NEW YORK (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is readying for a fight in the race to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in this fall’s Democratic primary.

Ford, who represented Tennessee in the House, has said he has not decided yet whether to get into the New York U.S. Senate race, but he wrote a piece appearing in Tuesday’s New York Post in which he said he was “strongly considering running.” He is doing so, he said, because the nation is at its best when “we trust competition to refine the steel of our convictions and the truth of our arguments.”

Ford, 39, moved to New York and took a job with Merrill Lynch & Co. after losing the 2006 Tennessee Senate race. A Senate run in New York would buck the Democratic establishment.

Gillibrand was appointed to the seat by Gov. David Paterson after Hillary Rodham Clinton left to become secretary of state for the Obama administration, and the White House is backing her election.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked Monday about possible efforts to help Gillibrand by getting rid of any Democratic challengers. Gibbs replied, “stay tuned.”

Ford’s spokesman Davidson Goldin shot back Tuesday.

“While Robert Gibbs is saying ‘stay tuned’ about Washington insiders obstructing a free election in New York state,” Goldin told The Associated Press, “Harold Ford is focused on independent leadership … not what party bosses want to dictate.”

Ford, a centrist Democrat who had been known as conservative-leaning on many issues, sought to use the New York Post piece to defend what some have called recent flip flops designed to please a more liberal New York voters, including abortion rights and gay marriage.

Ford insists in the piece that he is “pro-choice” and that “any assertions to the contrary are false.”

He described his position this way in 2006: “I believe life is the best choice, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to reduce abortions.”

Ford also wrote in the Post that he has always supported civil unions, and after consideration has come to support gay marriage.

As a congressman he consistently voted in favor of amending the Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

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