Mayors Wharton and Herenton held a joint press conference yesterday to endorse State Senator Steve Cohen in the 9th District Congressional race yesterday. The endorsement was not a huge surprise--- I think most of us expected it.
But Herenton scored HUGE in it. You can watch his full comments by clicking here and clicking the video links on the left side of the page. Some choice excerpts from his words to the media after the press conference:
"How can anybody in their right mind can think that Jake Ford is better qualified to serve this 9th District than Steve Cohen? It makes no sense to me."
"I have nothing against Jake personally, but his qualifications are nowhere appropriate for him to represent the 9th Congressional district when compared to Steve Cohen. I mean, that's real simple."
"I've resented for decades the politics of the Ford family. The family seems to think that they should have a monopoly on all elected positions in this state and this county. I've always rejected that."
Had Harold actually been willing to do what his supporters expect all of us to do (Swallow the distaste and support the duly nominated candidate), yesterday's press conference would barely have caused a ripple.
Instead, he handed Mayor Herenton a knife to plunge repeatedly into the heart of not only his own campaign, but the political fortunes of his entire family.
For once in his long career, Herenton is in a position to make himself the good guy in the story by backing not only the legitimate Democratic nominee, but the only qualified man in the race. With his scathing comments, he drove a wedge between those who support Cohen and those who support Harold Ford Jr.
But here is the most important thing that happened yesterday.
Harold Ford Jr.'s political career has always depended on him being "the good Ford". By taking the "You don't get to choose your family" position, he's been able to clearly delineate the difference between himself and the likes of John Ford. He's been the "un-Ford". The "low carb" Ford.
No more. He has allowed the mayor to redefine him as a part of the family that "thinks they should have a monopoly on all elected positions in this state and county". His silence has made him just as "Ford" as John.
Harold Jr. got 333,000 votes in the US Senate primary this year, and 89,000 of those votes came from Shelby County. How many of those votes did he lose yesterday?
Only one thing is certain: The mayor just made himself much harder to beat in 2007. All of the people in this city that have a distaste for the lesser members of the Ford family have now been handed an alternative.