Originally created 07/20/00

Area leaders top list for Senate successor



As the mourning continues for U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell, speculation is building about his successor, and among the names are two area lawmakers.

Georgia Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, D-Augusta, is a close friend of Gov. Roy Barnes and was a key player in his 1998 election, University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock said.

"He gets credit from a lot of Democrats, including the governor, for having played a pivotal role in that," Dr. Bullock said. "To the extent that the governor might look to reward a faithful supporter, Walker would certainly qualify for that."

Mr. Walker did not return a message left with his office Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Evans, also would be an interesting and popular choice for the special election, said Ralph Walker, director of the Augusta State University Research Center.

But John Stone, a spokesman for Mr. Norwood, said Wednesday, "Right now, he would be inclined not to be interested in that (race)."

Speculation surrounds many of Georgia's eight Republican congressman concerning replacement of the Republican senator. Those congressmen meet weekly, and they were to get together Wednesday to potentially unite behind one as Mr. Coverdell's successor.

The Georgia delegation sponsored a resolution Wednesday to honor Mr. Coverdell, and one by one got up to praise him on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Norwood choked up as he talked of his late friend.

"That slender thread of life by which we were tied to Paul Coverdell is now broken," he said. "But the wisdom, the generosity, the civility, the patriotism and the dedication that he brought to this Congress will never die."

Mr. Norwood urged they preserve Mr. Coverdell's legacy "by picking up the fallen banner of Paul Coverdell and carrying it through to victory."

It will be up to Mr. Barnes to appoint a temporary replacement and call for a special election in November to serve out the remaining four years of Mr. Coverdell's term. That election will be nonpartisan because the short time period does not allow for a primary, according to the secretary of state's office. Mr. Barnes will not comment on the appointment until after Mr. Coverdell's funeral, Barnes spokeswoman Joselyn Butler said.

There is little hope Mr. Barnes, a Democrat, will appoint a Republican to replace Mr. Coverdell, said Dave Barbee, chairman of the Richmond County Republican Party.

Mr. Walker would face a couple of problems in accepting that appointment, if asked, observers said. For one, he would have to give up a position of considerable influence in the state, Dr. Ralph Walker said.

"He's probably the second-most powerful man in the state of Georgia, in my opinion," Dr. Walker said.

For another, he does not have a sizable statewide presence and would be faced with a tough race in just a matter of months, Dr. Bullock said.

"The appointee is going to be torn between being in Washington, learning the ropes as a new senator and representing the state there while simultaneously trying to raise money, put together a campaign organization, get out a message and mobilize voters here back at home," Dr. Bullock said.

Filling the void

Democrats:

Thurbert Baker , state attorney general
Strengths: Would be bold choice; would attract black voters; has won statewide
Weakness: Would have to give up seat to run

Sanford Bishop, U.S. representative
Strength: More moderate than Andy Young
Weakness: Not known statewide

Michael Coles, businessman
Strengths: Is rich; has connections throughout the state
Weakness: Has lost twice before

Cathy Cox, Georgia secretary of state
Strengths: Elected statewide; would attract female voters
Weakness: Few women have won statewide in Georgia

Buddy Darden, former U.S. representative
Strengths: Would appeal to Democrats and Republicans; wouldn't have to give up office to run
Weaknesses: Has never run statewide; has been defeated; has not run in six years

Lewis Massey , former Georgia secretary of state
Strength: Gov. Roy Barnes owes him a favor for withdrawing from 1998 gubernatorial race
Weakness: Doesn't bring strategic strengths

Zell Miller, former governor
Strengths: Popular; able to raise money quickly
Weakness: Passed up the opportunity two years ago when polls showed he was the only Democrat who could beat Mr. Coverdell

Mike Thurmond, state labor commissioner
Strengths: Good campaigner; has won statewide
Weakness: Would have to give up seat to run

Charles Walker, state senator
Strength: Good campaigner and fund-raiser
Weaknesses: Liberalism; ethics questions could bother voters

Larry Walker, state representative
Strengths: Well-connected in Legislature; good speaker
Weakness: Interested in succeeding Tom Murphy as speaker of Georgia House

Andy Young, former Atlanta mayor
Strengths: Well-known; good fund-raiser
Weaknesses: Liberalism; lost statewide in bid for governor

Republicans:

Bob Barr, U.S. representative
Strengths: Good campaigner; likely to raise lots of out-of-state money
Weaknesses: Controversial; has lost only statewide bid

Saxby Chambliss, U.S. representative
Strength: Would do well with farmers and both parties in South Georgia
Weakness: Not known in Georgia cities

Mac Collins, U.S. representative
Strengths: Interested in higher office; GOP could hold his seat
Weakness: Not known statewide

Newt Gingrich, former U.S. representative
Strengths: Good campaigner; well-known
Weaknesses: Controversial; not likely to run

Johnny Sakson, U.S. representative
Strengths: Popular with Democrats; known statewide; able to raise money quickly
Weakness: Has lost twice statewide

Jack Kingston, U.S. representative
Strengths: Interested; good fund-raiser
Weakness: His House seat would go to Democrats

John Linder, U.S. representative
Strength: Good campaigner
Weakness: Partisan

Guy Millner, businessman
Strengths: Could finance race out of his own pocket; known statewide
Weakness: Has lost three statewide races

Charlie Norwood, U.S. representative
Strength: His Patients Bill of Rights is good on his resume
Weakness: His House seat would go to Democrats

Linda Schrenko, state school superintendent
Strengths: Good campaigner; known statewide
Weaknesses: Controversial; has never raised much money

Sources: Charles Bullock, University of Georgia professor; Mark Rountree, Republican pollster with Landmark Communications in Atlanta; and Merle Black, Emory University professor

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.