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Could-be Senate candidate Ford meets with LI pols

Could-be U.S. Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. made his first political trip to Long Island Monday, where his most important meeting didn't result in a new fan.

Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said Ford, the former Tennessee congressman who is weighing a Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), said "nothing new" in their 15-minute chat in Schaffer's West Babylon office.

Schaffer, who in December endorsed Gillibrand's election bid, said he stands by the state's junior senator. "Nothing that was said today changes my mind on that," he said.

VIDEO: Click here to watch Ford speak to students at Westbury High School

Ford's visit with Schaffer followed a closed-door breakfast meeting arranged by Nassau Legis. Robert Troiano (D-Westbury) at the Chateau Briand in Carle Place with about 40 black and Latino leaders with stops in Westbury and Great Neck.

Ex-Nassau Legis. David Mejias (D-Farmingdale) said Ford was impressive. "I think everybody there was charmed by him," he said.

Assemb. Philip Ramos, (D-Brentwood) said he too was "appreciative" that Ford met with black and Hispanic officials. Ramos on Saturday hosted a similar meeting with Gillibrand at his Bay Shore office.

Later, at Westbury High School, Ford, the son of former Rep. Harold Ford Sr., told about 100 students at a Black History Month event to "work hard and never let people tell you that you can't realize a dream."

From the high school, Ford went to the Great Neck Senior Center, where North Hempstead town officials announced broadening a senior project to include half-price medical visit taxi rides. "This is a great example of government reaching out and partnering with the private sector to make government work better," Ford said.

Ford moved to Manhattan in 2007 after losing a heated and expensive 2006 U.S. Senate race in Tennessee. He began an ad hoc tour of the state two weeks ago, meeting with political leaders as he considers a statewide run.

Since he emerged as a possible challenger to Gillibrand last month, Ford has been dogged by questions about whether he received a taxpayer-funded bonus while working as an executive at Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. He declined Monday to say if he received a bonus.

"I can say that I fulfilled the contract and was paid per the terms of the contract," he said after meeting with Schaffer. "There was a contract that was a part of it, and I received what was laid out in the contract."

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