chapter  10
27 Pages

Situational Deracialization, Harold Ford, and the 2006 Senate Race in Tennessee

WithSEKOU FRANKLIN

Th e Tennessee Senate race featuring Harold Ford Jr., a young African-American politician and fi ve-term congressional representative from Memphis, against Bob Corker, a multimillionaire and the former Mayor of Chattanooga, was among the most closely watched contests of the 2006 midterm congressional elections. Ford’s competitiveness throughout the race, his image as a conciliatory and pragmatic African-American politician, and the racial and regional dimensions of the campaign brought him unusually favorable media coverage typically not

aff orded to African-American candidates in biracial elections in the South (Darman 2006). Th is attention further underscored the fact that, if elected, Ford would increase the Democratic Party’s chances of taking control of the U.S. Senate. A victory would also make him the South’s fi rst African-American senator since Reconstruction. Considering that most senators were selected by state legislatures prior to the ratifi cation of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, Ford would become the fi rst African-American Southerner elected to the Senate by a popular vote in U.S. history.