Former Tennessee Congressman Harold E. Ford Jr. says he is "strongly considering running'' against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in this fall's Democratic primary.
In a column published in today's New York Post, Ford outlines his qualifications and positions as a pro-choice gun-safety advocate who supports same-sex marriage and understands the distinctive issues facing the Empire State.
"I know New York is unique. No other state is so engaged in the great issues facing our nation," Ford writes. "Defeating terror isn't a talking point in New York, it's a way of life. Rebuilding an economy isn't an item on an issue checklist, it is what New York does -- and must do."
Ford, who's 38, took a job with Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York after losing the 2006 Tennessee Senate race. He is also the chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, teaches university courses and is a political commentator on MSNBC.
Gov. David Paterson appointed Gillibrand after Hillary Rodham Clinton left the Senate to become secretary of state for the Obama administration.
Last Friday, a Ford spokesman issued a statement saying that Ford wouldn't be "bullied or intimidated" as he considered running against Gillibrand, whose allies have already been discreetly urging Ford to stay out of the race.
Power player Sen. Chuck Schumer, widely seen as Gillibrand's closest, most influential ally, met with Ford last week to try to dissuade him from entering the race, two people familiar with the meeting told The New York Times.
The White House also backs Gillibrand. And Ford spokesman David Goldin told The Associated Press the Obama administration is in danger of "obstructing a free election.''
Goldin was referring to a remark by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Monday. Gibbs said "stay tuned" when asked about possible efforts to clear the field for Gillibrand.
Other Gillibrand supporters, including Rep. Jerry Nadler, Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York and the Human Rights Campaign, have released statements criticizing Ford's record in Tennessee, where he was elected in 1997 and served 10 years.
Gillibrand adviser Jefrey Pollock denied that the statements were "bullying,'' saying they were informing New Yorkers of "someone who has embraced an anti-choice, anti-LGBT rights, and anti-immigrant record.''
In the article published Tuesday, Ford denies he is anti-choice, saying he has supported a woman's right to choose since he entered politics nearly 15 years ago and that "any assertions to the contrary are false."
The former Tennessee congressman also maintains he's a staunch advocate for gay marriage.
"From the moment I arrived in Congress, I supported civil unions," Ford wrote. "Like New York's senior senator, after listening to and participating in the national conversation about full equality and fairness, I support same-sex marriage."
And he says he looks forward to the debate about who should be elected to statewide office.
"In my three years here, I've learned that New York does not go along to get along. New York does not follow. New York is where the nation learned to lead, build and grow," Ford wrote. "In the spirit of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who once held this Senate seat, I hope we all will welcome a debate about who's best to work for New York."