Giffords called for toning down 'rhetoric and partisanship' in email to Grayson on Friday

01/09/2011 07:32 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona said she wanted to promote ways to “tone our rhetoric and partisanship down” in a note she sent Friday to Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Giffords sent the email to Grayson Friday evening congratulating him for being hired as director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Though from different parties, the two became friends while participating in a leadership fellowship in 2005, Grayson said.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

In the email, which Grayson provided to cn|2 Politics, Giffords said she wanted work with Grayson on ways to encourage tamping down the current tone of political discourse.

“After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation. I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down,” Giffords wrote to Grayson. See the full text of the email below.

She wrote the message the evening before attending a meeting with constituents Saturday morning in Tucson at which a gunman critically wounded Giffords and 12 others and killed six people, including a federal judge. The motives of the alleged shooter, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, remain unclear. But the tragedy has touched-off a national conversation about the political climate and tone.

Grayson said in a phone interview Sunday that he and Giffords have kept in touch mostly through email since meeting as part of the Aspen Institute’s Rodel Fellowship for your leaders. He said the two of them often lamented the divisiveness in politics.

“That is something she and I have been quite passionate about — to run for office in the right way and for the right reasons,” Grayson said. “I think Gabby was really sincere in that email … And I am going to to redouble my efforts” to highlight moderation in the discourse and working across party lines.

Grayson was flying to Boston Sunday evening to meet with the staff of the Institute of Politics on Monday.

Giffords also said in her email to Grayson that she was familiar with the Institute of Politics after participating in a three-week program for state and local leaders while she served as an Arizona state Senator. Giffords spent two years in the Arizona state House before being elected to the Senate in 2002 and then to Congress in 2006.

The previous year, Giffords and Grayson were among the 24 members of the inaugural class of the Aspen Institute’s Rodel Fellowship in public leadership. Jonathan Miller, the former Kentucky state treasurer who now serves as the state’s Finance and Administration Cabinet secretary, also was in that year’s fellowship.

That class included a host of other young officials who have gone on to big things, including the new budget chairman of the U.S. House, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin; Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who was Maryland’s lieutenant governor at the time; new U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois; and two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in 2010 — Robin Carnahan of Missouri and former congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat, also was a member of that 2005 fellowship class. She was among five of Giffords’ colleagues to appear on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday to talk about ¬†Giffords and the repercussions from Saturday’s shooting.

As cn|2 Politics first reported Friday, Grayson was offered and accepted the job as director of the Institute of Politics, which coordinates a national campaign promoting civics and offers training for new members of the U.S. House and mayors of big cities. It also provides avenues for internships in the political arena for Harvard students.

Grayson will resign as Secretary of State by the end of the month. Grayson has won praise from Democrats and Republicans for making civics education a hallmark of his seven years in office.

Despite being the early favorite for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate last year, Grayson lost to Republican Rand Paul during a contentious Republican primary in which both campaigns hurled tough ads at each other.

Grayson said one move he regretted was airing an ad criticizing Paul’s suggestion to raise to the eligibility age for Social Security.

“He was trying to articulate a solution that was politically controversial, and I criticized that without offering a solution,” he said. “When asked about what I would do, I never really felt comfortable answering because anything I said could be used the same way.”

- Ryan Alessi

Below is the e-mail Giffords sent Friday from her personal email account to Grayson and to Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark E. Kelly:

Giffords email to Grayson

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