Thursday, August 03, 2006

Feeding Frenzy in Tennessee

Tonight when the polls close and Harold Ford, Jr. and Bob Corker (probably) begin to size each other up for their battle for the United States Senate, many eyes will be on Tennessee's ninth congressional district to see who will replace Rep. Ford in the United States House.

The black-majority district, which has had African American representation for over 30 years, sees 15 candidates (11 African Americans) seeking to replace Rep. Ford (click here for a list of the candidates Despite the 60% African American population in the Memphis area it appears the leading candidate is a white State Senator named Steve Cohen.

Senator Cohen has been in the Tennessee Senate for 24 years and has a liberal voting record and a deep relationship with the African American community. Cohen contested for this seat before, but lost to Ford, Jr., when Ford Sr. retired in 1996 losing by 26 points. However, this time in a crowded field and the African American candidates potentially splitting the vote, Cohen may slip through.

A recent poll commissioned by Nikki Tinker showed Cohen with an 11 point advantage over Tinker and Joe Ford, Jr. (the Congressman's cousin) and leading Julian Bolton by 20 points. But what is amazing about the poll,, is that if you take the total of the 5 African American candidates ranking in the poll you come up with 48% to Cohen's 28%. The rest is for those who are undecided and for the other 9 candidates. If African Americans could have coalesced around one (or two or three...) candidates the chances of keeping African American representation in the ninth would have have been a near certainty, but now...

Steve Cohen, if successful tonight and in November, may end up being a fine Congressman with the best interest of the community in his mind, heart and vote (as his legislative record indicates), but when the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is on the verge of historical power, 21 members are ranking members and set to assume chairpersonships if the Democrats take control in November, the CBC needs all the votes it can gather to make the historical power historically meaningful. Something the bevy of African American candidates in the ninth should have thought about.

The winner takes on the GOP nominee who will also be tapped tonight. The three man Republican primary includes Derrick Bennett.


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