Willie Herenton's race-baiting strategy to clinch a Congressional seat has garnered him attention in the New York Times.
In today's Times, reporter Robbie Brown explores Herenton's campaign for Rep. Steve Cohen's 9th Congressional District seat and describes how the former mayor is running a "blistering campaign" against Cohen, a fellow Democrat, with a "precarious hold on the majority black district."
Brown writes that the primary election in August 2010 "pits an unlikely officeholder -- a Jew in a deeply Christian region, a middle-age white man known for fighting for blacks and women -- against a prominent challenger. Already, the campaign has proved how deeply race still infuses much of politics in the South, even after the election of a black president."
The article quotes Herenton on a KWAM radio interview saying to "know Steve Cohen is to know that he really does not think much of African-Americans. He's played the black community well."
Brown also quotes Herenton's campaign manager, County Commissioner Sidney Chism, saying this is a seat "set aside for people who look like me."
"It wasn't set aside for a Jew or a Christian. It was set aside so that blacks could have representation," Chism says.
The blogosphere has already fired off reactions to the piece.
Matthew Yglesias, a fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and a blogger on thinkprogress.org, writes that while Cohen is always vulnerable as a white politician representing a majority-black district, overt appeals to racial solidarity find more success as a subtext rather than the text.
"Foregrounding the race issue so explicitly tends, I think, to make it seem as if you don't have a real rationale for your campaign," Yglesias writes.
What do you think, will Herenton's campaign strategy win votes given the district's demographics? Or, is the race-baiting just a cover-up for a campaign short on substance?