A campaign flyer for state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, one of the candidates in the hotly contested House District 93 Democratic primary race, drew attacks Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen as “not honest,” while backers of state Rep. Mike Kernell, Hardaway’s opponent, say their names were used without permission in the flyer.
At a press conference held at Cohen’s headquarters, longtime political activist David Upton and Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, both self-described supporters of Kernell, disputed the flyer’s use of their names as alleged endorsers of Hardaway. Mulroy also noted that his image was used in the flyer without permission.
Meanwhile, Cohen, whose voice was carried by telephone hookup from Washington, where Congress is still in session, conveyed his displeasure not only at Hardaway’s improper listing of Upton and Mulroy as Hardaway supporters but indirectly expressed dissatisfaction at the flyer’s use of a flattering description of Hardaway by Randy Wade, Cohen’s own right-hand man in Memphis. The congressman reiterated that he is a vigorous supporter of Kernell, whom he formally endorsed, along with several other candidates, at a press conference last month.
The quotation from Wade, who is identified as “district director for U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen,” appears in the flyer under a picture of Wade. It says: “If there is something that needs to be taken care of on the state level, I call Rep. G.A. Hardaway. He’s the go-to guy for the congressman’s office.”
Cohen did not expressly condemn or deny Wade’s statement, but he made a point of saying that he tried to maintain “good relations” with all local public officials and that “I probably talk to Mike more than any other person in Nashville.” Kernell said, “Steve works with everybody. I talk with him day and night. There’s no one ‘go-to’person.”
Concerning the flyer as a whole, Cohen said, “When people are not honest, it disparages the whole system.” He noted that the flyer contains images of two deceased former members of the state House, Ulysses Jones and Larry Turner. “I don’t think they take a position in the race,” he said.
Mulroy said explicitly, “I just want to make absolutely clear I am not endorsing G.A. Hardaway over Mike Kernell in this race,” adding later that he and Hardaway had been mutual supporters in other campaign seasons and supposed that “an assumption was made that was not warranted” about his probable support of Hardaway this time. Political protocol was “to ask permission on a campaign-by-campaign basis.” Mulroy made it clear that he was supporting Kernell in the present race, giving Kernell major credit for helping get his own political career started.
Upton noted, “I’m listed on here….I’ve endorsed G.A. in other races. I’ve contributed to
G.A. some, but I’m supporting Mike this time.”
Kernell talked about his “disappointment…when someone takes too much liberty.” Asked if he wanted to talk with Hardaway about the matter, he said, “I assume one of us will call the other tomorrow night,” getting a laugh.
Asked to respond later on, Hardaway insisted on giving a “case-by-case” reaction. Somewhat confirming Mulroy’s account, he acknowledged a mistake. Apparently, he said, someone on the staff of Malone Carter, the campaign consulting firm that compiled the names on the flyer, had mistakenly listed Mulroy, who, as the commissioner himself had indicated, had endorsed Hardaway in previous races. Hardaway said Mulroy had received an apology.
The case of Upton was different, according to Hardaway, and amounted to a “co-endorsement” of both himself and Kernell. He said Upton had expressly indicated his support as recently as during a lunch last week.|
Hardaway was critical of Cohen, saying, “He can’t bully me. If he spent less time fighting with other Democrats, we’d be in control of the county and the state. When was the last name he had a fight with a Republican?”