Ex-Ambassador Giffin Considers Georgia Senate Run

Posted January 13, 2004 at 3:03pm

Still searching for a marquee candidate to run for Senate in Georgia, national and state Democrats have asked Gordon Giffin to seek the nomination as the party struggles to stop the Republican political wave that is washing over the South.

Giffin, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, acknowledged Tuesday that he is considering a campaign and has already spoken with Sen. Jon Corzine (N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“The honest truth is, I am giving it some thought,” Giffin said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I am thinking about it, because of the enormous respect I have for the U.S. Senate.”

While two state Senators are in the race, Democrats have struggled to recruit a big-name candidate to run for retiring Sen. Zell Miller’s (D-Ga.) seat. All of the statewide elected Democrats turned down overtures to seek the nomination, as did ex-Sen. Max Cleland, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and ex-Sen. Sam Nunn’s daughter, Michele Nunn.

So far, three little-known Democrats have announced that they would seek their party’s Senate nomination: DeKalb County Magistrate Gary Leshaw, state Sen. Mary Squires and state Sen. Nadine Thomas. Thomas made her intention known in Tuesday’s edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

On the Republican side, ex-Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Rep. Mac Collins and Rep. Johnny Isakson are running for the GOP nomination.

National Democrats are hoping that Giffin gets into the race and clears the field so that there is not a bruising primary.

“Clearly, what we need this late in the game is somebody who can raise money, run an effective campaign and can do so in the absence of a competitive primary,” said a Washington-based Democratic strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “That is what we really need to get off the launching pad, someone like Giffin.”

Some Democrats believe that given his previous post as ambassador to Canada, raising money would be much easier for Giffin than any of the other announced candidates. Personally, Giffin has been politically active with his own money in the 2004 election cycle. He has donated to the presidential campaigns of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) and Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) as well as a joint campaign fund set up to help raise money for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and the DSCC, Federal Election Commission records show.

Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the DSCC, confirmed that Corzine had spoken with Giffin and had urged the former ambassador to “make the race.”

Giffin said he began to give serious thought to a Senate campaign around the holidays when several of his friends urged him to consider it. At about the same time, Corzine approached him with the proposition. But Giffin, currently a partner at the law firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge, said the advice he will weigh the most would come from his family friends and state party leaders.

“From my perspective, there is not a lot of information that people outside the state can give me that would materially affect my decision,” he said.

Giffin served as ambassador from August 1997 to April 2001, a tour that began during then-President Bill Clinton’s second term and spilled over into President Bush’s term.

Giffin said he would make a decision about his political future “soon,” but offered no specific date.

Should he run, Giffin said he would emulate the moderate political philosophy of Sam Nunn. Giffin served as Nunn’s legislative director and chief counsel from 1975 through 1979.

“I think, frankly, it is important that moderate thoughtful people run for the Senate to ensure that it stays the institution that I revere and not a place for people advancing their own egos or a particular narrow political philosophy,” he said.

Giffin acknowledged it would be a tough race that would require him to hit the fundraising circuit to raise enough money for the campaign.

“I don’t have the personal resources to be a quote ‘self-funder,’” Giffin said. “If I run I would have to ask for the support of people who might be interested in my candidacy. Hopefully, a substantial number would be.”