Obama Weighs in on Tennessee House Race
By Jonathan Weisman
With voters in Memphis going to the polls today in a primary contest, Sen. Barack Obama weighed in this afternoon on the nasty campaign that House candidate Nikki Tinker has waged to unseat Rep. Stephen I. Cohen as the Democratic nominee for Tennessee's ninth district.
Obama did not mention by name either Tinker or Cohen, but his intentions were clear. He is taking the African American Tinker to task for her campaign against a liberal, Jewish ally in Congress, Cohen.
"These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics, and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee. It's time to turn the page on a politics driven by negativity and division so that we can come together to lift up our communities and our country," Obama said in a statement.
The intervention came after Tinker unveiled an ad yesterday -- since shelved -- that appeared to attack Cohen as a Jewish outsider in the largely African-American district.
"While he's in our churches, clapping his hands and tapping his feet ... he's the only senator who thought our kids shouldn't be allowed to pray in school," an outraged female voice declares, referring to a vote against school prayer Cohen made as a state senator. The emphasis was clearly on "our," separating the white, Jewish Cohen from his African American, largely Christian constituents.
Cohen is one of the only white House members representing a majority-minority district in the South, which for decades belonged the Memphis's powerful Ford family, Harold Sr. and Harold Jr. Cohen took the seat in 2006, in part because the black vote was divided among competing African American candidates. SInce then, Cohen has become an outspoken Obama supporter and has served as an emissary to Jewish Democrats in the south, who have been suspicious of Obama's support for Israel. That put Obama in the position of being pulled one way by African American southerners he needs to put states like Georgia and North Carolina into play this November or standing by a supporter in Congress who represents another key constituency, particularly in Florida.
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