1992.11.26: November 26, 1992: Headlines: Figures: Directors - Coverdell: Congress: New York Times: Paul Coverdell wins Senate seat

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell (1989 - 1991): Paul Coverdell: 1992.11.26: November 26, 1992: Headlines: Figures: Directors - Coverdell: Congress: New York Times: Paul Coverdell wins Senate seat

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Paul Coverdell wins Senate seat

Paul Coverdell wins Senate seat

"The voters were driven by a need for change," said Mr. Coverdell of his 51 percent to 49 percent victory. Mr. Fowler had a 49-to-28 lead in the Nov. 3 ballot. "That was part of President Bush's problem here three weeks ago, and that was part of Senator Fowler's problem as well. Voters wanted change whether they were voting on Nov. 3 or on Nov. 24." Paul Coverdell was the 11th Director of the Peace Corps.

Paul Coverdell wins Senate seat

Republicans Taking Heart From Senate-Runoff Victory in Georgia


Published: November 26, 1992

Republicans today hailed the victory of Paul D. Coverdell over Senator Wyche Fowler Jr. in Tuesday's runoff as a rebuke to President-elect Bill Clinton, who campaigned for the incumbent, and an admonition to Mr. Clinton to temper some of his plans.

But Democrats scoffed at reading such sweeping conclusions into the narrow victory by Mr. Coverdell, a former Peace Corps director in the Bush Administration. They suggested that the Republicans, hungry for some good news after the defeat of President Bush, were grabbing at straws, trying to build some fighting spirit before the Clinton Administration takes over.

In assessing his victory, Mr. Coverdell himself wound up squarely between the Republican cheerleaders and the Democratic scoffers.

At a news conference, he was asked how the runoff compared with the Nov. 3 results, in which Mr. Clinton defeated Mr. Bush by about 5,000 votes out of slightly more than two million cast in Georgia. He responded that one was the "natural extension" of the other. Voters Want Change

"The voters were driven by a need for change," said Mr. Coverdell of his 51 percent to 49 percent victory. Mr. Fowler had a 49-to-28 lead in the Nov. 3 ballot. "That was part of President Bush's problem here three weeks ago, and that was part of Senator Fowler's problem as well. Voters wanted change whether they were voting on Nov. 3 or on Nov. 24."

The 58-year-old insurance company owner's 18-month campaign had devoted most of its advertising on highlighting Mr. Fowler's voting record and what it portrayed as the negatives of Mr. Fowler's stands on tax increases, Senate pay raises and opposition to the Persian Gulf war. The ads did not spend much time trying to present Mr. Coverdell's positions or even show him or having him speak in campaign ads.

Consequently the campaign became the lightning rod for strong anti-Fowler sentiments in a state where the one-term incumbent was often considered too liberal and too aloof and where even his Democratic supporters had long warned him that he was vulnerable.

In the end Mr. Coverdell, who takes the middle ground in the abortion debate, was able to garner support from abortion opponents. He supports a woman's right to choose abortion but opposes any increased availability of abortion. And although he is a frequent opponent of the religious right's efforts to take over the Georgia Republican Party, he nevertheless got their support. Groups Claim Credit

Today, all sought to take some measure of the credit for his victory.

"Coverdell is not the person you would invite to give the keynote address at a right-to-life banquet," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee. "But he came out in opposition to the proposed Freedom of Choice Act, which Wyche Fowler co-sponsored. And that's what's pertinent."

Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee was among those who saw the Coverdell victory as a blow to Mr. Clinton.

"The entire involvement of Gore and Clinton in coming to the state was to make the argument that the people of Georgia should give them a blank check in Congress," said the Texas Republican who had come here to campaign for Mr. Coverdell. "Well, the people of Georgia said no to that blank check."

Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, the minority leader who also campaigned for the challenger, called the outcome "proof that the Republican Party is alive and well". Republicans See Big Victory

Similarly the Republican chairman in Georgia, Alec Pontevint, said, "This was of national importance because Clinton put his credibility on the line by coming here and he lost."

E. Spencer Abraham, co-chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee called the Fowler defeat "the first sign that Bill Clinton will have the shortest honeymoon in Presidential history".

Democrats, on the other hand, said the outcome of the runoff would have little negative effect on the incoming Clinton Administration. The victory gives the Republicans the same number of Senators, 44, that they had going into Election Day.

James Carville, the political consultant who directed the Clinton campaign, said Mr. Clinton had shown courage in his willingness to expend political capital on behalf of a struggling Democratic incumbent, a sentiment expressed by Mr. Fowler himself in his concession speech late Tuesday.

"I don't think that this is any type of message about Bill Clinton," said Mr. Clinton's spokeswoman, Max Parker. 'Slim Reed' for the G.O.P.

Alan Secrest, a Democratic poll taker based in Washington who worked for Mr. Fowler, also scoffed at any suggestion that Mr. Clinton's standing would be hurt.

"It's a pathetic and slim reed for the Republicans to lean on," he said. "Bill Clinton wasn't able to carry the day for Wyche Fowler, but there is very little indication that Republican surrogates such as Phil Gramm and Bob Dole had any impact on Coverdell's win either."

The runoff made history in Georgia as the first under the state's 28-year-old law requiring candidates in statewide elections to get a majority of the vote. Historians say the law, passed in the 1960's, was intended to keep newly enfranchised blacks from winning county and state offices.

Both Mr. Fowler and Mr. Coverdell were denied a majority in the Nov. 3 voting because the Libertarian Party candidate, Jim Hudson, got 3 percent of the vote. Under the law, the two top vote getters had to face each other in a runoff. Other states have such a majority vote requirement in party primaries or for county and municipal posts, but no others have such a requirement for statewide office. Slim Margins Both Times

On Nov. 3, just over 30,000 votes out of more than two million cast separated the candidates. This time the margin narrowed to about 16,000 votes among 1.2 million cast. The turnout in the general election was 72 percent, compared with 38 percent in the runoff. Experts expected the turnout in runoff to be even lower.

In a brief telephone conversation this morning, President Bush congratulated Mr. Coverdell. The two have known each other since 1980, when Mr. Coverdell headed the Georgia campaign for Mr. Bush's unsuccessful run for the Republican Presidential nomination.

"I was using a lot of lessons in my campaign that I picked up from a pretty good boss," Mr. Coverdell said to the President.

Later in the news conference Mr. Coverdell avoided a combative and partisan stand and said it remained to be seen how cooperative he would be with a Clinton Administration. A former state legislator for 19 years who served as state Senate minority leader, Mr. Coverdell noted that he had some experience in working as a Republican alongside Democratic administrations.

"But tax cuts are needed and if President Clinton is so driven by his party that he raises taxes more, he will have an adversary in me," Mr. Coverdell said.

Democrats criticized the negative style of the Coverdell campaign -- a style that Mr. Fowler acknowledged, saying he had adopted it in self-defense. Ed Simms, chairman of the Democratic Party, said the Coverdell campaign was unique in that 100 percent of its advertising was negative advertising, and that it never once showed Mr. Coverdell's face or broadcast his voice.

But Tom Perdue, Mr. Coverdell campaign manager, defended the candidate's approach. "If we had just highlighted who Paul Coverdell was, we probably would not have won," he said.

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Peace Corps Annual Report: 1992; Paul Coverdell; Figures; Paul Coverdell (Director 1989 - 1991); Congress; Georgia

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Story Source: New York Times

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