The testimonials on Dr. Isaac Richmond’s campaign website painting him as the “most qualified” candidate to represent the 9th Congressional District are indicative of his influence on those who share his commitment to fighting injustice and inequality. But can that influence be translated to a wider audience that can send him to Washington?
“Dr. Richmond, beyond question, is the best, the most capable, and the most qualified man to represent the people as U.S. Congressman for the 9th district,” said Joe Green, director, West Tennessee District of the Commission on Race and Religion (CORR) and Richmond’s campaign manager.
The nearly 40-year-old civil rights organization has been a bully pulpit from which Richmond’s campaign for Congress was launched. He is challenging the incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen and attorney Ricky E. Wilkins for the opportunity to represent the 9th Congressional District on the Aug. 7th Democratic primary ballot. The winner will face Charlotte Bergmann, the Republican nominee, in the general election on Nov. 4th.
“I feel strongly that there must be a change in the political direction in the African-American community in the 9th Congressional District,” said Richmond, 75, national director of CORR. “And that would mean, as I say from my heart, electing a man who has a proven record…and will stand for the people in the U.S. Congress.”
A demonstrator and in-your-face activist, Richmond is making his fourth run for Congress. His latest attempt, however, might be considered by those who keep tabs on candidates during election cycles as just another futile attempt. Here’s why:
Richmond was unsuccessful as an independent in two prior congressional races against former congressman Harold Ford Sr. when Ford was dominating Memphis politics. And he was unsuccessful a third time in the 2008 Democratic primary when he vowed to “take Cohen out in the primary.”
Richmond’s vision of what the district should look like from an African-American perspective has not changed since he first sought public office. He is unwavering when it comes to campaign logistics and employs a grassroots approach and unorthodox methods when stumping for votes.
On any given day Richmond and his supporters may be seen in the community expressing their views on what they adjudge as slow progress for African Americans. They also speak candidly about race, and the race, and pass out handbills.
It would not be unusual to see Richmond with a bullhorn to get people’s attention. So far he’s communicating via handbill on the campaign stump.
“We plan to put 40,000 flyers on the street. We got a message and I’m challenging the candidates to bring forth their platform,” said Richmond, choosing to forego the attention-grabbing yard sign traditionally used by candidates to increase their notoriety because fundraising has been a challenge.
Whether Richmond’s challenge to his opponents is accepted or not, he said he’ll focus on changing the political and social landscape in the 9th district; and if he’s elected, he’ll initiate those changes and see them implemented.
Some of those initiatives include the following:
• Demand that 50 percent of all federal funds and tax dollars coming to Memphis be earmarked for building construction, business development, and jobs creation;
• Introduce legislation to eradicate crime and poverty in the innercity;
• Reverse foreign aid into domestic aid to improve the social welfare of the district’s citizens through educational advancement, economic development, including strengthening the overall infrastructure of the district;
• Call for federal funds to improve MATA bus services throughout the district;
• Reform the U.S. immigration policy; and,
• Fight to restore workers’ rights to organize and unionize.
Richmond is also pushing to enact a federal bill – H.R. 40 – which has languished in Congress since U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) first introduced it in January of 1989. The bill acknowledges and establishes a commission to study slavery. If the bill were signed into law, “the commission would make recommendations to Congress on the appropriate remedies to redress the harm inflicted on living African Americans.”
The issue is a concern of Maxine Thomas, a Richmond supporter who tried to broach the subject in a question to Richmond during a candidate forum last Sunday (July 20) at St. Augustine Catholic Church in South Memphis. Due to time restraints, Richmond was not allowed to respond.
“I could’ve turned the place out,” Thomas told a reporter after taking her seat.
The alleged slight was no surprise to Richmond, surmising on more than one campaign outing that “they’re (media) trying to frame the 9th Congressional District as a contest between the man in office (Cohen) and, I suppose, (Ricky) Wilkins.”
Cohen and Wilkins have received the lion’s share of media attention and more campaign contributions. According to opensecrets.org, Cohen had $525,786 on hand as of July 22; Wilkins, $241,090. No contributions for Richmond have been reported.
“You got to have a certain amount of votes to win an election, and I’m working on getting the black vote,” Richmond said. “If money buys it (the election), then money is going to rule.”
Richmond noted that winning the congressional seat would be an extension of his service to the community from Capitol Hill. He remains steadfast in his convictions even if people get a little timid after hearing him speak “the truth.”
“The truth will enlighten our people,” he said, “and if they are enlightened, they’re going to vote our way.”
Early voting began July 18 and ends Aug. 2. Richmond is asking voters to “choose a man for the people who is un-bought and un-bossed, who stands up for the people, who speaks up for the people, and who fights for the economic rights of the people.”
About Dr. Isaac Richmond…
Dr. Isaac Richmond, founder of CORR, has fought for over 30 years to right what he believes is wrong with society. According to his website, he has “dedicated his life to fighting for the people” locally, nationally and internationally.
Richmond graduated from Douglas High School in 1957. He received a B.A. Degree in History and Secondary Education in 1961 from Lane College in Jackson, Tenn.; a Master’s in Religious Education (M.R.E.) in 1963 and a Master’s of Divinity (M. Div.) Degree in 1974, both from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Ga.; and a Doctorate of Ministry (D. Min.) Degree in 1976 from the Atlanta Theological Association.
Richmond has held a number of positions throughout his career. He and the Inner-City Housing/Community Development, Inc., which he oversees, are currently rehabbing a two-story, six-unit apartment building in South Memphis.