Cohen beats Tinker after nasty primary battle

Nikki Tinker had turned the race so ugly that even Barack Obama had to step in, but incumbent Rep. Steve Cohen held on for a big victory.

Published August 8, 2008 2:08PM (EDT)

The Democratic primary battle between incumbent Rep. Steve Cohen and challenger Nikki Tinker was something decidedly less than collegial. Cohen, who is white and Jewish, represents Tennessee's only majority African-American congressional district, and Tinker's campaign did its level best to inject race into the campaign. But Cohen pulled out a big victory anyway.

In one of her ads, Tinker had linked Cohen to the Ku Klux Klan. Another ad seemed directed at his religion. And when this nasty campaigning came to public attention, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama had to wade in and condemn Tinker's ads.

Thursday, though, was the real test, as that was the day voters in the district went to the polls. Ultimately, Cohen won in a landslide -- he captured 79 percent of the vote to Tinker's 19 percent. Tinker had gotten 25 percent in 2006.

Cohen still has to deal with a general election, of course, but he's "virtually assured of re-election," the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. He'll face three independent candidates, including Jake Ford, the brother of former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. In 2006, Cohen beat Jake Ford by a wide margin.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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