One day after publicly declaring he would not make a long-shot Senate bid in Georgia, millionaire entrepreneur Cliff Oxford (D) abruptly changed course Friday and officially tossed his hat into the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D).
After telling party leaders and members of the media Thursday that he would not run, Oxford, who submitted his paperwork on the last day for filing, said he reconsidered based on his belief that he has the best solution to the outsourcing of American jobs.
“I truly felt I’d let my state down if I did not get out there and run,” Oxford said in a brief interview. “My candidacy is going to be about jobs at the beginning and it’s going to be about jobs at the end.”
Over the past five weeks Oxford had been courted to run by Democratic leaders, including Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) and former President Jimmy Carter.
Democrats began searching for a candidate with the ability to self-fund a campaign after all of the party’s marquee candidates passed on the race last year.
Oxford, 41, sold his technology consulting company in 2003 for an undisclosed amount and is expected to self-fund a campaign that he has estimated could require $10 million to $12 million to win.
In 1996, before Oxford had made his millions, he lost a House primary to a self-funding millionaire.
At one point Oxford had been considered all but in the Senate race — even privately telling party leaders in Washington, D.C., last week that he planned to run — but second thoughts about running surfaced in recent days.
Earlier this week Oxford expressed concerns about the impact the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the new campaign finance law would have on the race.
The provision allows individual contribution limits for the opponents of self-funding candidates to be lifted. In a general election, the provision can also allow for unlimited state and national party-coordinated expenditures.
Under the new law, self-funding candidates are also largely prohibited from raising funds to pay themselves back after the election.
Oxford enters the race with what some consider catastrophic political baggage, just two months after millionaire Blair Hull’s (D) Senate campaign in Illinois imploded after he was forced to unseal contentious divorce records.
Republicans last week began circulating damaging charges contained in Oxford’s 2002 divorce records, when attorneys for him and his second wife, Caryn, were fighting over millions of dollars. The couple has since reconciled, but not remarried. Oxford has said his ex-wife is fully supportive of his Senate campaign.
In announcing his decision not to run Thursday, Oxford expressed concern about the impact a negative smear campaign would have on his family, especially his two children.
But on Friday, he sounded ready to meet the charges head on.
“They’ll have that message of trying to tear me down and I’m going to have a message of lifting people up,” Oxford said. “So I think it’s actually a good contrast. I think that kind of thing will help me.”
Oxford has hired Kevin Ross, an Atlanta-based strategist, to be his campaign manager. Ross ran now-Rep. David Scott’s (D-Ga.) 2002 campaign.
As of noon Friday, eight Democrats had filed to run in the July 20 primary. Freshman Rep. Denise Majette (D) is by far the best-known contender, but she is given long-shot odds of winning the seat in November.
On the Republican side, Rep. Johnny Isakson is the frontrunner for the party’s nomination against Rep. Mac Collins and pizza magnate Herman Cain.