11 Jan 2014
- Written by Tony Jones/Special to The New Tri-State Defender
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With little more than an enthusiastic "Yes," attorney Ricky E. Wilkins confirmed this week that he has picked up a qualifying petition and is planning a campaign to unseat 9th District incumbent Rep. Steve Cohen.
Whispered for several months now, Wilkins' filing is seen by some as the kickoff point for the race.
Deep in a think-tank session when The New Tri-State Defender reached out for comment, Wilkins would only say, "You can report that I have officially picked up my petition and you can be assured that I am planning a full and complete run for the office."
That was it. No official statement, no sloganeering, no dig at the formidable opponent, Wilkins' tone suggested that while some may not give him a chance, he's not going to be reckless about his intentions.
The Democratic Party Primary is in May.
Wilkins' announced run for the Congressional seat comes amid several related developments, including what some political observers see as early attempts at polling gamesmanship, a bit of not-so-subtle media manipulation and even clownish wisdom.
A December poll cited as an independent study by local firm Yacoubian Research gave Wilkins no chance of victory. Such polls, however, do not measure the probability of successfully engaging the huge numbers of non-voters, especially younger African Americans. Can Wilkins strategize any real active participation among such groups?
Some media reports seemingly have tried to link leftover anger at former Memphis mayor Dr. W. W. Herenton to Wilkins, whose association with Herenton includes having been appointed to the Memphis Housing Authority Board and selected to audit the firm that once managed Beale Street. It should be noted, however, that Herenton's career still represents forward thinking, strong, African-American intellect and potential to many.
Meanwhile, repeating-candidate Jake Ford's own petition pulling was met with a decided thud when he reportedly said Cohen needs to be defeated because he is white. Still, there are many who agree with Ford that strong African-American leadership is needed in the 9th District seat.
County Commissioner Sidney Chism, in a June 2013 interview with the TSD, added this context: "I have nothing against Steve, he's a good guy, but we had qualified African Americans running for that office several times and Steve won. A line was drawn to create a district that would have African-American leadership and we let it slip by. Why?"