The path to the Senate obviously goes through the stomach of Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
Would-be New York senator and former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford, Jr. journeyed to Cono’s restaurant in Williamsburg on Friday to dine with the believed-to-be-powerful Brooklyn Democratic Party boss.
And while virtually every member of the state’s Democratic establishment has backed first-term incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand for re-election, Lopez is playing the Sphinx role.
“She isn’t much of an incumbent, and people in my district have no idea who she is,” said Lopez, who added that he has spoken to several other would-be challengers to Gillibrand. “But Ford is a celebrity — people say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen him on TV before.’ He resonates with the community.”
Lopez said the lunch did not amount to an endorsement — it takes a few more meals for that — but the party chair did say that he’s disappointed with the state’s junior senator.
“We need better leadership,” he said, referring to Gillibrand.
Ford won’t officially announce for a few weeks whether he’s even running, but if he does, he’ll certainly need Brooklyn’s support, given that the borough comprises 13 percent of the state’s Democratic electorate.
For his part, Ford said he’s on a “Listening Tour.”
“In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be getting a better understanding of people in Brooklyn,” Ford said outside the Graham Avenue restaurant, where he sought the boss’s blessing.
The two chatted about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” Ford said after. He also said he enjoyed the meal at the restaurant, which is famous for its chicken parmigiana.
Ford, the former five-time Tennessee congressman, moved to New York three years ago after he lost his 2004 Senate race against Republican Bob Corker.