The presence of California show-biz attorney Joe Ford Jr. at a recent Memphis get-together of self-proclaimed progressives sponsored by Liz Rincon and Associates was already an obvious signal of something.
That was even before he clarified it by confiding he would be spending considerable time in Memphis during the next month helping out his cousin Kemba Ford in her attempt to win the District 91 state House seat.
This is the seat made vacant by the death this summer of Lois DeBerry, the revered former longtime Speaker Pro Tem who had held it for four decades.
Kemba Ford, the daughter of former state Senator and Tennessee Waltz figure John Ford, is herself a fairly recent returnee from California, where she spent several years working as an actress. She ran a respectable race for the Memphis City Council in 2011, forcing well-financed establishment opponent Lee Harris into a runoff.
Her inroads with labor and other traditional Democratic Party sources are expected to give her an edge against seven opponents in the forthcoming October 8 Democratic primary. (No Republicans filed in the heavily Democratic inner-city district, and only Libertarian Jim Tomasik, on the ballot as an independent, will contest the November 21 general election.)
And there is, of course, the Ford angle. Joe Ford Jr., who made something of a stir in 2006 as a candidate in the 15-strong Democratic-primary field for the 9th District congressional seat won by Steve Cohen, isn’t the only family helper.
So is his father, a former Councilman, County Commissioner, and interim County Mayor. So is his brother, County Commissioner Kemba Ford. So are Councilman Edmond Ford Jr., and his father, also a former Councilman. And the rest of the extended family, including sometime residents Harold Ford Jr. and Harold Ford Sr., are expected to lend a hand. Even Daddy John, long since released from a prison rap and now working at brother Edmond Ford Sr.’s funeral home, has residual clout in the district and will count for something.
As if all these advantages weren’t enough, Kemba Ford proved herself to be articulate, knowledgeable, and energetic candidate in 2011 and will no doubt be so again.
The rest of the field includes two political neophytes with DeBerry in their last name — one, Dwight DeBerry, an apparent cousin of Lois DeBerry, and another, Doris A. DeBerry-Bradshaw, the sister of District 90 Rep. John DeBerry (no relation to Lois). Others were some traction are Raumesh Akbari, Joshua R. Forbes,, Terica Lamb, Clifford N. Lewis, and Kermit Moore.
But the race would seem to be Kemba Ford’s to lose. A victory by her would complement the presence in the state Senate of Aunt Ophelia Ford, and that’s one more helper.