Rep. Ford Throws Name Into Fight for House Minority Leader

With Democratic Rep. Martin Frost of Texas no longer vying for the post of House minority leader, House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi has only one competitor left in the race to succeed Rep. Dick Gephardt.

Rep. Harold Ford, hailing from Al Gore's home state of Tennessee, threw his name into the mix of Democrats hoping to win the leadership position Friday.

"What happened on Nov. 5 demonstrated in big, big ways that a change of leadership was needed in the House," Ford told Fox News on Friday.

Ford is up against Californian Pelosi, who is currently the second highest Democrat in the House. Before he dropped out of the race, Frost criticized Pelosi for being too liberal and said, if she was chosen to replace Gephardt, she would take the party too far to the left.

Ford, who is more conservative than Pelosi, echoed that concern.

"The only way the Democrats are going to regain the trust and support of the American people to the point where we can regain the majority ... is that we have an ideology that is welcoming and tolerant," Ford told Fox. "I think the American people have come to associate Democrats with deadlock and obstructionism -- I don't think Nancy can change that."

Pelosi and Frost entered the race Thursday and took pot shots at each other over the future of a party reeling from midterm election losses.

Ford said Friday he thought both Frost and Pelosi represented a leadership style that the party needs to change.

"We've been unable in a lot of ways to carry our message to a point that would give us the majority" or to be more effective in legislation, Ford said late Friday afternoon during a press conference.

He challenged House members to dare to try a fresh face out for the position as a way to jumpstart their party: "Are we willing to embrace and accept something new and different, such as what my campaign offers, or are we willing to take the status quo?"

Ford said that while Democrats may disagree with President Bush on certain issues, "he deserves to be supported when he's right."

Ford promised that, if elected, he would bring all sectors of the party -- including the Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, the Blue Dogs and other factions of the party -- together.

"If you want to aspire to be a better party than we are right now, I say give my candidacy a chance, give our candidacy a chance," Ford said, promising a "whole new generation of leadership."

Pelosi, who is widely expected to win the contest, is instead turning her fire on the GOP instead. "We must draw clear distinctions between our vision of the future and the extreme policies put forward by the Republicans," she said in a statement.

She was expected to release a list of House members supporting her candidacy Friday afternoon.

Ford, 32, is among 36 black voting House members who belong to the Congressional Black Caucus. He was elected this week to his fourth term in the House. He succeeded his father, Harold Ford Sr., in representing the Memphis area. Last year, the younger Ford was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" by People magazine. He serves on the House Education and Workforce and Government Reform committees and was keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

House members will vote by secret ballot next Thursday.