Rep. Ford will run for Frist's seat

Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) is expected to announce next week that he will run for the Senate, seeking to replace Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) when he retires in 2006.

Ford’s office declined to comment on his senatorial plans, but three sources close to Ford said that he has decided to run and that an announcement will be made soon. One informed source said, “He will absolutely, 100 percent, run for the Senate. He wants that seat.”

Ford will be traveling in the Middle East later this week, according to those sources, and is scheduled to be back in Tennessee, with some major appearances planned, on Feb. 25.

President Bush won Tennessee 57 to 43 percent, and Ford would face an uphill battle to win statewide. The fifth-term congressman, whose father held the same seat for 22 years, has recently seen his statewide prospects hindered by his family name. His uncle, state Sen. John Ford, is embroiled in a child payment scandal and recently testified in juvenile court that he keeps two homes and lives with two different women whose children he fathered. The scandal has received considerable attention in Tennessee and has dominated political conversation among Democrats speculating about Ford’s plans.

The source said business leaders in Memphis are lining up behind Ford and noted that the congressman is conservative on fiscal matters. Ford last year indicated support for Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) Social Security reform bill.

While the odds are against Ford’s winning the seat, the source said Ford will raise a lot of money: “He will raise money from California to New York to Florida and everywhere in between.”

State Sen. Rosalind Kurita is the only other Democrat who has entered the race. Three Republicans have launched their campaigns, including former Rep. Ed Bryant, state Rep. Beth Harwell and Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker. Former Rep. Van Hilleary (R) is also considering jumping into the race.