identified his prospective opponent by name, except to say that he expected organized opposition and that his challenger would be a well-known African-American woman.

That definition certainly fits Hart, the executive director of the Memphis Urban League and, with fellow MCS board member Martavius Jones, the leader in last year’s vote to surrender the MCS charter, thereby setting in motion the pending merger of MCS with Shelby County Schools.

“It’s all set,” Cohen said, indicating that his then unnamed opponent would be drawing on sources of support similar to those which had opposed him in his previous congressional races in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

“They’re going to try to revive the idea of a ‘consensus black candidate,'” predicted Cohen, who said that was the tack taken in such campaigns as those of independent Jake Ford in 2006 and Democratic candidates Nikki Tinker and Willie Herenton in 2008 and 2010, respectively. All these challenges fell significantly short, the last two being on the short end of 4 to 1 outcomes.

“It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now,” the congressman said confidently. “My track record is clear, that I have faithfully represented the African-American community, and the results show that the voters know that.”

Hart, a lawyer, was elected to the MCS Board in 2004, defeating longtime incumbent Hubon “Dutch” Sandridge. She served as the Board President from January 2008-June 2009.

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