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Harold Ford Jr. Will Not Challenge Kirsten Gillibrand for Senate Seat

By Heather Grossmann | March 1, 2010 10:35pm | Updated on March 2, 2010 3:20pm
Harold Ford Jr. will not run for U.S. Senate in New York.
Harold Ford Jr. will not run for U.S. Senate in New York.
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AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

By Heather Grossmann

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — Harold Ford Jr. will not challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in this year's Democratic primary, he said in an Op-Ed posted to the New York Times Web site Monday Night.

Ford decided against entering the race because, although he thought he could win, he didn't want to provoke a divisive primary battle that could help the Republican Party claim the seat, he wrote. Ford's column comes after months of speculation about his candidacy and sniping between he and Gillibrand.

"If I run, the likely result would be a brutal and highly negative Democratic primary — a primary where the winner emerges weakened and the Republican strengthened," Ford's Op Ed reads. "I refuse to do anything that would help Republicans win a Senate seat in New York, and give the Senate majority to the Republicans."

Ford spent weeks traveling the state to meet with party leaders and advocacy groups. Over that time, the former Tennessee congressman took shots at Gillibrand, calling her a "tobacco apologist." She refers to his politicking as "the Tennessee two-step."

In the column, Ford said that "insiders" tried to "bully" him out of the race, but he said he understood that the reason behind their "heavy-handed tactics" was that "They’re nervous. New Yorkers are clamoring for change."

The piece touted the discussion that his potential candidacy had stimulated in New York politics and positioned Ford as an independent Democrat — presumely unlike those in office and in the race — leaving the door wide open for his future candidacy, anywhere.

"I am not going to stop speaking out on behalf of policies that I think are right — regardless of ideology, party or political expediency," Ford said. "I plan to continue taking this message across our state and across our nation."

The piece is expected to be published in Tuesday's newspaper.

Gillibrand's prodigious political machine issued a victory speech even before Ford's Op-Ed was published online.

“Senator Gillibrand has shown that she takes a back seat to no one when it comes to fighting for New York and no matter who her opponent is this fall, she will wage a vigorous campaign on her strong record and her vision for New York," Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin said in a statement.