Tinker Declines to Repudiate Anti-Cohen Mailer 

The official position of 9th District congressional candidate Nikki Tinker is that she was not involved in the distribution of a mass mailout attacking opponent Steve Cohen for various alleged failings – including chronic absenteeism in the state Senate, opposition to state funding of K-12 programs, and over-protectiveness toward the sex-shop industry. But Tinker will decline to repudiate the mailer, said campaign spokesperson Joshua Phillips on Thursday.

“We can’t repudiate something somebody else has done,” Phillips said. He held to that formulation even when reminded that the mailer, distributed by the Emily’s List organization out of Washington, D.C., made use of the Tinker campaign’s official logo and pictures and other information copyrighted by the campaign. Phillips maintained that the glossy, multi-page color mailout was not funded, directly or indirectly, by Tinker's campaign.

click to enlarge A page from the new Emily's List mailout attacking Steve Cohen and boosting opponent Nikki Tinker.
  • A page from the new Emily's List mailout attacking Steve Cohen and boosting opponent Nikki Tinker.

He said Tinker had no foreknowledge of the mailer and did not authorize it. Phillips said she and others involved in her campaign learned of its existence only “when it hit the mailboxes.” He went on: “Our campaign is positive and is concerned only with the issues.”

The Emily’s List mailer is one of two that have attacked Cohen on Tinker’s behalf in recent weeks. The first did not mention Cohen by name, but its unflattering description of "a quixotic state legislator of questionable effectiveness” was clearly meant to denote Cohen, and the mailer’s characterization of him as “…not a good fit for this district" was taken by many to be an allusion to the senator’s not being an African American.

The newest mailer arrived in mailboxes simultaneously with press releases announcing that Tinker had passed the half-million-dollar mark in campaign fundraising and that she was polling at 17 percent (as compared to Cohen’s 28 percent).

With the August 3rd Democratic primary a week away, Cohen is generally acknowledged to be leading other candidates in the Democratic primary field of 15. Perhaps not coincidentally, he has increasingly become the target of a variety of negative campaign tactics – ranging from a push-poll paid for by the campaign of opponent Ed Stanton Jr. that focused in part on his religion (Cohen is Jewish) to a television ad from opponent Julian Bolton.

Bolton's ad criticized Cohen for his purported support of pro-marijuana legislation (the senator favors legalization of medically prescribed marijuana) and same-sex marriage (Cohen voted against a constutitional-amendment initiative defining marriage as exclusively heterosexual), and reminding viewers that Cohen had objected to sectarian prayers in the legislature.

click to enlarge Tinker in the Emily's List mailout
  • Tinker in the Emily's List mailout

Bolton also recently suggested that Cohen could not concentrate on domestic issues of importance to the 9th District in the event of an ongoing foreign crisis involving Israel.

A number of Memphians who have long been financial contributors and supporters of Emily's List, or of the women's issues and women's campaigns it is ostensibly formed to promote, have responded irately to the attacks upon Cohen.

One such, Sylvia Denise Tapp, commented in a letter to the organization, "I trust this scurrilous piece of dirty politicking will backfire against your candidate...."

Much of the reaction to the mailer is based on the fact that Cohen has generally been regarded as a stout supporter of women's rights and legislation supporting gender equality.

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