ATLANTA -- Democrats rallied their troops Saturday and predicted President Clinton's problems won't hurt their chances of retaining the power they've held in Georgia since Reconstruction.
"The president has never affected the governor's race in Georgia," said Democratic gubernatorial nominee Roy Barnes, who formally accepted his party's nod Saturday at the state Democratic Convention at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Party delegates also formally nominated cookie magnate Michael Coles for U.S. Senate, Albany state Sen. Mark Taylor for lieutenant governor, former Rep. Cathy Cox for secretary of state, one-time state welfare czar Michael Thurmond for labor commissioner, Atlanta Rep. Henrietta Canty for insurance commissioner, incumbent Tommy Irvin for agriculture commissioner, incumbent Thurbert Baker for attorney general, and Joe Martin for school superintendent.
The most-talked-about man at the convention was not Mr. Barnes, Mr. Coles, or even Mr. Clinton, but rather Guy Millner, the Republican nominee for governor who has lost two statewide races in the past four years.
Mr. Millner has embarked on a costly negative ad campaign against Mr. Barnes, calling him "too liberal for Georgia," and "soft on crime." Democrats used the 2,000-person rally to hit back.
"It is hard to stand at the plate when million-dollar curve balls are being thrown at your head," said Gov. Zell Miller of Mr. Barnes. Mr. Miller narrowly beat Mr. Millner, a temporary services tycoon, for re-election in 1994.
"We cannot allow millions of dollars of television commercials to stop this momentum while a man with absolutely no experience in government spends four years trying to understand how it works," he added. "There is no time for on-the-job training."
Mr. Barnes touted the Democratic ticket as the most diverse the party has put forward geographically and demographically with two women, one of whom is black, two black men, and five white males.
He also took another swipe at Mr. Millner.
"I want to say how proud I am to be a part of this powerful and diverse winning slate of candidates who look like the face of Georgia rather than the face of Buckhead," Mr. Barnes said.
He promoted his agenda of reform of managed care, after-school programs for kids and tax incentives for businesses providing on-site child care.
Mr. Barnes said he hoped to continue running a "positive" campaign against Mr. Millner.
"I would rather see his secrets remain his secrets. I would rather see people vote for the candidate who can best serve instead of the candidate who will least embarrass," he said.
Meanwhile in Macon, Republicans held a rally of their own, with U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Mr. Millner leading the way.
"The Democrats are out of step with Georgians' mainstream conservative values," Mr. Millner said. "Roy Barnes, Michael Coles and Mark Taylor are good ole boy Bill Clinton liberals who will be repudiated by Georgia's voters in exactly 67 days."