Ford shifts states, stands in political quest

Ford shifts states, stands in political quest

February 1st, 2010 by Matt Wilson in Politics National

Harold Ford Jr.'s claims to be "pro-choice" on abortion and supportive of civil unions for same-sex couples have sparked criticism that he has flip-flopped since saying he might run for U.S. Senate this year in New York.

Mr. Ford, a five-term Democratic congressman from Memphis now living in New York City, is considering challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in the Democratic primary there.

Some of the 39-year-old Mr. Ford's statements in New York have caused liberal groups to raise eyebrows.

A YouTube video from Brave New Films, the documentarians behind films about Fox News and Walmart, labels Mr. Ford as "Ann Coulter's favorite Democrat," in reference to the conservative commentator and author. It includes clips of Mr. Ford stating opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.

The video closes with a picture of Mr. Ford and large text stating, "Share this video with every New Yorker you know."


* Age: 39

* Served in Congress from 1997-2007

* Has served as chairman for Democratic Leadership Council since 2007

* Has been an analyst/contributor for Fox News and MSNBC

In addition, NARAL Pro-Choice New York has posted a video under the title "Harold Ford is not pro-choice."

Mr. Ford was unavailable to comment for this story, but in 2006, while running against Republican Bob Corker for an open U.S. Senate seat in the Volunteer State, he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press he is "pro-life."

"I don't know how you can't be pro-life," he said.

Asked to describe in what way he is "pro-life," Mr. Ford said, "I love children. I love making sure they get child care. I love making sure they get a good school to go to."

Earlier this month, Mr. Ford told the New York Daily news he would "have a hard time going to my mama's house and have a hard time going home to my wife's home, our home, if I were not pro-choice."

Also in a 2006 Times Free Press editorial board meeting, Mr. Ford referred to his opposition to same-sex marriage, stating he was "not a liberal."

"I don't deal with political labels," Mr. Ford said. "And if you do, I don't know how many liberals support the public display of the Ten Commandments, who are opposed to same-sex marriage, who don't support amnesty (for illegal immigrants), who believe in building a wall (between the United States and Mexico), and who head up the faith-based caucus in the Congress."

This month in an appearance on NBC's "Today" show, Mr. Ford said he has supported civil unions for same-sex couples since 1996.

"It's a fiction between the two," he said. "Believe me, my support of fairness and equality long existed before I moved to New York."

He said the only change in his position was in "the language."

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said it's clear Mr. Ford's positions have moved left since he lost the 2006 election to Sen. Corker and moved to New York.

"The charges are true," Dr. Sabato said. "He's willing to take that criticism because his likely opponent, Kirsten Gillibrand, did precisely the same thing."

Dr. Sabato said Sen. Gillibrand was a blue-dog Democrat in a conservative district in upstate New York but became "a whole lot more liberal" once she took a statewide seat.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester earlier this month called Mr. Ford "a bold, independent and progressive leader."

"If you examine his record in Congress, it was pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-environment and pro-civil rights," he said.

Mr. Ford has said he will decide by the end of February whether to run in the Empire State, according to The New York Times. But the newspaper reported that friends of Mr. Ford said "he was more likely than not to enter the race, and that they expected a decision well before his self-imposed deadline."

Mr. Ford has taken a 30-day leave from his job as an executive at Bank of America as he travels across New York meeting with voters, the Times reported. He also has reserved and other campaign Web sites, according to The Times.

One thing that seems to have been decided is that Mr. Ford probably won't seek office again in Tennessee, said Bob Swansbrough, a political science professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"I'd be very surprised to see him come back and make a bid," Dr. Swansbrough said.