Campaign Confidential

Cohen Wins (For Now)

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State Sen. Steve Cohen triumphed down in Memphis in the nasty race to replace Harold Ford Jr., apparently proving that a white liberal can still win in a majority black district. Only one problem, it appears that Ford’s brother, a political novice, is positioned to run as an independent in November.

Congressional Quarterly has this to say:

The incumbent’s brother, pharmaceutical representative Jake Ford, filed in April to run as an independent. He has yet to demonstrate he will be an aggressive candidate, reporting campaign fundraising of only $20,500 through June 30 and presenting a campaign Web site that currently contains only childhood photos of Ford with family and prominent politicians and a note that says “Coming Soon.”?

Nonetheless, an active campaign by Jake Ford would drain at least some of the Democratic vote expected to go to Cohen, and provide an outlet for those voters who would prefer to maintain black representation for the district.

Whether Ford actually pursues this course will depend heavily on how his brother and father weigh in. His candidacy would be a quandary for Harold E. Ford Jr., who is trying to make history by becoming the first popularly elected black senator from the South, in a state where blacks make up about a sixth of the population. A decision by Ford to side with his brother running as an independent over a Democratic Party nominee who happens to be white would almost certainly cause a stir that would distract from what already is a difficult Senate challenge for Ford in the generally Republican-leaning state.

But Harold Ford Sr. may have already sent a signal that blood may not be thicker than water when it comes to Memphis power politics. The elder Ford bypassed his nephew, Joe Ford Jr., in the primary and instead endorsed Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton, who finished fourth with 11 percent.

It’s worth noting that Bolton was one of the candidates that appeared to play the Jewish card against Cohen, so if Ford Sr. shares those sentiement, then Cohen should get ready for round two. As Jennifer Siegel noted in an earlier article, it could be a real problem for Ford Jr. if the message from his family is that only a black candidate should represent the district at the same time that he’s trying to convince white voters througout the state that they should ignore race.


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