Addressing the press after a long lunch that saw 41 of Brooklyn’s political leaders turn out to meet potential Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr., Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez sounded like a man who had already made up his mind.
“If you want to know how I feel about him, I would find it personally, personally-not as a county leader-if he decided to run, very difficult not to endorse him. That’s a personal endorsement, I do represent a very, very sophisticated strong Democratic club in North Brooklyn,” Mr. Lopez said, standing at the back of Cono & Sons, the Brooklyn boss’s go-to political meeting place.
Mr. Ford seemed to share that affection. “It’s amazing that it’s been a week. I feel like it’s been about two years, three years since we’ve known each other,” said the former Tennessee congressman, who first met Mr. Lopez the previous Friday.
State Senate Majority Leader John Sampson acknowledged that one of the questions posed to Mr. Ford was about same-sex marriage, which Mr. Ford now supports in spite of his previous votes in favor of a constitutional amendment that would ban such marriages. “I think I call it an evolution,” Mr. Sampson said. “I evolved myself from an individual who did not support same-sex marriage to an individual who brought it to the floor and voted for same-sex marriage.”
On a scale of 1 to 100, Mr. Lopez graded Mr. Ford a 98 on his responses, and cited the number of attendees who posed for photographs with Mr. Ford as an indication of his positive reception. The assemblyman also conceded that he had supported Caroline Kennedy during the appointment process and, in the past, had spoken to several potential challengers–including Carolyn Maloney.
“We’re at this point because we want to have a dialogue and we think we should have a dialogue and it’s not a back room deal,” Mr. Lopez said.
“Democracy is good,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Democracy is good. Mr. Ford was informative, articulate, very bright and certainly presented some arguments that give him the right-should he decide to run-to run.”
Earlier, Queens resident Jon Winkleman had interrupted the meeting in the restaurant with a sign that read: “ANTI CHOICE / ANTI GAY / SNAKE OIL HARRY / GO AWAY.” After being thrown out, Mr. Winkleman held an impromptu press conference on the sidewalk outside. “We’re going to be bird-dogging Harold Ford everywhere we can,” said Mr. Winkleman, who said he was not representing any particular organization.
When Cono’s owner came by the press table, one reporter asked whether he’d done that before. “Once or twice,” he said. “Usually for bachelor parties.”