Cohen wins primary handily, faces Bergmann in November

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 07, 2020 8:50 AM CT | Published: August 06, 2020 10:41 PM CT

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen rolled to victory Thursday, Aug. 6, in the Democratic primary for Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District, beating out two challengers entering the November election.

By 10 p.m., Cohen, 71, had captured 55,182 votes in the incomplete vote count, about 85%, to 9,718, about 15%, for former Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Corey Strong and 750 for Leo AwGoWhat, about 1%.

<strong>Steve Cohen</strong>

Steve Cohen

The six-term Democrat representing western and middle Memphis will face Republican Charlotte Bergmann, who picked up 12,118 votes in the uncontested GOP primary, and independent candidates Dennis Clark or Bobby Lyons in the Nov. 3 federal vote for a two-year term in Congress.

“It was a nice win with good numbers. This was a different type of election because with COVID I wasn’t able to go out and press the flesh and have a campaign headquarters, sign campaign and go to rallies,” Cohen said after the victory.

Cohen said he mainly stayed in contact with voters virtually and spent a good deal of time traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C., over the past few months.

Strong conducted more of a ground campaign. But Cohen said his constituents “had my back, and we won big.”

The longtime legislator also represented Memphis in the state Senate, passing legislation for a constitutional amendment to create the state lottery program.

Looking ahead to the November race, Cohen said he won’t worry about Bergmann but will try to help local Democrats win at the state level and national Democrats capture seats in “tough races” to gain a stronger majority in the U.S. House.

“And I’ll be cheering the for the Memphis Tigers in football and basketball,” he said.

He’ll also be pushing for Democratic presidential nominee Joseph Biden over Republican President Donald Trump. Biden won’t win Tennessee, Cohen said, but he might need some help in different parts of the country, especially if he stays close to Delaware because of the coronavirus.

Cohen endorsed Biden and believes he should be the president.

“We need to get back to normalcy, stability, professionalism,” Cohen said.

Bergmann, who predicted Thursday night that Trump will win the presidential election “in a landslide,” said she hopes Cohen grows complacent during the coming election.

Based on the primary numbers, Bergmann said Cohen is losing popularity. He received about 79,000 votes in 2018 primary but got only 39,000 in this year’s primary.

“I just want him sit back and become comfortable because this will be a tortoise-and-the-hair race, and he will lose,” Bergmann said.

The Republican candidate said she is “not conceited and overly confident like Cohen is” and will beat him in this election.

Cohen has his “core” supporters, Bergmann said, but will not be able to expand the vote much. Bergmann claimed she is getting influential people such as church leaders to back her in the coming vote.

She also predicted Republican House candidates down the ballot will draw votes from the president’s popularity and flip the House from Democratic control. Bergmann discounted polls showing Biden holds a lead over President Trump.

“Biden polls are similar to his ability to remember things. It is all fake,” she said.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, Cohen has made eight round trips to D.C., several of them through Charlotte, North Carolina. Cohen acknowledged he should have taken proxy votes in some instances, since some House members have caught the virus.

But with House leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, all in their 80s, still working in the halls of Congress daily, he said it’s difficult to stay home, he said.


Steve Cohen Charlotte Bergmann
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a Nashville-based reporter with more than 30 years of journalism experience as a writer, editor and columnist covering the state Legislature and Tennessee politics for The Daily Memphian.


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