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Poll: Harold Ford Jr. Poses Threat to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in Primary

By Heather Grossmann | January 15, 2010 3:07pm | Updated on January 15, 2010 3:05pm
Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., left, looks on with New York State Senator Malcom Smith, second from left, Rev. Al Sharpton, second from right, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, right.
Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., left, looks on with New York State Senator Malcom Smith, second from left, Rev. Al Sharpton, second from right, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, right.
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AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

By Heather Grossmann

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — Harold Ford Jr. poses a serious threat to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in this year’s Senate primary if he decides to run, a new poll shows.

Gillibrand leads Ford in the potential match up with support from 43 percent of New York's democratic voters to his 24 percent, according to a Marist Poll released Friday.

But with one third of registered Democrats unsure of which candidate they'll support, the Senate seat is up for grabs.

Ford has not decided to run for U.S. Senate yet, although all signs point toward a run.

Ford has been making aggressive moves on both New York voters and politicians. He penned an Op-Ed earlier in the week stating his interest in Gillibrand's seat and reinforcing his current New York-friendly positions on gay marriage — he now supports it — and gun control (a sore spot for Gillibrand).

On Friday afternoon, he met Manhattan Democratic Chairman Sen. Keith Wright for lunch at Sylvia's, a famed Harlem eatery.

Wright spent the previous evening hosting Gillibrand at a Manhattan Democratic Committee meeting with Harlem State Sen. Bill Perkins and several other local pols.

Gov. David Paterson, a supporter of Gillibrand's, also stopped by the meeting, but an endorsement from the committee has not yet been announced.

Much has been made of the former Tennessee congressman's relatively recent arrival in New York — he moved three years ago — and the fact that he just registered to vote here in late November, missing the election by a few weeks.

But Friday's poll said that 48 percent of New Yorkers don't care if a candidate is not from New York and 9 percent of voters are more in favor of out-of-town candidates.

Still, name recognition will be a challenge for Ford. The Marist poll indicates that 52 percent of New York voters have either never heard of him or have no opinion of him.

"Ford who?" Sen. Bill Perkins joked about the potential candidate, saying that he'd have to do some more research on who Ford was and what he stood for.

Former Public Advocate Mark Green, chatting at a breakfast in honor of Martin Luther King Friday morning, said that he didn't see an ideological difference between Gillibrand and Ford. 

Green said that Gillibrand had the advantage of incumbency, but Ford had an "anti-insider narrative" going for him — in addition to his charm.

"I suspect he'll be competitive if he can raise three to six million," Green said of Ford's chances.