Cohen: Dems Didn't Want Me Because I'm Jewish

Topic came up in "backroom meetings," Cohen says

Friday, Mar 19, 2010  |  Updated 2:45 PM CDT
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2010 Illinois Election Guide

Scott Lee Cohen

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Former lieutenant governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen says the Democratic Party pushed him out of the general election in part because he's Jewish.

In a recently published interview with Chicago Magazine, Cohen said the party was uncomfortable with his heritage and his occupation.

"The elected officials would never say that they don’t want me because I’m Jewish. But it did come up in chatter and in backroom meetings. And a lot of the papers kept using the word 'pawnbroker.' You know, being a pawnbroker is predominantly a Jewish business. My opponents kept attacking, kept saying,'the millionaire pawnbroker,' which a lot of people took as saying, 'the millionaire Jew,'" he explained.

Cohen added that he's only the third Jewish person to ever win the nomination for a statewide office in Illinois (former governors Henry Horner and Sam Shapiro were the other two).

For days after the February 2 primary election, Cohen was dogged about his past, which included allegations he abused anabolic steroids, went into fits of rage, sexually abused his then-wife, got behind in child support payments and held a knife to the throat of a former girlfriend who is a convicted prostitute.

In the interview, he says he was open about his past transgressions but didn't continually talk about them.  He calls the allegation that he was behind in child support payments a "misunderstanding."

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