Harold Ford, Step out of Senator Gillibrand’s Way

harold fordThe political controversy of the week is whether former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford will try to stage a contest to battle Kirsten Gillibrand for her seat in the U.S. Senate.

You may recall there was a little uproar over her appointment to fill Hillary Clinton’s remaining Senate term when Hillary headed for the State Department.  The presumed successor was initially Caroline Kennedy. For reasons that never really came to light, she took her name out of the running and Gillibrand, who was a New York Congresswoman at the time, got the nod.

Many Democrats welcomed her and found the choice a strategic one — she’s liberal on social issues, but was more center of the road on things like immigration and more to the right on gun control.

So as reports are now circulating that Ford, who is a muck at Merrill Lynch and head of the Democratic Leadership Council, is going to challenge Gillibrand, I feel the political hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

It turns out that a handful of New York City power brokers are dissatisfied with Gillibrand and are willing to put their money on the line to bankroll Ford.  Why?  Well, it’s not like any of them are really talking about it, but some of the pieces to put together are these:

1.  Steve Rattner is a pal and advisor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.  Gillibrand, who was in the House of Representatives at the time,  voted against the Wall Street bail out.  Ford works on Wall Street.  This one isn’t rocket science.  At the time of the vote, Gillibrand was quoted as saying:

Gillibrand said it is “concerning” to allow Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson to have unrestricted control over $700 billion.

What’s to stop this investment bank that he’s just hired from giving special deals to the employer that’s going to employ him after he’s done, or to his previous employer, or to someone whom he’s friends with? she said. If you don’t have any oversight and accountability, well then there’s an enormous opportunity for fraud and waste of taxpayer dollars.

2. Michael Bloomberg’s  candidate for Clinton’s vacated Senate seat was Caroline Kennedy, not Gillibrand.  Plus, he has been openly unhappy about Gillibrand’s position on gun control and has been vocal about his disagreement with her support of health care reform in terms of the potential financial impact it will have on New York City.

3. HBO executive Richard Plepler and wife Maureen White, finance chair of the DNC, are big political donors themselves who backed Ford’s failed Senate bid in Tennessee. Can we say ‘kingmaker?’

So should we care?  Is any Democrat in a storm OK in the Senate these days, especially on the heels of Democratic Senators Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan announcing their retirements?

Not for this progressive mama. While Gillibrand was a member of the Blue Dog conservatives in the House, she is an advocate and supporter of reproductive rights. Ford?  Not so much.  There are reports that he was pro-choice at one time, but more recently has described himself as a pro-life Democrat. The Republicans are just waiting for more Democrats to leave their seats. I don’t want to imagine the field day the GOP will have if Ford tries to horn in and make it an open race, rather than one against an incumbent.

Gillibrand, a mother of two young children,  also has recently been quite vocal in her support and activism on food safety and toxins.  I’m not sure where Ford stands on that, but historically women have led the call for a larger government role in food safety when it comes to our children.  And really, when it comes right down to it, no attention is going to be paid to women’s issues and how legislation impacts women and children until we have — and keep — more women in elected office.

I’m not saying Gillibrand is a perfect candidate in my world.  But given the dearth of women in the Senate (18 out of 100 is not so fine), and in light of the fact that Ford’s background and involvement of certain supporters suggest he’ll be a bigger fan of Wall Street guys, who are still getting fat bonuses even after what they did to our economy,  rather than those of us trying to make ends meet, we need to be paying attention to this race, even when if we don’t live in New York.

Harold, if I were you, I’d think about keeping your day job and that fun little gig on Morning Joe.

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11 Responses to “Harold Ford, Step out of Senator Gillibrand’s Way”

  1. Lawyer Mama Says:

    Sing it, sister!

  2. Corina Says:

    He needs to back himself up and let all of us intelligent, liberal women have a strong voice in the Senate. There are enough power brokers there already. We need someone to represent the rest of us.

  3. PunditMom Says:

    The thing that’s troubling to me is that it’s not just him — but a group of wealthy people using their money to try to take out someone doing a good job for women. It’s just the latest example of why more women need to contribute to political candidates. We may not be millionaires like Bloomberg, et al., but if we band together to support candidates financially, that will be the biggest step toward getting more women in office! ;)

  4. Billy Brisolara Says:

    Joanne, I live in Memphis,TN and Ford was our congressman from the 9th district until he decided to run for senate against Corker. Fortunately we got a better congressman named Steve Cohen out of the deal.
    Ford voted for the amendment to the constitution to ban gay marriage.
    He voted for the awful bankruptcy bill.
    He is against a woman’s right to choose.
    He told a group of lawyers in Memphis that he loves George Bush.
    This is all documented in our local newspapers.
    He seems to have severed his ties to Tennessee because of his family’s reputation (mainly aunt and uncle). It is my opinion that money seems to inspire him.

  5. PunditMom Says:

    Here are some more fabulous links with information about Ford. One of the most disturbing factoids? Ann Coulter has dubbed him her favorite Democrat and he voted to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Need I say more?

    http://thealbanyproject.com/diary/7777/harold-ford-on-the-issues

    http://campaigndiaries.com/2010/01/08/ford-considers-senate-bid/

  6. Florinda Says:

    Billy got here before I did with comments re: “Junior’s” Congressional tenure – I was living in Memphis during part of that time as well. The Ford family is Memphis’ own political soap opera. Ford Jr. may be putting some geographical distance between them, but his politics are still more Tennessee than New York (even though Tennessee wouldn’t elect him Senator. Hmmm…).

    I don’t really have a problem with a fair fight, but a primary contest between a non-elected, barely-freshman Senator and a hand-picked, power-backed rival doesn’t really sound like one to me.

  7. Jill Miller Zimon Says:

    This post needs to make the rounds! Thanks for writing it.

  8. Daisy Says:

    Thanks for the post! I agree; we need to be concerned, whether we live in New York or not.

  9. Gloria Feldt Says:

    Well said, Joanne.

    And the audacity of Ford to complain that Gillibrand’s supporters are “bullying” him when he is pulling this kind of power play to try to force her out. I mean, really. Fortunately, Kirsten is not the kind of person to take such, well, bullying, and she’ll stand her ground admirably.

  10. Paula Says:

    Thanks for the head’s up; it’s a been a traumatic year for me and i’ve not been able to keep up and most recently, figure how to help keep our NEEDED Democratic majority iremain ntact with the recently announed retireships in ’10.


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