NEW YORK (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. began crafting his argument Tuesday for a potential bid to unseat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, reinventing himself as an independent thinker battling "Washington insiders."
Ford has not decided yet whether to get into this year's Democratic primary in New York, but the former congressman from Tennessee wrote a piece in Tuesday's New York Post saying he was "strongly considering running."
He is doing so, he said, because the nation is at its best when "we trust competition to refine the steel of our convictions and the truth of our arguments."
Ford, a member of the National Rifle Association who often quoted Scripture on the campaign trail and believes illegal immigrants caught without documentation should be deported, also is launching an effort to reinvent himself in a way that might be more appealing to Democratic voters.
He also is hinting at what would likely be a central theme for a campaign that comes a year after several incumbents in New York and New Jersey were unseated with the help of an unsatisfied electorate.
New Yorkers, he said in the Post, expect politicians to "do what's right based on independent judgment, free of political bosses trying to dictate."
Ford also has a book due out later this year. "More Davids Than Goliaths: A Political Education," from Crown Publishing Group, is set for a September release, according to amazon.com.
Ford, 39, moved to New York and took a job with Merrill Lynch & Co. after losing the 2006 Tennessee Senate race following 10 years in Congress.
He also spends time as a television pundit on MSNBC and lives in Manhattan with his wife, whom he married in 2008.
A Democrat challenging Gillibrand in New York would face a formidable and united party establishment — Gillibrand is backed by the White House along with the state's senior senator, Chuck Schumer and Gov. David Paterson.
Gillibrand was appointed to the seat by Paterson after Hillary Rodham Clinton left to become secretary of state for the Obama administration.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked Monday about possible efforts to help Gillibrand by getting rid of any Democratic challengers. Gibbs replied, "stay tuned."
Ford's spokesman Davidson Goldin shot back Tuesday.
"While Robert Gibbs is saying 'stay tuned' about Washington insiders obstructing a free election in New York state," Goldin told The Associated Press, "Harold Ford is focused on independent leadership ... not what party bosses want to dictate."
Ford, a centrist Democrat, has often been more aligned with conservatives on many issues, and has been hard to pin down on abortion rights.
He insisted in the New York Post piece Tuesday that he is "pro-choice" and that "any assertions to the contrary are false."
But he described his position this way in 2006: "I believe life is the best choice, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to reduce abortions."
Ford also supported posting the Ten Commandments in public schools, and opposed gay marriage.
Ford said in the Post that he has always supported civil unions, and after consideration, has recently come to support gay marriage.
As a congressman he consistently voted in favor of amending the Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
He may have some work ahead of him convincing voters where he stands on social issues.
The executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay rights group, called Ford a "snake oil salesman" in a statement Monday.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.