By Heather Grossmann
MANHATTAN — Potential U.S. Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. may have found a friend in former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
This is good news for Ford, despite Spitzer’s disgraced status. Ford needs all the friends he can get right now in his uphill battle to earn the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in New York.
He has been discouraged from running for the seat, now held by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, by Democratic heavy hitters like Sen. Chuck Schumer. If he does run, he faces a very well-financed Gillibrand, who already has over $7 million in her campaign war chest.
Gillibrand was appointed by Gov.David Paterson to fill this seat last year after former Senator Hillary Clinton was appointment as U.S. Secretary of State.
During a radio show on Sunday, Spitzer said, “Her [Gillibrand’s ]views on issues are either wrong or too malleable,” and called the push to eliminate opposition to Gillibrand in the primary out of line.
Speaking to fears that Democrats could lose the senate seat to Republicans, Spitzer said that Gillibrand is “at the end of the day is one of the weakest candidates we could have.”
The former congressman from Tennessee said in a statement Friday that he would not be “bullied” or “intimidated” by Gillibrand allies looking to push him out of the race.
Ford also expressed his support of gay marriage for the first time on Monday morning, a further indicator that the former congressman is serious about running for Gillibrand's seat.
In a statement sent to several media outlets, Alan van Capelle, the head of the gay rights organization Empire State Pride Agenda, called Ford a "snake oil salesman" in reference to his flip flop on the marriage equality issue.
"You simply can’t claim to be pro-equality if you’ve twice voted to enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution," van Capelle said in reference to Ford's former support of a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Rep. Pete King, a Long Island Republican who was set to run against Gillibrand, dropped out of the race Monday morning.
Ford, 39, moved to New York three years ago after losing a Senate election in Tennessee. He has appeared several times on network television as a political commentator and works as a vice chairman at Merrill Lynch.