, January 28, 1998
Box 912, Athens, GA 30603
Bill Shipp: Langford's unique and candid campaign worth watching
This is about sex, money and Steve Langford's campaign for governor.
State Sen. Langford may not be in the winner's circle when the votes are counted from
the Nov. 3 election. But the Troup County lawmaker could play a decisive role in setting
the agenda for the next governor and Legislature.
Unless you live in the LaGrange area or are a political junkie, the only thing you may
know about Langford is his shocking stand on Georgia's laws against certain consensual sex
acts. He believes those laws should be repealed or amended.
And Langford is well-known among the clean water crowd. He has introduced a sheaf of
bills to force Atlanta to treat all the sewage it dumps into the Chattahoochee River.
Despite his stands on sex and the river, Langford appears the darkest of the dark
horses in the four-man competition for the Democratic nomination for governor.
He has collected less money than any of the other Democratic candidates.
Because he is a member of the General Assembly, he is barred by state law from
soliciting additional campaign cash while the Legislature is in session.
Langford has budgeted only $1 million for his primary candidacy. Some observers believe
a competitive primary bid for governor will cost $3 million or more.
Langford is trying to establish his identification among voters with a modest cable-TV
advertising campaign and a comprehensive Web site on the Internet.
Beyond that, he is counting on free media to carry his message.
Perhaps that is why he and his campaign consultant, George Humphreys, decided several
months ago to fire their first public salvo at Georgia's antiquated sex laws.
In the era of Bill Clinton, both Langford and Humphreys knew the media couldn't resist
another story on sexual matters. Unfortunately for Langford's campaign, the
headline-making ploy created a wave of criticism from some members of the clergy. And it
overshadowed several stands taken by Langford on more pressing matters.
"It's unfortunate that Steve's proposal to amend the sodomy/fornication laws is
perceived with such misunderstanding," says Humphreys. "These amendments are
about privacy, not sexual conduct. The government should not invade the homes of married
couples or other consenting adults to dictate sexual practices. No service is done society
by keeping these laws, as written, on the books."
On another topic, Langford has decided to tread where no other leading Democrat has
dared. He has taken issue with most affirmative action programs.
He advocates banning set-asides and racial quotas in hiring and contracts, and believes
the University System, not the Legislature, should determine the criteria for hiring
faculty and admitting students.
He has failed to show much enthusiasm for his fellow Democrats' rush to abolish paroles
for most, if not all, criminal offenses.
Langford would expand Gov. Zell Miller's HOPE scholarship program to students who score
high on SAT exams. And he advocates returning to the taxpayers any annual surpluses in the
Langford's campaign is worth watching because it is different. Unlike Republican Guy
Millner or even Democrats Roy Barnes and Lewis Massey, he will not have slick TV spots or
fancy direct-mail advertising. He is banking solely on his candid approach to serious
He also has put his faith in Humphreys, a Georgia Tech football star from the 1950s who
went on to become a top domestic policy adviser to President Gerald Ford and, before that,
a key aide to New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
It remains to be seen whether a little-known Democratic lawmaker, depending on the
counsel of an old war-horse Republican, can break out of the pack.
Still, Langford's long-shot bid may be one of the more instructive political stories to
unfold in the coming months.
(Bill Shipp is editor of Bill Shipp's Georgia, a weekly newsletter on government and