Flinn-Cohen Race Gets Minor Jolt

By Bill Dries

The general election campaign in the 9th Congressional District sparked to life Monday, Sept. 24, with a brief encounter between incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen and a team from the campaign of Republican challenger George Flinn.

The three Flinn campaign workers showed up for a Cohen press conference at Memphis International Airport where Cohen announced $31.8 million in federal funding for infrastructure projects at the airport. And one of the three with another carrying a video device asked Cohen at the end why he voted against the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill twice.

“Who are you with, by the way,” Cohen said as he started to answer the woman’s question.

“I’m with myself,” she replied.

“No you’re not,” Cohen said before telling her he voted for the federal budget and for the reauthorization this year. “You’ve got your facts wrong.”

Later, Cohen talked to the group and said he looked forward to seeing them following him during the campaign.

The tactic is common during hard-fought campaigns to have someone from the other camp follow the rival candidate and take notes on their positions, even record them.

By Monday afternoon, the Flinn campaign repeated the claim that Cohen voted twice against the reauthorization bill and in a press release included links to roll call votes in the House.

Backers of Republican challenger George Flinn confront U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen during airport appearance.

The release also included a quote from Flinn in which he said Cohen “had a chance to show unity with the delegation representing Memphis, Shelby County and surrounding areas but instead chose to stand alone and lay claim to their work and their votes.”

Cohen maintains the Flinn campaign is wrong.

Cohen voted against the reauthorization in 2011 because he opposed to amendments setting new rules on forming unions. He voted against the House-Senate conference committee version of the reauthorization this year, which was later signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Cohen said Monday he supported the general purpose of the reauthorization.

The contact is the first time since the August primaries that Flinn and Cohen have clashed, albeit indirectly.

A new round of TV ads has focused on Flinn’s medical practice and what he has told supporters is his desire to be a congressman who stays away from the political “extremes” of both political parties.

Cohen has told supporters that he wants to beat Flinn by a wide margin in the first campaign since Cohen claimed the seat in 2006 in which Cohen expects to be outspent.

Flinn began running banks of television ads during the primary campaign leading up to the August elections.