Ninth District congressional candidate Ricky Wilkins says his recent endorsement by the Memphis Police Association is a clear indication that incumbent Steve Cohen is no shoe-in for the August 7th election that will decide who will occupy the seat for the next two years.
The unanimous decision by the union’s political action committee was announced at a press conference Tuesday (June 24) at the MPA’s headquarters.
Hosted by MPA President Michael Williams, the tone of the press conference was salty in its criticism of Cohen. The union endorsed Cohen in his last race, but Williams said that turned out to be mistake.
“We’re not pleased with what congressman Cohen has been doing. On a couple of occasions we have asked him to get involved in some of the issues going on in Memphis and he has refused, so we cannot put our support behind him as we have done in the past,” said Williams.
Cohen had not been reached for comment by TSD press deadline.
Wilkins said the endorsement is an indication that Cohen needs to come down to earth before he envisions a career “watching from his seat in Washington as the city of Memphis grows poorer and poorer under his leadership.”
An attorney by profession, Wilkins said he has never represented the MPA on any legal matters and that he had no personal connections that may have influenced the endorsement.
The union, said Williams, “Simply looked at his background and record of community involvement and decided that he would be the best candidate. There is real pain in this city and it is going to get worse. Our federal representative cannot pick and choose when to get involved.”
Williams said the union has 2,100 members. A note on the MPA website alerts visitors that the city has 300 fewer officers on the force since 2012.
The MPA and the city were locked in tense pay-structure negotiations in 2011. Williams said the union called Cohen seeking support.
“He told us he didn’t get involved in local issues. How can you say that and you are a locally elected representative sent to Washington to serve the interests of the people? He never even responded to tell us if he had found out any information, had talked to someone or even if he had his staff check to see if meeting with us was legal.”
Williams said if he had to call on “Congressman Wilkins” on behalf of the association he would not “necessarily expect him to agree with me, but as my congressman I do expect you to look into the situation.”
Williams was asked what Cohen could have done since the city-union negotiations came down to a City of Memphis responsibility. Wilkins fielded the question.
“How can you not respond to these men and women who put their lives on the line for us all everyday of the week? Issues such as this, which are so impactful to our city, cannot be ignored by the federal representative,” said Wilkins.
“I believe there is a role for the federal representative to play. A role that is not being filled by the present congressman because he says, quote, ‘He doesn’t get involved in local issues.’ I would apply any influence or resources available to such matters. Leaders lead whether the situation is easy to deal with or difficult to deal with.”
Email queries to Cohen’s camp hand not been responded to by TSD press deadline. Meanwhile, his office has made a series of announcements that reflect the power of incumbency.
Among Cohen’s latest news is more than $1 million in grants to local homeless help centers, broken down as: $193,224 to Agape Child & Family Services, Inc.; $73,706 to Community Alliance for the Homeless; $477,985 to Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA); and $267,330 in two grants to the North Memphis Community Development Corporation.
On Friday, Cohen will host a public meeting with Jan Murphy, acting deputy under secretary for Health for Operations and Management, who is scheduled to visit the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.