Let Harold Ford run
It's times like these I wish I were back slurping eggs for breakfast at the Regency in Manhattan. I'm sure the home of the power breakfast was abuzz this morning over Harold Ford's op-ed on page 5 of the New York Post. "It's true," the former Democratic representative from Tennessee wrote, "I am strongly considering running for the United States Senate." The swirl of speculation has gone on for more than a week. But what started as a tease has turned into a full come-on. And I hope he follows through.
This is not an endorsement of the man who lost his run for the Senate from his native Tennessee in 2006. But just as today's editorial pushes D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray to run against Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, I would like to see Ford get into the race to give New York State primary voters a choice in who represents them in Washington. As Ford says, "New Yorkers deserve a free election."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand represented New York's 20th congressional district before Gov. David Paterson tapped her last year to succeed Hillary Clinton when the latter became Secretary of State. Gillibrand's selection was an ugly spectacle that highlighted the problem with replacing senators by gubernatorial appointment.
Ford faces a lot of hurdles on the path to snatching the seat from Gillibrand. The least of his worries is the carpetbagger complaint. New York is the state that sent a Clinton and a Kennedy (Robert F.) to Washington. Ford has to contend with critics who have pointed to his past stances on and present-day buffing of his record on a woman's right to choose and same-sex marriage. And some question whether he has the intellectual chops to follow in the footsteps of Clinton and the giant she replaced in the senate: Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Chris Cilizza highlights some other problems for Ford today in The Fix.
But Gillibrand also has hurdles. She's little known in the state, which, she acknowledged to Elizabeth Benjamin of the New York Daily News, is an issue. She also has switched positions on key issues since her Senate selection. What's not a problem for Gillibrand is fund raising. She has raised $7.1 million over the past year and has $5 million on hand. The goal is to scare off potential opponents.
Combine a money lead with the political muscle of the White House and the state's senior senator, Chuck Schumer, to bump challengers out of the way, and Gillibrand should still win this November. But her hold on the seat is not assured. Ford wouldn't be commanding such attention now or have a campaign tested team behind him now if there weren't considerable discontent with Gillibrand. This is a battle that ballots, not bosses, should decide.
| January 12, 2010; 2:56 PM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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