Challenger Ricky Wilkins says four-term incumbent Steve Cohen “needs to get serious and focus on what’s important” in their race for Tennessee’s 9th congressional district seat.
Wilkins statement came in response to Cohen’s campaign filing a complaint to the Federal Election Commission citing Wilkins for incorrect signage for his campaign, which opened its headquarters last Saturday (June 14th) at 3412-14 Poplar.
Cohen’s letter to the FEC asserts that, “Ricky Wilkins’ yard signs completely fail to disclose that the communication has been paid for by the authorized political committee. There is no disclaimer on the yard signs.”
In the press release introducing the complaint, Cohen’s campaign manager, John Marek says, “If you’re asking the people of the 9th District to send you to Congress where you will play a part in creating new laws, you should know the law.”
Wilkins reports that his campaign had not been contact by the FEC and that a written response had been prepared to “fully address this oversight.”
“We’ve already instituted the fix,” said Wilkins, adding that he would respond accordingly, if contacted by the FEC. “But this is clearly an indication that Cohen is running scared. He was shocked at the level of support shown by our campaign opening and they had to shoot for something to try to distract from the fact that we have a real grassroots connection in this race.
“People in the 9th District have to try to find work and get their children something to eat, and he’s playing trivial pursuit.”
The Cohen campaign, however, points out that, “The FEC previously sent Wilkins a Request for Additional Information (RFAI) because of his failure to disclose sufficient information about some of his donors. It is unclear at this time whether he supplied the information before the May 31st deadline.”
Wilkins said his treasurer has been in contact with the FEC reporting employer identity and/or job titles for some of the donors disclosed in the campaign’s last report.
“That additional information is being researched and will be provided shortly. And you will find that my donors are average, everyday working people that actually live and work in the 9th District and are fighting for a better life in the 9th District,” said Wilkins. “They’re not special interest groups or from people that have no stake in what is really happening in the district, unlike you will find with Cohen’s.”
Wilkins then fired off a query of his own for Cohen.
“Since he wants to go there, ask him why has he left his signs up from the 2012 campaign, and is it on purpose that they are mostly in the African-American community? Has he been paying for the monthly advertising value of those signs or do they constitute in-kind advertising? And if so, has his campaign filed proper financial disclosure reports about the signs? The only real sign here that’s relevant is that Steve is nit-picking because he saw more strength from our headquarters opening than he’s been led to believe.”
Contacted by email, Marek said he was traveling and could not respond by The New Tri-State Defender’s press deadline.
Wilkins says the matter only gives him more energy.
“This kind of thing is exactly why I chose to run. The whole world is zooming ahead and we still have these old fossils that know how to play the political game but cannot excite the core of the 9th district with any real plans or ideas.
“We still have the same problems of poverty, inequality and lack of vision that have always plagued this city, and this non-issue is exactly why Memphis has always been so slow to progress,” he said.
“This is the best they can challenge our message on?”