POLITICS: One More for the Road 

Democrat Ron Redwing was the early bird in the congressional race, declaring his interest way early in 2005 before anybody else was ready to commit. He began fundraising in earnest, too, and his events attracted a number of figures prominent in local Democratic circles. Most of them stayed on the fence, though, biding their name while the field of contestants expanded to its current double-digit dimensions.           

Redwing operates a consulting/public relations company and has expertise in that area, as well as a connection to the city's Catholic community by virtue of having served the Memphis Diocese as a spokesman. . He also has a considerable grass-roots base, and, at several well-attended rallies, his highly rhetorical style and commitment to bread-and-butter issues have resonated with his audiences. Redwing has the active support of prominent African-American industrialist Willie Gary, who has made several local appearances on Redwing's behalf.

An early aide to current mayor Willie Herenton as far back as 1991 when Herenton was considered a long-shot to be elected, Red wing picked up valuable experience as the mayor's action center director. Redwing is enough of a realist to know that his chances depend on waiting out the current logjam of candidates and earning a perception as one of two or three top African-American contenders. 

High Side, Low Side: If state Senator Steve Cohen (profiled last week) should succeed in his current bid to represent the 9th Congressional District, he can give part of the credit to musical worthies Jackson Brown and J.D. Souther, who showed up at attorney Leslie Ballin's house for a well-attended fundraiser on Cohen's behalf last Saturday night.

The senator, as we hear it, won't be Running on Empty, having raised upwards of $50,000 on the occasion. Cohen chimed in on a chorus of his late friend Warren Zevon's song, "Werewolves of London."  A valiant enough effort, but, if he wins, Cohen would be well advised to hold on to the congressional seat as his day job.           

The last week saw two other interventions less to Cohen's liking, by the way.

Numerous 9th District households were the recipients of a telephone "push poll" which, among other things, reportedly asked whether non-Christian religious sentiments on the part of a congressman would be regarded as acceptable.  (Cohen is Jewish.) The poll apparently originated from the campaign of opponent Ed Stanton Jr.

And another 9th District hopeful, Nikki Tinker, was the intended beneficiary of an Emily's List  press release proclaiming Cohen as  "a quixotic state legislator of questionable effectiveness" and gong on to say, "Cohen's legislative priorities rarely align with his constituents' needs, and his political tactics have often left his colleagues bewildered. He has carefully cultivated a reputation as an iconoclast. While not a good fit for this district, Cohen is a strong fundraiser who can tap long-standing resources for his campaign."

The description infuriated many of the senator's supporters, who see him as a steadfast supporter of the kinds of women's rights that Emily's List promotes.

Cohen himself, regarded by many as the current front runner, declined comment on the two opponents' stratagems, except to say, "It goes with the territory."

(The series of 9th District congressional candidate profiles continues next week.)


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