Dem, GOP Chairmen Agree: Jake Ford Not Suited for Congress 

In a debate between the two local party chairmen last week at the East Memphis Rotary Club, there were differences of opinion on a variety of issues, but solid concurrence on one fact – that the candidacy of independent candidate Jake Ford in the 9th District congressional race is a diversion from the real choice.

In one sense that joint conclusion is unsurprising, since Democratic chairman Matt Kuhn would be expected to support his party’s nominee, state Senator Steve Cohen. Likewise with GOP chairman Bill Giannini and the Republican nominee, businessman Mark White.

Both chairmen made the case against Ford on what they put forth as the merits of the case, however. Giannini began his remarks with a quip: “Hey, there is nobody more excited about the candidacy of Jake Ford than me. Thanks to Jake Ford, we might actually have a shot in that race.”

But, after suggesting that Republican White was polling well in the African-American community, Giannini veered off in an unexpected direction: “Steve Cohen is a terrific public servant. He is a dynamite public servant. You could not ask anybody to go to Nashville or to Washington and do your business, more dedicated than Steve Cohen.”

He went on, however: "I’ll qualify that by saying that if you think we should support gay marriage, we should allow gambling, and we should not let our children pray in schools, Steve Cohen is your man. Go in there and pull that lever proudly for him. There are only two qualified candidates in this race, though – Mark White, our candidate, and Steve Cohen. You have to decide who best represents your ideals when you vote on November 7th.”

Democratic chairman Kuhn responded this way: “In all seriousness, this is a very poignant moment in our community. When you look at whether a white, Jewish state senator can represent a Christian district in Memphis, Tennessee, it’s going to be a wonderful turning point. I say ‘going to be’ because I do believe that through the course of this campaign you have seen that the person that is talking about issues, the person that’s talking about what he wants to do in Washington is going to be the winner. That’s going to be Steve Cohen.

“This other campaign of Jake Ford, to me, honestly, hasn’t materialized. It hasn’t materialized in any type of substantive way that lets people know why you should vote for this guy, other than he can supposedly represent you better in South Memphis, and there has not been any substantive campaign statement, there has been no position paper. Through the debates it has been fairly obvious and evident in many cases what the decision is. And I believe we are truly past the point in this community where people only vote their color. We will see that in statewide ranks, and we will see that in our own community, and I believe that dignity and progress is going to carry the day.”

Other issues the two chairmen agreed on, more or less, included term limits (they both favored); capital punishment (each thought there had been too much judicial interference); and the issue of pre-emptive strikes by the United States (both agreed that such decision were dictated by the particular situation).

Points of disagreement included state Amendment One, declaring marriage to be exclusively heterosexual (Kuhn called the issue a distraction and noted that his party had resolved not to support it, while Giannini offered “one hundred percent” support of the amendment); Iraq (Giannini favored staying the course; Kuhn suggested the U.S. should find a way out); and abortion (Kuhn was pro-choice, Giannini pro-life).

Asked about the recent “airport ambush” incident involving senatorial candidates Harold Ford Jr. and Bob Corker, Kuhn said that Democrat Ford had demonstrated “boldness” and “leadership quality” by showing up at the site of a Corker press conference, while Giannini said the affair demonstrated that, whatever the impression at large was about Ford, he was “not a nice guy.” Giannini said further that Memphis and Shelby County had not moved forward in districts where the Ford family held political power.

-- Jackson Baker

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