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VOL. 127 | NO. 118 | Monday, June 18, 2012

Hart Seeks Debate With Rep. Cohen

By Bill Dries

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Email reporter | Comments ()

Democratic candidate for the 9th Congressional District Tomeka Hart wants a debate with incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen. But Cohen’s campaign is not responding to the debate call a month before early voting begins in the Democratic congressional primary contest between the two.


“I think Memphians deserve a debate,” Hart said Wednesday, June 13, during an interview with The Daily News editorial board. “I think it’s the ultimate disrespect of any candidate that is running to say we don’t need to debate. … I think you always owe to the community who votes for you to explain the differences.”


Cohen campaign communications director Rick Maynard said Cohen would have no response to Hart on the matter.

Cohen rarely mentions Hart by name and refers to her indirectly.

He told supporters at his campaign headquarters opening earlier this month that he is preparing for a general election campaign against Republican congressional contender and former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn. And Cohen intends to have an election ballot of endorsements topped by President Barack Obama’s re-election effort.

“The president wanted me to. Some of the president’s people wanted me to be a surrogate for him,” Cohen said. “I’m going to try to do that as much as I can but I have to deal with a primary as well as a general.”

Asked specifically about Hart, Cohen said, “We just do our job. Our whole thing is if we represent our constituents, we are going to be re-elected. When you’re an incumbent, really the elections are referendums on the incumbent. … We think we’ve delivered a lot here in Memphis in the way of jobs.”

Hart and Cohen turned up last month in competing posts on the “Delta Does Memphis” Facebook group. Hart, in the first posting, was critical of Cohen for not doing enough about high airfares at Memphis International Airport. Cohen responded, without mentioning Hart, with a post in which he criticized Delta Air Lines for some of the highest average airfares in the nation.

“I think Memphians deserve a debate. I think it’s the ultimate disrespect of any candidate that is running to say we don’t need to debate.”

–Tomeka Hart
9th Congressional District candidate

This month, he questioned U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a House committee session about the airfares and pushed for the Obama administration to investigate the practices of the airline.

“All of the things that Steve is doing now – the questioning of Holder and everything – that cannot happen just because a Facebook page has popped up and your challenger has been on there,” Hart said. “He brags about being on the Transportation Committee but is that really affecting and improving the lives of his constituents or is it just about the corporations? I think we miss out, I’m sure, on more than we ever know.”

PROPERTY SALES 83 405 4,276
MORTGAGES 104 424 4,814
BUILDING PERMITS 148 883 10,151
BANKRUPTCIES 53 264 3,149