Over the weekend, I had the privilege of interviewing Charlotte Bergmann, a candidate for the 9th congressional district of Tennessee looking to unseat Representative Steve Cohen. Below is our exchange:
JF: Tell me about your background, where you grew up and how you got to where you are today.
Charlotte: I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. I attended school briefly in Indianapolis, Indiana, but most of my schooling was obtained through the Memphis public school system before busing was introduced. I was so proud of my father, now deceased, who was a Baptist preacher. I was never offended by being called a ‘PK’ (Preacher’s Kid). One gift that has followed me throughout my life is that he required us to memorize scripture.
I grew up in extreme poverty but I did not realize we were poor. At one point, when there were only eight children, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment. Nosey neighbors were the norm and the police were not raiding our community. Unfortunately, my parents divorced and my Mom remarried. We then became a family of twelve. Thankfully, that was when we moved into a two-bedroom apartment.
I am divorced with three children and 14 grandchildren, but that’s a long story for another time. I graduated from Christian Brothers University in Memphis, where the Brothers were able to begin classes with prayer. I attended school and worked an average of 14 hours. Day and night, during the last few years of my college career. Those days were character-building opportunities.
I retired from FedEx in 2000 as an Information Technology Project Manager. During that time I knew success and prosperity, and then poverty, and success, again. After networking and pulling myself up, all the while refusing government subsidies, I am now running a small business. We provide home health to seniors and I am able to sign the front of my few employee’s checks, thus providing them with the opportunity to work.
JF: How did you became conservative?
Charlotte: As a Black female, along with so many other Black Christians in my community, while growing up, we did not see the Democratic Party as liberal, thus our conservatism was not challenged. The liberalism developed an in-your-face challenge when it became known that Bill Clinton had no character and he wanted to change our military policies to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I was outraged, yet, I never thought that policy would only be the ‘camel’s nose in the tent.’
JF: Were you always of this worldview? If not, how did you get here? Did you grow up with it, or did you adopt it later in life?
Charlotte: No, I did not grow up with this view. I changed beginning in 1992, about the same time I started listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio during my lunch breaks.
JF: Taking out an entrenched incumbent like Steve Cohen, despite his insane behavior over the years, must be a really tough feat. What made you decide to take it on?
Charlotte: This will be my third effort to unseat Congressman Cohen. I felt that it was the right thing to do the first two times; however, after losing the second time, I swore I would never run for office again.
Little did I know God had other plans for me. One of my patients required a medical device, yet, while I had the flu, I felt it was imperative she get the device on that day. I set out in my car to deliver it and was struck by an 18-wheeler which sent my car into a hydroplane, not once but twice, and the car landed next to the guardrail, without striking it. Surprisingly, I only had the smallest dent on my vehicle and experienced a slight whiplash. I had just experienced a miracle. I sensed God was trying to get my attention, so I devoted my time to supporting President Trump. I ran in a district-wide election as his delegate and won.
When Congressman Cohen called my good friend, Star Parker, “ignorant,” and threatened the President with impeachment, I began receiving numerous phone calls and Facebook requests from people around my community and throughout the country, asking me to give them a better choice for the TN 9th District seat. Pastors and religious leaders, as well as my future constituents who felt unserved by Congressman Cohen, asked me to run one more time.
JF: But what about you specifically makes you the ideal candidate to defeat him? It seems insane that Cohen is untouchable given his many antics during his time in DC, especially him telling disgraced FBI agent Peter Strozk that he wanted to give him a Purple Heart, and essentially tweeting support for a military coup against the President after his Helsinki summit. But, he’s still here.
Charlotte: I had to smile as I read your question. I am amazed at how Cohen’s words are causing people to become outraged now, when they thought he was untouchable. Many are working hard to replace him. I have so much support and the voters are excited to know my history aligns itself with many of their experiences and beliefs.
During my past campaigns, I never received the endorsement of the Republican Party; however, I recently received the endorsement of our local county party and was also awarded the Statesman of the Year Award for 2018 from the state party.
