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Could John Ford Return to Political Office? There’s a Law, but….

When former state senator John Ford returned to Memphis last week after four years in federal prison, his TV news cameo raised the unlikely prospect of a political comeback, according to The Commercial Appeal.
“You watch what I do,” Ford told reporters before disappearing into a halfway house where he’s banned from media contact. “I am not down. I am not out. I am way out in front.”
There’s a state law that says people convicted of a felony involving a political office can never run for public office again.
The law change marks the end of an era in Tennessee, where politicians once could return to offices they’d disgraced.
Yet, Ford might have some wiggle room.
One of the law’s primary sponsors, former state Rep. Frank Buck, said last week he’s unsure if the law applies to Ford, who was convicted in April 2007, just weeks before it took effect July 1.
“It may or may not apply to him,” said Buck, a Smithville, Tenn., attorney. “You’d have to ask the attorney general on that one. I had some questions, too. You get always into the ex post facto situation.”
Previously, disgraced officials found plenty of opportunity to reinvent themselves.
Former Memphis city councilman Rickey Peete did just that, going to prison in 1989 for bribery only to win re-election and return to prison in 2007 — again for bribery. In so doing, he earned a nickname — ‘Rickey Re-Peete.’
Politicians such as Peete became eligible to retake office after getting their voting and civil rights restored in a court of law. They can still get their rights restored under the new law — they just can’t hold elected office.
The law says the ban applies to state government as well as “any political subdivision.” Cities and counties are considered political subdivisions of the state.
“They ought to be eternally banned from office,” offered Buck, who said his bill was motivated by repeated scandals he witnessed over his 36 years in the legislature. “Something needed to be done.”
Whether Ford, now 70, even wants back into politics is an uncertain question.
His brother, Joe Ford, thinks not.
“I doubt it. They passed that law where you can’t go back,” said Ford, a former Shelby County commissioner and one-time interim county mayor. “When we’re together we don’t talk about politics. I don’t want to speak for him. But that would be something he would have to decide.”