Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cohen-Tinker Primary Gets Ugly

Ugly Primary in Tennessee

For some unknown reason, Tennessee has a Thursday primary. Today's big race is in the 9th CD and it's truly ugly.

The backstory: When Harold "Call Me" Ford Jr. ran for the Senate in `06, that opened up his Memphis House seat, which looked so good that fifteen Democrats ran. Fourteen black candidates split the vote in the 60% black district and Steve Cohen, the one white candidate, won with 31%.

Cohen has built a solid liberal record in Congress but he's getting challenged by the 2006 second place candidate Nikki Tinker. All indications are that Cohen is far more progressive than corporate lawyer Tinker. The basis is almost entirely race -- one leading minister openly says, "if he's not black, he can't represent me." Kinda funny in a year where we're, oh, gee, about to elect the first black president.

It's gotten uglier at end game, with Cohen's religion getting thrown in,and Tinker earning a rare "honor" for a Democrat, Keith Olbermann's Worst Person In The World, last night. (Keith even said the catchphrase seriously, without the trademark "worst... person... in the woooooooooooooorld!" flourish, which us Countdown fans take to mean he's seriously offended beyond his usual bashing of "Billo The Clown" and "comedian Rush Limbaugh.")

There used to be some white liberals who represented majority-minority districts -- Lindy Boggs in New Orleans, Claude Pepper in Miami -- but since the careful racial gerrymandering of the 1992 redistricting cycle those members have become a thing of the past. Before Cohen, the last may have been Tom Foglietta in Philadelphia, who left office in 1997.

If you're more interested, CQ has a good primer.

I'm pessimistically predicting a Tinker win; we'll see tonight.

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