- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

Georgia Gov. Roy E. Barnes handed Democrats another Senate seat last night by naming former Gov. Zell Miller to the position formerly held by Sen. Paul Coverdell.

Mr. Coverdell, the second Georgia Republican to sit in the Senate since Reconstruction, died last week of a stroke.

Georgia law lets the governor, a Democrat, appoint a successor until a November special election determines who will serve the remaining four years of Mr. Coverdell's term. Mr. Miller said yesterday said he will run in November.

"I accept this mission with a heavy heart and a profound sense of duty," Mr. Miller said. "The state we love lost one if its finest citizens."

In announcing his decision, Mr. Barnes said Mr. Miller was the best candidate in either party.

"It used to take seniority to get things done in the United States Senate. Now it takes stature. And Zell Miller has the stature it takes to get things done," he said.

Mr. Miller was praised by his Georgia colleague, Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, as a statesman who will work hard for his home state.

"I think Georgia is really fortunate to have someone with such courage, character and decorum of Governor Miller to step forward to answer the call of duty and serve his state one more time," Mr. Cleland said.

Mr. Miller is expected to be confirmed by the Senate on Thursday.

Mr. Miller is widely popular in Georgia and political observers say he will be a tough candidate.

"This puts Republicans in a bind," said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta.

"They've lost an important statewide politician, and they don't have a replacement who can match up well against Miller," he said.

The appointment was criticized by Georgia Republicans, who say Mr. Coverdell's successor should reflect the conservative lawmaker's views.

"The people of Georgia overwhelmingly believed in Sen. Paul Coverdell, what he said to them, what he did for them, and what he was going to continue to do for this state," said Chuck Clay, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.

"The occupant of the seat left vacant by his death should reflect the beliefs that led the people of Georgia to twice elect Paul Coverdell to the United States Senate. The Democrats want to steal the outcome of those two elections," Mr. Clay said.

However, Mr. Cleland defended his new colleague as one who works well across party lines.

"He is in the great tradition of Coverdell because he gets the job done and doesn't care who gets the credit," he said.

Mr. Miller's appointment will increase the number of Democrats in the Senate to 46, against 54 Republicans.

Mr. Miller served two terms as governor from 1991 to 1998 and was one of the few Democratic incumbents to win re-election in 1994 when Republicans swept elections nationwide. When he left office in 1999, his popularity poll numbers were at 85 percent.

"Miller put in new programs and made a difference in the lives of the people of Georgia," Mr. Black said. "He remains a popular and respected figure. I would not expect to see any Democratic challengers go against him in November."

Mr. Miller won the party's primary with 62 percent of the vote in his first election against Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, an aide to Martin Luther King. He went on to defeat U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson, a centrist Republican who then was a state legislator, in the November general election.

During his tenure, he focused on reducing crime and promoting education, and established a state-sponsored lottery, a popular program that funds college scholarships.

The great-grandson of a Confederate soldier, he sparked controversy in 1996 when he tried unsuccessfully to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag before Atlanta's Summer Olympics.

Mr. Miller served in the Marine Corps before his political career began. In 1958, when he was 28 years old, Mr. Miller was elected mayor of his hometown, Young Harris. He later served two terms in the state Senate, and four consecutive terms as lieutenant governor, but twice lost congressional bids. In 1969, he served as executive secretary to Gov. Lester G. Maddox, who campaigned explicitly on a segregationist platform.

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