Cohen Cruises to Easy Victory He Predicted

Posted August 7, 2008 at 10:21pm

Despite widespread speculation that he would face a tough challenge winning re-election in his majority-black district, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who is white, appeared to be on his way to an easy victory against attorney Nikki Tinker and a handful of other African-American challengers in the Memphis-based 9th district Democratic primary Thursday night.

With 80 percent reporting, the Associated Press has called the race for Cohen, who leads with 79 percent of the vote to Tinker’s 19 percent.

With the primary battle behind him, Cohen is now expected to cruise to victory in November in this strongly Democratic district.

From the beginning, the 9th district primary has been a racially charged affair with some of Cohen’s opponents claiming that his 2006 primary victory was simply the result of his being the lone top-tier white candidate in a race that featured about a dozen black candidates. This time around, several local African-American leaders worked to limit the number of black candidates in the race against Cohen.

For his part, Cohen remained supremely confident about his re-election chances and released a poll in May that showed him with a large lead against Tinker and his other primary opponents.

But the racial overtones of the primary appeared to reach a boiling point over the last week of the campaign. Two late ads from Tinker brought national attention to the primary race after one sought to link Cohen to the founder of the Ku Klux Klan and another was interpreted by Cohen, who is Jewish, and others to be anti-semitic.

Those ads brought condemnations from the pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List, which has been a major fundraiser for Tinker, as well as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.), for whom Tinker previously worked.

Cohen told the Memphis Commercial Appeal Thursday night that the early results prove that Memphis voters are more concerned with results than simply the color of their Congressman’s skin.

“Memphis has come a long, long way and the people who were counting on racial voting to prevail are thinking of a Memphis that doesn’t exist anymore,” Cohen said, according to the newspaper. “The people of Memphis are more sophisticated voters that deal with issues and someone’s record and not simply race. And I think it’s a story of America, because I know of no other place in America where there would be such a vote.”