1992.12.28: December 28, 1992: Headlines: Figures: Directors - Coverdelll: Directors: National Review: Charlton Heston writes: Marching through Georgia - victory of conservative Republican Paul Coverdell

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell (1989 - 1991): Paul Coverdell: 1992.12.28: December 28, 1992: Headlines: Figures: Directors - Coverdelll: Directors: National Review: Charlton Heston writes: Marching through Georgia - victory of conservative Republican Paul Coverdell

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Charlton Heston writes: Marching through Georgia - victory of conservative Republican Paul Coverdell

Charlton Heston writes: Marching through Georgia - victory of conservative Republican Paul Coverdell

It was a deeply rewarding experience for me. When I got on the commercial jet for home that night, I thought, "By God, we did the best we could."A few days later, it was enough. Paul Coverdell was elected, only the second Republican Georgia has sent to the Senate since Reconstruction. We have a good man there, replacing a senator who served six years in disguise. Georgia and the U.S. Senate will surely be better off now. And I have the deep satisfaction, rare for a single citizen, of feeling that maybe I made a difference. Paul Coverdell was the 11th Director of the Peace Corps.

Charlton Heston writes: Marching through Georgia - victory of conservative Republican Paul Coverdell

Marching through Georgia - victory of conservative Republican Paul Coverdell over incumbent liberal Democrat Wyche Fowler in the Georgia senate race, November 1992

National Review,

Dec 28, 1992

by Charlton Heston


AS REPUBLICANS roam the battlefield counting casualties and regrouping after November 3, few flags fly. One triumphant banner marks Paul Coverdell's runoff victory in Georgia for the junior seat in the U.S. Senate. His defeat of ultra-liberal incumbent Wyche Fowler confounded Democratic predictions of a four-seat gain in that chamber, preserving the status quo ante, and also discrediting media claims of a liberal sea-change in the electorate.

I was there. I think I know Georgia pretty well. As a boy, I used to hunt quail at my uncle's farm in Midland, near Columbus, where I also went to school in the fifth grade. I know about the strong industrial economy in the northern counties, the vigorous agricultural base in the south, and the extraordinary dynamism of Atlanta. You could argue that Georgia includes every kind of Southerner, and most kinds of American.

Wyche Fowler is an unlikely kind of candidate to be elected in Georgia, even on the Democratic ticket. Georgians, including Democrats, tend to be uncompromisingly patriotic, with strong views on defense, what remains of their wilderness and hunting rights, stable families, moderate taxation, and support for business and small farms. Most are religious; almost all respect those who are. Sam Nunn, the state's Democratic senior senator, is a good example. To a Beltway liberal, he looks a lot like a Republican.

Fowler, in contrast, is a full-blown tax-and-spend liberal, a Ted Kennedy clone. He was, however, astute enough to realize he could never win the Democratic nomination in Georgia, let alone the election, by flaunting his convictions. So he concealed them well enough to be elected with a modest margin in 1986.

Paul Coverdell, in sharp contrast, is a genuine Georgia conservative. In two decades of service in the State Senate, he became Minority Leader, earning respect as an able legislator and as a determined, if not stunningly charismatic, campaigner. He resigned to accept President Bush's offer to head the Peace Corps in 1989. He served there effectively, but it hardly seemed an ideal launching pad for national elective office.

Nevertheless, Coverdell perceived Fowler's vulnerabilities as a fake conservative nearly two years ago. Perhaps buoyed by President Bush's skyhigh ratings after Desert Storm, he prepared his challenge for Fowler's seat, filing for the Republican primary. He won a dogfight with four other candidates, extending to a runoff primary election. Although he gained the support of all four of his opponents and sharpened his campaign skills, the primary all but exhausted his funds.

Like most Democratic candidates, Fowler had an ample warchest, more than half of it supplied by out-of-state contributions and AFL-CIO funding (Georgia is a right-to-work state, anathema to Big Labor). As the Clinten people focused on the campaign, it caught my attention, too. I had met Paul Coverdell in New Orleans during the 1988 convention; he impressed me. As the President's campaign stumbled, Georgia and Coverdell's run there seemed increasingly important. It was a state where I had roots; Paul agreed I might be helpful. I scheduled a visit for the day before the election.

For me, campaigning is a lot like selling a movie or peddling a book; Lord knows I've done that long enough to learn how. We moved around the state, touching base in cities like Augusta and Savannah, doing the appropriate interviews and wringing as much exposure as possible out of my public face. It was a grey and drizzly day, but the crowds were responsive. That's always hard to read, though. Obviously, the people who turn out to see you are already committed. I thought Paul did a good job, deeply informed on the issues and responding to questions with more than a glib campaign sound bite. The question was: how effectively were we reaching the people who didn't show up at the rally, but would be there for the vote?

The morning after the election was a gloomy time, lightened only by the word from Georgia; neither Coverdell nor Fowler had won a majority (there had been a third-party candidate who snared 3 per cent of the vote), and so, under Georgia law, a runoff was required. I phoned Paul's headquarters; I was coming back.

Fowler, whose campaign in the regular election had been casual, was galvanized into action, most of it spent in harsh personal attacks on Coverdell, all of them invented. Several Georgia newspapers, including the Albany Herald, which had never before endorsed a Republican, came out for Coverdell in reaction to Fowler's odious fantasies. Paul also did well in several debates, in which Fowler stumbled.

Nevertheless, the Democrats were pouring money into Fowler's campaign. More important, major players were dispatched to save the day. First Gore, then Clinton, by then President-elect, came down to plead for votes (though Fowler had avoided Clinton in the primary).

GOP stalwarts Dole, Gramm, Gingrich, and Kemp strode the hustings; Barbara Bush appeared as well. Dollars began to pour into Coverdell headquarters. I went back, days before the runoff, and stumped the state again with Paul. When he met me at the Atlanta airport before dawn, he apologized for the rigor of the schedule we faced. "I didn't fly two thousand miles for an easy day, pal," I said. "Let's do it."

So we did ... eight different venues in every part of the state. We took off for Rome as the sun was rising and watched it set as we flew back from Macon 12 hours later. We saw a lot of Georgia, and a lot of Georgians, in between.

It was a deeply rewarding experience for me. When I got on the commercial jet for home that night, I thought, "By God, we did the best we could."A few days later, it was enough. Paul Coverdell was elected, only the second Republican Georgia has sent to the Senate since Reconstruction. We have a good man there, replacing a senator who served six years in disguise. Georgia and the U.S. Senate will surely be better off now. And I have the deep satisfaction, rare for a single citizen, of feeling that maybe I made a difference.

It was the last campaign of the 1992 elections. Or perhaps the first campaign of 1996.

Mr. Heston is currently working on his autobiography, an excerpt from which appears on p. 38.

COPYRIGHT 1992 National Review, Inc.

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

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

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