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Will Southern Dem make a run in NY?

Harold Ford Jr. may be eyeing a Senate run. (Photo: Getty)

After fending off potential challenges from a slew of New York pols, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand may find herself battling a Southern transplant.

As word spread Wednesday that former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee is mulling a run for the senate, many political observers wondered if the centrist Democrat would be able to come up with the money and the support needed to unseat an incumbent, albeit one who was appointed to her seat.

“This is really a long-shot,” said David Birdsell, dean of the Baruch School of Public Affairs. “It’s one thing to sail into New York politics if you’re the former first lady, like Hillary Clinton. It’s quite different if you’re an unsuccessful senate candidate from a different state with almost no name recognition.”

Ford, a Manhattan resident for three years whose last bid for office was a close loss in the 2006 Tennessee senate race, has reportedly told associates he will decide in the next two months whether to challenge Gillibrand, who was named to the seat last year to succeed Clinton.

A spokesman for Gillibrand, who with help of the White House has scared off several potential challengers, did not address the possibility of Ford’s candidacy specifically.

“In a short period of time, Sen. Gillibrand has built a strong, broad coalition of support across the state from 20 members of New York’s Congressional delegation to dozens of unions, progressive advocates and business leaders,” said the spokesman, Glen Caplin.

NARAL Pro-Choice New York put out a statement Wednesday opposing a potential bid by Ford, who has described himself as pro-life.

Still, some seem intrigued by the idea.

“Like every trial balloon, until it is shot down, it has a chance,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while not making an endorsement, praised Ford, saying he’s known him a long time and calling him “a smart guy.”

jason.fink@am-ny.com

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