Campaign Confidential

Steve Cohen On the CBC's African-American Only Policy

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Apparently in response to the candidacies of Tennessee state senator Steve Cohen and New York City Councilman David Yassky, the Congressional Black Caucus has reiterated its position that only African-American legislators may be counted as full, voting members in the organization.

Both Cohen and Yassky are seeking to serve majority-minority districts in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cohen overcame a largely African-American field in the August 3 Democratic primary in Memphis, while Yassky will face three African-American candidates in tomorrow’s neck-and-neck Democratic primary in Brooklyn.

While Cohen did express an interest in joining the CBC earlier this summer, he says it was in response to a reporter’s question, and not something he has actively campaigned for:

“I expressed an interest in joining out of respect for the shared goals that we have, and the respect that I have for so many members of the caucus,” Cohen told the Forward during a telephone chat last Friday. “There are so many congressman, but Lewis and Rangel and Conyers are three that come to mind that have been heroes for many years of mine, and Senator Obama is such a star, and to have more contact with them would be an opportunity for me to serve my constituency better – not just my African-American constitutency, but my progressive constituency. But at no time did I ever think or would I consider challenging any longstanding or heartfelt positions that the caucus takes that it should remain African-American … I just want to let it be known that I’m seeking as much contact and interchange as possible.”

In the July 24 edition of Roll Call, Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings – a CBC member who has many Jewish constituents in his South Florida district – is quoted as saying, “Cohen is seeking office and he is in a district that is largely populated with African-Americans, and so he wants to say something that will influence those people … I’m in a majority-white district and I’m in the CBC. But Cohen ain’t black.”

In other Steve Cohen news: Cybill Shepherd, the former “Miss Teenage Memphis” and Maddie Hayes of Moonlighting fame is hosting a fundraiser for Cohen at her home on September 21.

Meanwhile, in the general election Cohen will face Independent Jake Ford – who is the brother of current seatholder (and Democatic candidate for Senate) Harold Ford Jr., as well as the son of former seatholder Harold Ford Sr. Harold Ford Jr. remains mum on whether he supports his brother or the Democratic nominee for his seat, while the word from the Cohen camp is that Senior is back from Florida to help Jake.

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