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Cohen beats back Memphis challenge

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A Jewish incumbent in Tennessee handily defeated a bid by a primary challenger after a campaign that featured charges of anti-Semitism.

Jewish incumbent Steve Cohen is seeking his second term in the 9th Congressional District, in Memphis. Initial media reports showed him beating back challenger Nikki Tinker, an African American lawyer, by a 4-1 margin in the Democratic primary.

The Tinker campaign pulled an ad from YouTube this week charging that while Cohen visits “our churches, clapping his hands and tapping his feet … he’s the only senator who thought our kids shouldn’t be allowed to pray in school,” referring to a 1997 vote Cohen made as a state senator.

Another ad juxtaposed Cohen with a white-clad Ku Kux Klansman. Cohen is one of only two whites representing majority black districts in Congress.

Emily’s List, which had been supporting Tinker, condemned the ads Wednesday. So did Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

“These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics, and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee,” Obama said.

Earlier this year, a Tinker supporter and a minister distributed literature in the district saying that “Cohen and the Jews HATE Jesus” and urging the defeat of an “opponent of Christ and Christianity.” Similar fliers from the same minister have circulated in the past few weeks.

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