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Congressman-elect Cohen Gets Back to Town

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Fresh from a week of orientation in D.C., the 9th District’s newly elected U.S. representative, state Senator Steve Cohen, was brimming over with war stories about his time in Washington, where he was one of 49 newly elected congress members, including 41 Democrats. Cohen (here being greeted by erstwhile campaign manager Kevin Gallagher) logged time with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi of California and other congressional heavyweights.

Another newcomer, Rep.-elect Heath Shuler of North Carolina, a former UT quarterback, showed Cohen how to operate his new government-issue Blackberry, prompting Cohen, a football enthusiast, to boast of having Shuler as “my equipment manager.”

One eminence the new congressman did not encounter was the outgoing representative from the 9th, Harold Ford Jr. (whose defeat in a U.S. Senate race Cohen, in an aside, attributed to Ford’s family connections, not his voting record or other factors).

Cohen did spend time with members of Ford's congressional staff and said he expects to sit down with Ford himself before the current congressman's term is over.

The congressman-elect offered no clue as to whom he might support as his successor from state Senate District 30. Gallagher and activist David Upton, another Cohen familiar, are two of the likely aspirants.

About two of his alleged initiatives reported elsewhere, Cohen said he had never indicated that he intended to seek outright membership, as a white, in the Congressional Black Caucus and that he had decided to shelve any plans to push a national lottery. "I'd end up competing with myself," said the senator who is credited with creating the state lottery in Tennessee.

On the widely discussed failure of Pelosi to get her hand-picked candidate, Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, elected as party whip in the House, Cohen said that a win by Murtha, whom he also supported, might have been more devisive in the long run than the victory of Maryland representative Steny Hoyer."This way both main groups are represented in the leadership," said Cohen.

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