If he runs, Harold Ford Jr.’s will be challenging Kirsten Gillibrand, but in explaining his rational for running, Ford sometimes talks about his problems with both senators from New York.
During an interview with Fred Dicker in Albany this morning, Ford was asked what Gillibrand has done to warrant being replaced.
“I believe both senators should do a better job of putting New York State and New York City first,” said Ford.
“So, run against [Chuck] Schumer,” said Dicker.
Ford said both senators “ought to be more independent” and for them to “understand that you’re not elected to the United States Senate to be a parakeet or to take instructions from the Democratic leadership.”
Schumer is a tireless workaholic who crushed his last opponent, and is considered by most to be unbeatable at the polls. But his support for the Senate’s health care plan is opening him up to criticism that speculates he’s more interested in becoming majority leader than a devoted representative of New York’s interests.
The interview was Ford’s first on-air time with Dicker, a necessity for anyone running statewide. He spoke to Dicker during his first trip to Albany.
Ford, who more than once referred to his host as “Mr. Dicker,” said elected officials in Washington were not heading the concerns of voters, and that “both” senators from New York are not looking out for New York’s interests as well as they should be.
Ford, a former congressman from Tennessee, is on a 30-day leave of absence from his job at Merril Lynch. He seemed to go out of his way to declare unilateral opposition to President Obama’s plan to tax banks in order to recoup money spent in the TARP bailout program.
“It was a page long,” Ford said of the president’s proposal. “It’s hard to react to the page. I think the concept is something I could support but the specifics, I don’t understand what a tax on the banks–what you seek to accomplish.”
He said the banks, regardless of their past mistakes, are vital to New York’s economy. “But I give the president the benefit of the doubt and want to allow him to lay out his plan fully,” he said.
On same-sex marriage, Dicker characterized Ford as a current supporter, and wondered aloud, “Didn’t Chuck Schumer just flip-flop on gay marriage?”
“Schumer did as well,” said Ford.
“And I think Kirsten Gillibrand did too,” said Dicker.
“Probably more aggressively and more fundamentally than I did,” said Ford. “I’ve always been for civil unions.”
Ford then said voters were more concerned with economic issues, and that Democratic leaders like Senator Robert Menendez, head of the DSCC, “and Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand to paint me as some southern zealot is not going over well with overs. And frankly, it’s causing Democrats in Washington to lose seats.”
UPDATE: Gilibrand spokesman Glen Caplin catches Ford on an apparent misstatement of his record, and emails:
“New Yorkers are rightly concerned by a former Tennessee politician
and current Wall Street insider whose extreme record in Congress is
out of step with New York values. Harold Ford Jr. voted twice to
enshrine discrimination in the U.S. Constitution by banning gay
marriage, and he proudly said he’s never been pro-choice. That’s not a
smear, it’s his record. Kirsten Gillibrand has aggressively fought to
protect a woman’s right to choose and establish equal benefits for
same sex couples.”