Divide and Conquer: White Man Wins Democratic Primary in Predominantly Black Congressional District

In the Tennessee Democratic primary earlier this month, moderate African-American Congressman Harold Ford easily won the nomination for the U.S. Senate. He will face GOP candidate Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, this coming November. The seat is currently held by Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is contemplating a run for the presidency in 2008. Ford is a decided underdog in the race for the Senate seat. On his campaign website, we note that Ford does not address educational issues.

In the race for Ford’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, 13 black candidates entered the Democratic primary. In addition, there was one white candidate, state senator Steve Cohen. With the black vote heavily divided, Cohen won the Democratic primary with only 29 percent of the vote. On his website, Cohen’s only focus on education concerns his support for the state’s HOPE scholarships, a merit-based program that disproportionately benefits white students. Cohen will face a white GOP candidate in the fall.

There is still hope for blacks to hold this seat in Congress. Congressman Ford’s brother, Jake Ford, has filed as an independent candidate in the race. Because the electorate is predominantly black and the Ford name is well known in the district, a victory by an independent candidate is a real possibility.