Never let it be said that the twain don't meet. They are about to - for the second time in a generation. Mayor Willie Herenton, involved in what he acknowledges is a difficult reelection race, has called for support once more from an old political foe, former 9th District congressman Harold Ford Sr., who bridged their personal distance to help Herenton become Memphis' first elected black mayor in 1991.
Though the Get-Out-the-Vote assistance of Ford, a significant political broker, was widely regarded at the time as essential to Herenton's victory, the mayor repeatedly disparaged that interpretation in subsequent years. For a decade and a half, he and Ford, who had never enjoyed cordial relations, lapsed into a state of intense rivalry and an ongoing war of words, one which Herenton escalated as recently as the congressional campaign of 2006 -- when the ex-congressman's son Jake was a candidate -- to include all "the Fords," whom Herenton described as power-mad.
At the time the mayor was supporting Democratic nominee Steve Cohen, the ultimate winner, against Jake Ford, who was running as an independent. The senior Ford, now living in Florida and working as a well-paid political consultant, spent considerable time in in Memphis working on behalf of both son Jake and another son, Harold Ford Jr., his successor in Congress, who was then running for the U.S. Senate.
Relations between Herenton and the Ford family had rarely been so strained.
But an email circulated by the Herenton campaign Sunday spelled out a different and sunnier scenario, containing this paragraph from the mayor: "I am proud to announce another member of TEAM HERENTON 07. Our former U.S. Congressman, Harold Ford Sr., has not only endorsed my candidacy for re-election, but he began campaigning with us today in churches throughout Memphis. He will continue campaigning with us through Election Day, Thursday, October 4."
The release went on to offer free tickets to a joint rally: "Join us on Tuesday, October 2nd, at my church home, Mount Vernon Baptist Church at 6 p.m. as Memphis prepares to face a huge voter turnout on October 4th."
The announcement of this unusual alliance occurred less than a week before Thursday's mayoral election, at a time when recent polls have indicated that the mayor's two chief opponents, councilwoman Carol Chumney and former MLGW head Herman Morris, are both within striking distance of him.