I have met the President on several occasions and have asked him for his support. The great thing about this election is that the Junior Republican seat is in play, which gives the RNC reason to send a tremendous ground game to my county. They are canvassing for me as well as for Rep. Marsha Blackburn. This has NEVER happened before.
JF: Has the electorate ideologically changed at all that gives you a better chance here?
Charlotte: The election data and demographics have changed. People are moving out of the heavily Democrat district into more moderate areas, thus allowing them to send their children to better schools.
The RNC has sent staffers to implement a superior ground game. I am a strong campaigner and I am popular in my community. We have commissioned a very strong poll which should be completed after the Primary election which ends on August 2nd. Unlike before, I have dedicated team members; high-energy home-schooled, private school, millennials, as well as mature team members.
JF: Have you received any endorsements yet? If yes, how has it impacted the race? Do you take this as a sign of hope?
Charlotte: As I mentioned, both the Shelby County Republican Party and the State Republican Party have endorsed me. The RNC has sent staffers to work on the ground game with their powerful canvassing tool. The Federated Republican Women’s Club has endorsed me and I have received endorsements from leaders in the Black community, as well as some in the Jewish community. Our former County mayor endorsed me today. This is a new and powerful development not only for me but for our local political climate.
JF: That's really incredible, considering that as a Jew myself, most of my coreligionists tend to vote Democrat for reasons I will never understand, so that's really interesting as well.
What do you think of Trump so far? How about the GOP Congress?
Charlotte: I love…love…love our President. I understand him. I understood it would take a strong man with military leadership training to straighten out the mess we had gotten ourselves into during the last 20+ years. The icing on the cake is that he grew a backbone from interacting with business people and government from Queens, NY., and knowing how to handle politicians and the main stream media was nothing new for him. I knew when he came down the escalator on June 16, 2015 he would win. I must admit, one of my pastors who has a strong prayer life and a prophetic gift, predicted the outcome.
I am offended with the weakness found in our GOP Congress. They rent the veil of protection surrounding our President when they refuse to trust and support him. He never claimed to be a Politian. He is a businessman taking care of business. They hurt his policies as much as the Democrats with their resistant actions. The Democrats hide behind the Republican weakness.
JF: So true, which is why we need more people like you there. What do you think would be your main focus, or focuses, when you get to Washington?
Charlotte: I want to ensure I am able to serve on the strongest committee which will benefit my community. I plan to be relentless about policies which will make America the best, strongest, fearless nation in the world. I want to help advance the president’s America First agenda, as well as, make the Tax Cut and Jobs Act permanent. I look forward to reducing the amount of taxes we are spending in the current Healthcare Act.
I also plan to help push legislation to insure that healthcare is affordable and ultimately the responsibility of the doctor and the patient, without government intervention. I want to be the voice for the people in my district and I will work tirelessly to ensure that the money they pay in taxes is meaningful, and they should be able to see a greater amount in their paychecks or bank accounts.
JF: Why should your district vote for you?
Charlotte: I am the only candidate who can defeat Steve Cohen due to my name recognition, TV and radio interviews, and as a result of having challenged him before.
With the aid of my fellow Tennessee Congressional delegation, I can bring about improvements in my community in terms of focusing on the real issues which affect the average household. A good education will produce good paying jobs, which will lead to wealth, not just a $15 per hour job. I will also have a seat at the table with the real decision makers when it comes to representing my community. Your friend, Paige Rogers, has already attested to how different her community looks since it was redistricted into Cohen’s district, compared to when Marsha Blackburn was the representative.
My community has been voting for Congressman Cohen to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2007. Cohen is like a walking, talking, tweeting political target. He has lost focus of the needs of the district. He started shouting impeachment. Next, he tried to get the DOJ and Judiciary to advance a slow coup. Now he is openly advocating for a military coup. Unbelievable! He is a fake congressman who has forgotten about Memphis. He is in DC playing DC games while we're here in Memphis working and paying taxes.
JF: Sounds great! How can people seeing this contribute or help out your campaign?
Charlotte: I can gratefully receive contributions through my website.
JF: Great! Best of luck on the campaign trail!