Though he is meeting with resistance in isolated quarters of Memphis' African-American community, state Senator Steve Cohen, the Democratic nominee for the 9th congressional district, is rapidly acquiring support among that community's recognized pillars.
A joint press conference will be held Wednesday by Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and Shelby County mayor A C Wharton to affirm their endorsement and support of Cohen, who is opposed on the November general election ballot by Republican Mark White and independent Jake Ford.
In advance of that press conference, to be held at the Federal Building, Herenton is said to have rebuffed a direct approach from would-be organizers of a stop-Cohen movement. It's too late, the Memphis mayor told them. The Democratic primary, he said, was the time to have coalesced around a qualified black candidate for those so inclined. The mayor discounted Jake Ford as having insufficient credentials for such a purpose, especially when compared to veteran legislator Cohen.
At a fundraiser for Cohen at the river-bluff home of developer Henry Turley Tuesday night, Wharton weighed in on the same subject, calling the effort to organize a racial bloc against Cohen "one of the most unpleasant" aspects of the current political season. Should it succeed, said Wharton, "We've fallen, we're going backwards. It's a Memphis and a Shelby County that I don't see, quite frankly."
The county mayor jested that he carried all precinct boxes but seven in his recent reelection effort, "seven little corners that I couldn't get to." He said, "I think, quite frankly, everybody ought to have to run countywide. I don't think people ought to be able to lock down a little corner....It can be done: to run un-racially and along all lines where we have to answer to the public at the polls. I think Steve's candidacy will advance that same character."
The 9th District race, said Wharton, "is a test to see if I'm just some oddball or whether the people have attained the level of intelligence I think they have." Cohen's election would confirm "the values that I have found that most Shelby Countians hold, and they hold dearly."