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Georgia Governor's Race A Free-For-All

New Chance For GOP In Kentucky's Sixth District

By Stuart Rothenberg

Georgia Governor Just a few months ago, the Georgia gubernatorial race looked like a bit of a yawner, at least until the general election next year. How quickly things can change!

The Democratic front-runner for the nomination, Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard, had scared all but one potential primary opponent out of the race and looked headed for a relatively easy race for his party's nomination. The front-runner for the GOP nomination, former attorney general Mike Bowers, wasn't a prohibitive favorite for the nomination, but state party insiders were doing everything possible to level any possible bumps in the road for him, thereby avoiding a fractious primary.

Of course, all that was before Bowers admitted to having a 10-year affair with a woman who once worked in his office. And it was before Howard stunned observers by announcing recently that he was not running for governor next year.

Now, both parties have political free-for-alls, and it is unclear which party is better positioned for next year's election. The current incumbent, Democrat Zell Miller, is prohibited from seeking a third term.

On the GOP side, Bowers, a Democrat who switched to the GOP a few years ago, is damaged goods, particularly since he has spent years defending the state's anti-sodomy laws. Businessman Guy Millner, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1996 (losing narrowly to Democrat Max Cleland) and for governor in 1994 (losing to incumbent Democrat Miller), has already jumped into the race, and at least one poll, a late July Mason-Dixon survey, has shown Millner holding a double-digit lead over Bowers. Conservative activist Nancy Schaefer is also in the race, but Jerry Kean, the state's Christian Coalition director, decided against a run.

Millner's money is a huge advantage, but he has spent it before and lost, and Georgia GOP voters may decide that he doesn't deserve a third chance.

On the Democratic side, Howard's exit left Labor Commissioner David Poythress as the apparent front-runner briefly. But the entry of state Sen. Roy Barnes, who earlier had pulled out of the gubernatorial race to run for lieutenant governor, and of Sec. of State Lewis Massey, who toyed with next year's Senate race but decided against challenging Sen. Paul Coverdell (R), immediately scrambled things. Barnes has been a strong vote-getter in a normally-Republican suburban Atlanta county, while Massey has been regarded as the Democrats' most attractive up-and-comer.

Georgia's Senate and gubernatorial races have gone from Democratic blowouts in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to squeakers in the 1990s. The chaos now apparent in the Peach Tree State's gubernatorial race suggests that the trend will continue in 1998.

New Chance For GOP In Kentucky's Sixth District

Kentucky 6 Democrat Scotty Baesler's decision to run for the Senate gives the Republicans a chance to win in the 6th -- and thereby hold all of the state's congressional districts.

Local and national Republican operatives seem to be coalescing behind one candidate, Ernest Fletcher. A physician who ran a credible race for Congress last year, Fletcher has statewide name identification from his 1996 House race and from his former service as a state representative.

Although Fletcher is the front-runner for the nomination, he already faces one primary opponent, former congressional aide Jay Whitehead, and could face other competitors.

The Democratic race is far messier, with a number of hopefuls showing fund-raising strength and having the potential to compete seriously for the nomination.

Attorney Jim Newberry and Madison County Attorney Bobby Russell may well start at the front of the Democratic pack. Newberry, who served in the administration of former governor Brereton Jones (D-KY) and was an advisor to 1996 Democratic Senate hopeful Steve Beshear's campaign, has raised more than $130,000. Russell, the only major Democratic hopeful not from Lexington, has raised over $100,000 and may have a geographic advantage over the others.

Jonathan Miller, a youthful-looking, one-time aide to Vice President Al Gore has raised over $182,000, making him a player in the race even though he and his wife returned to the state only recently.

Two other candidates, state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone and Lexington vice mayor Theresa Isaacs, will also be factors, but neither has raised the kind of money that the others have and both may be too liberal for the district.

The major question mark is still state Sen. John "Eck" Rose, who ran for governor in 1995 and has been mentioned as interested in the congressional seat. If he were to run, he would become a major factor.

It's still early, but Kentucky 6 could become a real test of the Democrats' ability to hold onto Border State seats. If they can't hold on here, it's hard to see how they can re-take the House. If they do, then they can hope to compete again for seats elsewhere in Kentucky, as well as in Tennessee and the South.

Spotlight Archives:

Pennsylvania's 15th C.D. Looks Competitive (12/09/97)
In Idaho, A Rare Opportunity For Dems (11/19/97)
Stay The Course (11/6/97)
Car-Tax Issue Lifts Gilmore In Virginia (10/23/97)
New Jersey Governor's Race Down To The Wire (10/9/97)
Idaho Scramble: Who's Running For What? (9/25/97)
Hawaii's 1st C.D. Looks Like A Powder Keg (9/10/97)
Molinari's Departures Leaves Opening For Dems (8/25/97)
Georgia Governor's Race A Free-For-All (8/12/97)
Rep. Jon Fox Faces A One-Two Punch (7/30/97)
Sen. Hollings Prepares For A Fifth Term (7/22/97)
The House: Looking Ahead To 1998 (7/15/97)
Sen. Bond Has Re-election Edge (7/7/97)
Bumpers' Decision Encourages GOP (7/3/97)
Kentucky Senatorial Race A Toss-Up (6/24/97)
Nevada's Senator Reid Looks Like An Early Favorite (6/17/97)
1998 Gubernatorial Ratings (6/17/97)
Indiana's Evan Bayh Could Reclaim His Father's Old Senate Seat (6/3/97)
Who Will Control The House After '98? (5/30/97)
New Mexico's 3rd District: Color It Republican Green (5/20/97)
Don't Look For Many Senate Retirements In '98 (5/13/97)
Louisiana Senate, 1996: It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over (5/5/97)
Rothenberg's Senate Re-election Ratings (4/25/97)
Dem, GOP Tests In Connecticut, Arizona (4/9/97)
Don't Count Al D'Amato Out Yet (3/25/97)
Whitman A Favorite In New Jersey (2/25/97)
Sen. Boxer Could Be Vulnerable (2/11/97)
Impressive Bloodlines In Minnesota Governor's Race (1/28/97)
Looking Ahead To '98 Gubernatorial Races In California, Florida (1/23/97)
Rothenberg's Senate Ratings (1/23/97)
Family Feud: The Fight for RNC Chairman (1/10/97)

Spotlight 1996

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