PHILADELPHIA - Mack Mattingly brought his newborn U.S. Senate campaign north of the Mason-Dixon line Sunday.
After all, Philadelphia is where Georgia Republicans of every variety - congressmen, county chairmen and rank-and-file party loyalists - are gathered to help nominate Texas Gov. George W. Bush later this week as the GOP's presidential candidate.
Sunday morning, the day before the Republican National Convention officially kicks off, found Mr. Mattingly working a hotel banquet room full of delegates and alternates from the Peach State.
"We're virtually in a two-week window," said Mr. Mattingly, a former one-term senator who announced after the death of Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell that he would run for his old Senate seat. "We need to field just one strong candidate in this race against Zell Miller."
But Mr. Mattingly, 69, of St. Simons Island, who served in the Senate from 1981 to 1987, isn't likely to have the GOP field to himself. Also on Saturday, Lewis Jordan, 56, former chairman of ValuJet Airlines, said he's prepared to challenge Mr. Miller, the popular ex-governor appointed last week by Gov. Roy Barnes to fill the vacancy created by Mr. Coverdell's death.
Mr. Miller, 68, said he will be a candidate in the Nov. 7 special election to serve the remaining four years in Mr. Coverdell's term. Qualifying for the Senate seat will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday and run through noon Friday.
State Republican Party Chairman Chuck Clay, one of 53 Georgia delegates to the convention, said Mr. Mattingly's appearance illustrated the dual focus of the state's Republican delegation.
"Obviously, the people of this delegation have a keen interest (in the convention). This is the center of the Republican universe right now," Mr. Clay said. (But) we've got an unexpected opening in the United States Senate with the loss of Paul Coverdell. ... Georgians, certainly, are also thinking about Georgia."
Although there was one meeting of delegates and alternates Sunday to discuss logistical issues, most of the day was given over to getting acquainted and reacquainted with one another. For Kay Godwin of Blackshear, first vice chairman of the Pierce County Republican Committee, seeing so many Georgia GOP regulars in one place took away the overwhelming sense of the convention's immensity.
"There are so many people up here I know, it's like a family," she said. "And I love it."
After attending a brunch and a reception, the Georgia delegation got together again Sunday night for a lighted boat parade along the city's waterfront, one boat for each state. The evening was capped with a fireworks show.
The convention will get down to business today. Before the opening gavel at 10 a.m., Georgia's delegates and alternates will hear from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Marietta.
The state's two representatives on the Platform Committee also will take part in the panel's formal vote on the agenda that will guide the Bush campaign this fall.
Mr. Clay said he expects Mr. Jordan to travel to Philadelphia at some point this week to court the delegates. Mr. Jordan, who lives in Peachtree City, told the Associated Press on Saturday that politicians he respects persuaded him to run.
He is expected to commit a portion of his personal wealth to the campaign, an important consideration in what by necessity will be a brief race.
Reach Dave Williams at (404) 589-8424.