In the contest to replace retiring Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist, House Democrat Harold Ford has waged a surprisingly strong campaign against Bob Corker, the Republican candidate who used to be the mayor of Chattanooga. Ford was considered an underdog, both because a Democrat hasn't won a Senate race in the state since Al Gore in 1990 and because of the political baggage from his family, which is active in state politics but known for a spate of corruption scandals. His father, former Congressman Harold Ford, Sr., was charged with federal bank fraud and acquitted in 1993 and his uncle, a former state Senator, was indicted for bribery earlier this year.
Ford has emphasized his credentials as pro-gun, anti-tax, church-going politician to win in this conservative state, while Corker and the Republicans have sought to portray him as a rich, urbane liberal who wears fancy suits, stays in lavish hotels and has never held a real job other than being in Congress. Corker, who won an intensely fought primary over two more conservative G.O.P. rivals, has highlighted his success as a businessman in starting and developing a construction company that has earned him millions, much of which he pumped into his campaign.
A win by Ford would be historic, as he would be the first black Senator elected in the South in more than a century. Racial politics became a subject in the race last month when Republicans ran an ad attacking Ford for his attendance at a Playboy Superbowl party that included a blond white woman saying "Harold, call me' which some Democrats said was an attempt to play on concerns about interracial dating. Corker himself denounced the ad, but the campaign has only gotten nastier and more heated as Election Day has approached.
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