Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Commercial Appeal, Knox News, and Times Free Press Endorse Ford

With only a little over a week left before the primary election, newspapers all across the state are starting to release their endorsements for the respective U.S. Senate primaries.

Below are the endorsement statements from the Commercial Appeal, Knox News, and Times Free Press in support of Congressman Ford and his bid for the U.S. Senate:

Memphis Commercial Appeal

On the Democratic ballot, Rep. HAROLD FORD JR. is the obvious choice among five candidates to represent the party in the general election.

Ford, 36 years old with five terms in the House of Representatives under his belt, has the intellectual bearing, leadership qualities and charisma to represent Tennessee in the Senate with distinction.

If Tennessee, a state with a black population of 16 percent, has progressed as far as most of its citizens would like to think it has on racial issues, Ford's ethnicity should not be an issue.

Neither should the ethical questions that have dogged his embarrassment of an uncle, former state Sen. John Ford, now under indictment in the Tennessee Waltz investigation of government corruption.

Ford's conservative positions on social issues have angered progressives in the party. But the candidate is clearly reflecting the views of a majority of Tennesseans on such issues as gay marriage and the Iraq War and offering a moderate voice in the Senate to counter the ideological extremes that have stymied progress.

Ford is well prepared to take the fight to the GOP on such issues as the federal budget deficit, high energy costs, education and health care. His vigorous and well-funded campaign should inspire Tennesseans seeking substantive change in Washington. In some equations, his election could help Democrats capture a Senate majority.

Ford is running for a Senate seat lost in 1994 when Frist ousted Jim Sasser. He is the only candidate on the ballot who gives Democrats a chance to take it back.

Knoxville News Sentinel

On the Democratic side, it is easy to endorse Harold Ford Jr., who represents the state's 9th District in the U.S. House, not because he is the front-runner and presumptive nominee anyway but because he is a serious, focused candidate who has studied the issues and is looking for innovative ways to address ongoing national problems.

His slogan, "a new generation of leadership," is reflected in his television ads about high gasoline prices. His major obstacle might be converting his representation of an urban Memphis district into generating statewide, bipartisan appeal as a candidate who reflects the growing diversity of the state of Tennessee.

On a number of leading issues of the day, Ford is largely in agreement with Bryant, Corker and Hilleary. He voted for the House Republicans' restrictive bill on immigration, a measure that places priority on border security and rejects the notion of amnesty. Ford also puts reform of entitlements, energy alternatives and runaway spending high on his list.

One difference occurred last week. Ford voted in favor of expanding federal spending on stem-cell research. Bryant, Corker and Hilleary said they would have opposed the measure, which was supported by Frist.

Chattanooga Times Free Press

Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., is one of five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, hoping, ultimately, to fill the seat of retiring Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Of the five, Rep. Ford is the most experienced, the most thoughtful and the most attuned to national issues. We recommend him as the Democratic standard-bearer in what promises to be one of the nation's most hotly contested U.S. Senate races of the fall.

Rep. Ford, who has represented his West Tennessee district ably in the U.S. House since 1996, is a proven vote-getter. He's been returned to office four times by an average of 80 percent of the vote. The total is indicative of a wide appeal that transcends traditional party lines and voting patterns.

Rep. Ford's attention to detail and understanding of the often arcane ways of the legislative branch make him an effective legislator. Moreover, a calm demeanor and refreshing willingness to work across party lines without sacrificing his party's ideals have made him a formidable presence in Congress. Those qualities, buttressed by his keen intellect and thoughtful stances on key national issues, validate his Senate candidacy.

In a recent meeting with this newspaper's editorial board, Rep. Ford identified Iraq, immigration, health care, the energy shortage, the deficit and education as issues that must be resolved if citizens and the nation are to prosper. He is, of course, correct in that assessment, and his views on each are instructive.

Rep. Ford voted for the Iraq war resolution but recognizes that the administration's war policies have gone terribly awry. Even so, he's opposed to an immediate pullout. He prefers a more measured approach that explores new policies to protect U.S. interests and lives while allowing Iraqis to build their own future. That's not a perfect answer but reflects the realities of a nasty, politicized war that continues to sap both the strength and treasury of the nation.

His views on other pressing issues reflect a similar desire to focus on finding solutions rather than indulging in the finger-pointing that now passes for political debate in Congress. He would, for example, create incentives to improve vehicular fuel efficiency. He would couple them with increased research into the use of sun, wind, hydrogen and farm products as alternative sources of energy, rather than subsidize continued use of fossil fuel.

Rep. Ford favors a balanced budget, health care initiatives that expand rather than reduce access, education policies that provide federal funding to cover federal mandates and an immigration policy that strengthens border controls and provides penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers.

Generally, Rep. Ford's views reflect those of most centrist Democrats. The congressman rarely has deviated from that position during his public career. And while some Democrats might be troubled by his more conservative views on gun control, abortion, gay marriage and flag burning, he has been consistent on those issues as well. He's not changed long-held views to pander to a statewide electorate far more diverse than the voters in his congressional district.

Rep. Ford has only token opposition in the primary and is expected to win the nomination handily. His real test will come in the November general election. There he'll face the winner of a bruising and divisive three-man GOP primary. Whatever the matchup in the fall, Rep. Ford will be a strong candidate. His possible opponents concede as much.

Former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker has said, " ... he [Rep. Ford] will be a difficult candidate to beat." Ed Bryant has said, "Ford is formidable and should not be taken for granted." Both are correct.

Tennessee Democrats, for the first time in recent election cycles, have the opportunity to nominate a strong, politically attractive candidate with a statewide constituency for U.S. Senate. We strongly endorse Rep. Ford for his party's nomination.

These papers have gotten it right--Harold Ford Jr. is the man! He has a positive vision for our state and country and is a catalyst for change.

Make sure you got to the polls on August third and cast your vote for our next U.S. Senator!

It is time for a change!