I normally leave analysis of local politics in the capable hands of Flyer senior editor Jackson Baker, whose contacts, experience, and writing chops make him easily the city's best political reporter. (You can see his take this week on page 14.) That said, I do try to keep up with things, and one of the most interesting ways to do so is to see what's buzzing on the local blogs.
One simmering controversy that threatens to boil over any minute now is the "straddle the fence" position taken by Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. regarding the endorsement of a candidate to replace him in the 9th Congressional District. Ford's dilemma: whether to endorse the Democratic nominee, Steve Cohen, or support his brother, Jake Ford, who's running for the same office as an independent.
Family or party? It's a tough decision, muddled by race, past grudges, and the complex dynamics of Ford's statewide run. So far, Junior has chosen not to choose. Whether he can continue to do so as local Democrats begin to demand that he support the party's nominee remains to be seen.
A recent statewide poll, however, makes one thing very clear: Harold Ford Jr. needs a huge turnout of African-American voters and a huge turnout in Memphis to defeat his opponent, Bob Corker. The following may fall under the category of "conspiracy theory," but it occurs to me that having Jake in the race may in fact be the best way to ensure a high turnout.
Consider: Cohen supporters (the Herenton/Wharton wing of black Democrats, Democratic regulars, and moderate Republicans) turn out in droves to keep Jake Ford out of office. Meanwhile, the "vote for anybody named Ford" crowd also comes out in droves to vote for Jake, thanks to the support of Harold Ford Sr. and the remnants of the Ford get-out-the-vote "machine."
But here's the beauty part for Harold Ford Jr.: With the possible exception of some of the moderate Republicans, all these folks vote for him. It's the ultimate GOTV campaign. Whether Jake wins or loses, Junior comes out ahead in this scenario. Maybe Harold Sr. isn't just running Jake to spite Cohen and Herenton. Maybe he's crazy like a fox.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor