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Tennessee's Harold Ford Jr. eyes N.Y. Senate race

Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr.

Harold Ford Jr. came within a whisker of winning the Tennessee Senate race in 2006, foiled by a Republican Party ad in which a white actress said she had met the African American congressman at a Playboy party. “Harold, call me,” she cooed.

Three years ago Ford moved to New York, becoming vice chairman of Merrill Lynch. Now, according to the New York Times, a group of influential Democrats is urging the former congressman to consider challenging Democrat Kirsten E. Gillibrand. Appointed to fill the term of Hillary Clinton after the former first lady was tapped by President Obama to as secretary of State, Gillibrand lacks the star power that New Yorkers have come to expect in their senators.

For his part, the 39-year-old Ford said he plans to weigh the race over the next few months. He was coy during an appearance today on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," saying only that he was consulting with backers.

Among the rooting section: financier Steven Rattner and his wife, Maureen White, prolific Democratic fundraisers. “Maureen and I worked hard for Harold in his last race because we think the world of him,” Rattner told The Times. “He has extraordinary drive and intelligence and will excel at anything that he chooses to do.”

Other key backers include New York Board of Regents Chairman Merryl Tisch, whose husband, James Tisch, is chief executive of Loews Corp.; and HBO co-President Richard Plepler. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ex-Republican who has publicly tangled with Gillibrand, is said to be open to the idea.

Ford, who followed his father's footsteps to the House, has a reputation as a formidable fundraiser, which could spell trouble for Gillibrand, who as of October had raised $5.5 million. As chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, he could appeal to independents. As an African American, he could attract national donors. And as a telegenic member of the media's chattering classes, he would get lots of attention.

As the Village Voice put it this morning, Ford likes to come across as "the hottest cat to come out of Memphis since Elvis."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski / Reuters

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Comments () | Archives (4)

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I would ask how he plans to get around the fact that he doesn't live in New York and can only pretend to represent the people of the state, but that didn't stop Hillary Clinton. Oh well...

Although Harold Ford would make an excellent NY senatorial candidate, it is a sad commentary on our political system today that someone relatively new like Kirsten Gillibrand should be cast aside because she "lacks the star power" necessary to continue in her NY Senate seat.

Andrea
NY 23rd District

Forget it Harold. You are nothing more than a tool of Wall St. Go back to Tennessee.

Harold Ford Jr. lost the Senate race in Tennessee becuase he ran as a Democrat while catering to Republican voters. Ford openly and repeatedly said he did NOT support the DNC national party platform and therefore he lost much of the Democratic base support. A a congressman he lied to the Gay Community by promising he would never vote for the Federal Mariage Amendemt and then without explainatrion he voted FOR it, TWICE!
We can only hope the voters in New York will recognize his duplicity. In my opinion Ford is very much like Joe Liberman and blows with the wind to seek votes anywhere he can; while having no substance and no integrity.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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