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VOL. 131 | NO. 37 | Monday, February 22, 2016

Cohen Urges Memphis Clinton Supporters To Speak No Ill of Sanders

By Bill Dries

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U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen told a group of 70 supporters of Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton that they should avoid attacking Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic nomination.

The local campaign headquarters of the Hillary Clinton for President campaign opened this month in East Memphis during the early voting period in advance of the March 1 election day for the Tennessee presidential primaries. 

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

“I don’t want anybody in our campaign to say anything bad about Bernie Sanders,” Cohen said last week at the opening of the Memphis Clinton campaign headquarters in East Memphis.

Cohen, who was an early supporter of Clinton, said he and Sanders are friends and agree on a number of issues.

“Most of the bills we’ve sponsored together and most of the places we’ve gone to speak on issues — we haven’t been successful because Bernie and I see things in a big way,” Cohen said. “Some of the things where we agree, you agree. But they aren’t going to happen. It’s unfortunate.”

With a cardboard cutout of the former First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State nearby, Cohen likened Clinton to the late Democratic Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter.

“He said, ‘You give me two vanilla wafers and a cup of coffee and on day one I can be your governor,’” Cohen recalled. “Hillary Clinton can do the same thing as president. She’d be somebody who could step in the day that Barack Obama leaves and take over, continue his policies and keep our country stronger.”

Cohen was an early supporter of Obama in 2008 when Clinton was still the favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama carried Shelby County in the 2008 Tennessee primary even though Clinton won the statewide primary.

And the two candidates waged very different campaigns from their Memphis offices eight years ago.

There was evidence at the Thursday, Feb. 18, opening that the Clinton campaign has learned a few lessons in the eight years since.

Andrew Markoff, a Clinton campaign staffer fresh from the New Hampshire primary skirmish, said the campaign is working on a political foundation that will endure beyond the presidential race.

That was the Obama campaign’s goal in 2008. It carried Obama into the White House with some forward momentum, but wasn’t enough for Democrats to keep control of Congress in mid-term elections.

The Clinton campaign in 2008 was about winning the White House and then folding the campaign organization in the transition to power that didn’t come.

The Clinton campaign headquarters at 3177 Poplar Ave. is a short distance east of the local Sanders campaign headquarters at 2869 Poplar Ave.

Sanders’ headquarters opened less than a week earlier with an appeal to Democratic voters locally who supported both Bill Clinton in his two runs for president and Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008.

The emphasis is a departure from the Sanders campaign narrative of drawing young college-aged voters who are new to politics.

Cohen said the Clinton campaign should try to keep those young voters involved once Democrats have their presidential nominee.

“They are so into it that they are saying bad things about our candidate and that’s not the right thing to do because we need to come together no matter who wins to beat the Republicans,” he said.

The Clinton headquarters opening drew several other elected officials including Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner and state Representatives Raumesh Akbari, Antonio Parkinson and Joe Towns.

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