U.S. Rep. Steven Cohen has about a year until he’s up for reelection in his Memphis district, but the heat is already on. Challenger Willie Herenton, an African-American ex-mayor, is making the case that the area’s 60 percent black electorate needs a black congressman, as The New York Times reported yesterday. Until 2006, when Cohen won, the seat, created in a redistricting 30-odd years ago, was filled by the state’s only black representative—Harold Ford Jr, who succeeded his father. Herenton refused to speak to the Times about his opposition to Cohen, though his campaign manager was happy to talk. “This seat was set aside for people who look like me,” said Sidney Chism. “It wasn’t set aside for a Jew or a Christian. It was set aside so that blacks could have representation.” Cohen admits there’s a limit to how much he can understand the black experience, but says he nevertheless votes like a 45-year-old black woman. What he does know? “About being a minority and being discriminated against because of religion.”

Ex-Mayor of Memphis Starts Bid for Congress, Invoking Race in Campaign [NYT]