Sources: Coverdell Successor Named
ATLANTA (AP) _ Georgia’s Democratic former governor Zell Miller will accept appointment to the late Republican Paul Coverdell’s Senate seat and will run for the remaining four years of the term in November, The Associated Press has learned.
Gov. Roy Barnes was to announce the appointment Monday evening, sources close to both men told the AP. Georgia law gives the governor the right to appoint a successor.
Coverdell, 61, died of a stroke last week. In 1998, he became the first Georgia Republican since Reconstruction to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate.
The appointment of Miller would increase the number of Democrats in the Senate to 46. There are 54 Republicans.
Miller, 68, left office last year as one of the most popular governors in Georgia history. His approval rating topped 85 percent, thanks mostly to his lottery-funded program that gave college scholarships to any high school student with a ``B″ average or better.
The state Constitution had barred Miller from running for a third term in 1998. Some Democrats suggested he run against Coverdell for Senate, but Miller instead retired and began teaching college courses.
But he will be running in the special election Nov. 7. Any candidate who pays the $4,101 qualifying fee can take part in a nonpartisan election for the remaining four years of the term. If no candidate gets more than half the vote, the top two will meet in a runoff.
Miller’s popularity with voters is expected to scare off any other serious Democratic candidates.
``I think he’ll be an excellent candidate and an excellent senator,″ said state Rep. Larry Walker, the House Democratic leader. ``He’ll be in the Sam Nunn, Richard Russell mold.″
Republican officials were attempting to unite behind one candidate, probably one of Georgia’s eight Republican congressmen.
After 16 years as lieutenant governor, Miller was elected governor in 1990 _ beating former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and Barnes, among others, in the Democratic primary.
As promised, Miller gave Georgians a chance to vote on a state lottery, which passed. The lottery funds several popular education programs, included HOPE Scholarships, a plan copied by several other governors and President Clinton, a longtime friend of Miller.
Miller campaigned for Clinton in 1992 and pushed up the Georgia presidential primary in 1992 to help his fellow Democratic governor. Miller also introduced Clinton to campaign strategist James Carville.