On Saturday, the second day of early voting, the two contestants in what is easily the most watched political race of the season cast their ballots at the Election Commission’s downtown voting site. Both 9th district congressman Steve Cohen and his challenger in the Democratic primary, former mayor Willie Herenton, did so in the presence of ample media, and each also shepherded literal busloads of supporters in to vote with them.
Cohen came first, after a brief rally at his Union Avenue headquarters, and, after he had cast his own vote about 10:30 a.m. and departed to begin a busy round of public activities, he would return to the Election Commission site around noon, in the aftermath of a brunch presided over by himself and Criminal Court clerk candidate Minerva Johnican, as buses provided by both candidates arrived almost si8multaneously.
As Herenton climbed out of his own chartered bus on Poplar Avenue and prepared to lead his 89-year-old mother and other supporters into the Election Commission site, someone apparently informed him that Cohen, along with aide Travis Green, were sitting in a car in an alley on the north side of Poplar observing the process.
That — the closest thing to an encounter between the two all day — prompted Herenton to begin heckling Cohen. “He ought to stop hiding,” said Herenton, who called across the street at his rival, challenging him to come out and “meet his constituents, meet the people who are going to send me to Washington” and proposing, among other things, to have an impromptu debate right then and there.
In a brief interview with the media before entering the building, Herenton repeated a theme which had dominated remarks made earlier that morning to a rally at his campaign headquarters on South Third. At both sites, the former mayor contrasted his own meager campaign funds with the near million dollars Cohen has reported as having on hand and characterized the congressional race as one of “the people” versus “money.”
In his earlier talk with supporters at his headquarters, Herenton had attempted to enlarge his “Just One” campaign theme to encompass class as well as that of race, invoking Martin Luther King and his “mountaintop” theme in the process.
“Mr. Cohen is not a part of the working class,” Herenton asserted. “He never worked for hourly wages. He never chopped cotton for three dollars a day.”
Cohen, meanwhile, maintained a busy weekend schedule that included several meetings with community groups and pointed toward a Monday morning breakfast with a “Women for Cohen” group, to be followed by a public hearing on the issue of home foreclosures.
The congressman’s office e announced that an attendee at both Monday morning events would be U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Detroit, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a committed Cohen backer. In the last few weeks, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have announced their support for the congressman’s reelection, as did President Obama last week.