Tennessee Senate: Corker Goes After Ford's Family
In the increasingly close Senate race to fill the seat being vacated by current Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republicans are increasingly homing in on one soft spot for current Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr.: his long political pedigree. Although former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker pledged initially to leave Ford's family members out of the race, he attacked them bluntly in a recent debate and a TV ad launched last week.
Ford's father, Harold Ford Sr., served as a congressman in the district currently represented by Ford for 22 years; seven other Fords have held political office, including positions in the state Senate.
But over the years, three Fords have been indicted. One relative, Harold Jr.'s father, was acquitted by a jury. Harold Jr.'s uncles faired differently: One was convicted of insurance fraud, while another is currently awaiting trial on federal bribery charges.
In an October 10 debate held in Chattanooga, Corker focused on Ford Sr.'s decision to become a lobbyist for Fannie Mae after leaving Congress, suggesting a possible conflict of interest. It came only three days after he publicly accused Ford's family of being involved in "machine-type politics."
"When you went on the [House] Financial Services Committee," Corker said to Ford Jr., "why was it that within 60 days your dad became the registered lobbyist for Fannie Mae to lobby you in Washington … ? Why was itwith all the things that have happened with Fannie Mae, all the irregularities, all the billions of dollars that have been lostwhy is it that you continued while you were on that committee to talk about what a wonderful job they'd been doing?"
Ford responded to that charge by telling his opponent, "Attacking my father has no place in this campaign."
"My father is too good of a person, too decent of a person, and raised me too right to do any of the things that my opponent [charges]," said Ford, a bit flustered. "I didn't think he could stoop any lower into the gutter than he already has in this campaign, but it looks as if rock bottom hasn't hit there yet."
Later he added, "Neither my dad nor any member of my family has ever lobbied me, nor would I allow them to."
The focus on Ford's family continued last week, when Corker unleashed a new ad, entitled "Memphis Man on the Street," focused on what presumably "regular folk" in Memphis, Ford's hometown, said about the prospective Senate candidate, who has served that area in Congress since 1997.
"Our mayor says the Ford family is trying to tie up every political spot in Tennessee," one man alleges. Another adds, "The Ford family business is politics."
Other lines in the ad refer to Ford's upbringing in Washington, D.C., while his father was in Congress. ("Went to some prep school in D.C., didn't he?") Or they focus on his movie star good looksPeople chose Ford as one of "America's 50 Most Beautiful People" in 2001.
"Whoo-eee," says one man. "He sure looks good on TV!"
In a sharply worded release in response to the ad, Ford campaign spokesman Michael Powell said Corker "has proven how morally and intellectually bankrupt his campaign has become. He has no ideas, he has no vision, and now we know he has no integrity."
One of the latest polls of the race shows that the race is still very tight.