Sen. Zell Miller (D)|
Last Updated May 29, 2001
|Appointed July 2000,
seat up 2004
Born: Feb. 24, 1932,
Home: Young Harris
Education: U. of GA, A.B. 1957, M.A. 1958
Marital Status: married
- Political: Mayor, Young Harris, 1958-60; GA Senate, 1960-64; GA Lt. Gov., 1974-90; GA Gov. 1990-98.
- Professional: Dir., St. Board of Probation, Personnel Officer, GA Dept. of Corrections, 1965-66; Exec. Secy., Gov. Lester Maddox, 1969-71; Exec. Dir., GA Dem. Party, 1971-73; Professor, Young Harris College, Emory U. & U. of GA, 1999-2000.
- Military: Marine Corps, 1953-56.
DC Office: 257 DSOB
202-224-3643; Fax: 202-228-2090; Web site: miller.senate.gov
404-347-2202; Macon,478-745-5949; Moultrie,912-985-8113; Savannah,912-238-3244; Young Harris,706-379-9950.
Zell Miller, a Democrat, was appointed to the Senate to replace Paul Coverdell after his death in July 2000 and was elected to fill out the remainder of his term in November. Miller grew up in the mountains of north Georgia in the town of Young Harris (of which his mother was mayor), and joined the Marines after high school; his 1997 book is entitled Corps Values: Everything You Need to Know, I Learned in the Marines. He returned home, went back to school, and was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1960, at 28; he worked for Lester Maddox in his last two years as governor, and ran the state Democratic Party when Jimmy Carter was governor. Miller was elected lieutenant governor in 1974 and held the office, whose occupant tends to run the state Senate, for 16 years. In 1990 he finally ran for governor. In the Democratic primary he led with 41% of the vote to 29% for Andrew Young, longtime Atlanta mayor, congressman and ambassador to the United Nations, and 21% for Roy Barnes, then a state senator and now Miller's successor as governor. In the runoff he beat Young 62%-38%. In the general he beat Johnny Isakson, now 6th District congressman, 53%-45%.
Miller's main issue in his 1990 campaign was a lottery, with revenues to go to education. The lottery passed, and the money went to fund pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds and to fund HOPE scholarships--free tuition at any Georgia college, public or private, for freshmen who maintain B averages in high school. In a few years Georgia led the nation in percentage of four-year-olds in pre-kindergarten and 97% of instate freshmen at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech had HOPE scholarships. Miller had occasional defeats: In 1993 he tried to get the Confederate stars and bars removed from the Georgia flag (it was placed there in 1956, when politicians were opposing school desegregation) but the legislature resisted.
Miller was an early supporter of Bill Clinton for president (Miller was a client of James Carville in 1990) and in 1992 got the Georgia primary rescheduled a week earlier, on March 3. Clinton's victory there was a key step in his nomination, and Miller's support helped him carry Georgia in November by 13,000 votes (43.5%-42.9%). But his association with Clinton hurt in 1994 when Miller was opposed by Guy Millner, founder of the Norrell temporary employee firm. Miller won by only 51%-49% in this heavily Republican year, and took tougher stands on welfare and taxes in his second term. His job approval rating rose to as high as 85%. Term-limited, he decided to retire and teach at Young Harris College and Emory University, declaring, "I will never be a candidate ever again, and we might as well go further and say that I will not take a job or an appointment in Washington."
Coverdell had been re-elected in 1998 by 52%-45% and became an important part of the Republican leadership, handling numerous issues for Majority Leader Trent Lott with a minimum amount of self-publicity; he was also a policy innovator, co-sponsoring education savings accounts with Bob Torricelli and anti-drug laundering measures with Dianne Feinstein. Then, entirely unexpectedly, in three days in July 2000 Coverdell was hospitalized, underwent surgery and died of a stroke. The appointment to fill his seat was in the hands of Governor Roy Barnes. He asked Miller, who refused. Barnes tried again, and Miller finally agreed: He had, after all, tried to keep his promise by turning down this Senate seat twice. The appointment lasted only until November, when under Georgia law voters would choose among candidates listed without party affiliation for the remaining four years of Coverdell's term; if no candidate received 50%, there would be a runoff. Miller, with his high job ratings, was the immediate favorite, and Georgia's eight Republican congressmen, most interested in the race, quickly dropped out. Two Republicans remained. One was Lewis Jordan, founder of ValuJet, who promised to put $3 million of his own into the race; this earned the endorsement of Republican Senate campaign committee head Mitch McConnell. The other was Mack Mattingly, who won the seat against troubled veteran Herman Talmadge in 1980 by 51%-49% and lost it to Democrat Wyche Fowler in 1986 by 51%-49%. (In 1992 Coverdell beat Fowler by, you guessed it, 51%-49%.) Concerned that having two Republicans in the race would cost the party any chance of winning, Jordan bowed out in early August 2000.
Miller was far ahead in the polls; his appointment, National Journal's Charlie Cook wrote at the time, "effectively puts control of the Senate into play for the first time in this election cycle"--and indeed if Democrats had not held the seat, Republicans would have emerged from the election with a 51-49 majority. But Miller insisted that he would not be a partisan senator, and recalled his work with Coverdell in the state Senate and promised to continue his work on at least some issues. "I will support the Democrats when I think they are right and I will oppose them whenever I think they are wrong, and the same way with the president and his programs," he said, and started off his career by joining Republicans and voting for repeal of estate tax and marriage penalty, a measure Clinton vowed to veto. Mattingly based much of his campaign on the Republican label. "Paul and I have identical beliefs and values, and I'm the only one who can become a subcommittee chairman. Zell Miller can't." In debates and ads Miller reached back to Mattingly's Senate record and accused him of voting to increase the retirement age and limit Social Security inflation increases (he would "destroy Social Security as we know it") and of "voting no" on education 14 times. He admitted that he supported Al Gore for president, but only, he said, because Gore helped with the Atlanta Olympics and with recovery from natural disasters. Mattingly attacked the HOPE scholarship program for not doing enough to raise students' basic knowledge; Miller said Mattingly was "dissing" teachers. Mattingly ran a spot showing Coverdell's widow saying, "If Paul were here, he'd wish Zell well, but he'd work day and night to elect Mack to follow in his true conservative footsteps." A Miller ad--there were more of them, for he had more funding--signed off, "Zell Miller--the man who brought HOPE to Georgia." George W. Bush cut a spot for Mattingly, but even as Bush carried the state 55%-43%, Miller whipped Mattingly 58%-38%. Bush carried 125 of Georgia's 159 counties; Mattingly carried only 10.
Miller carried out his promise to be bipartisan early in the 107th Congress. Soon after former Senator John Ashcroft was nominated to be attorney general, Miller said he would support him--the first Democrat to do so. And in George W. Bush's first week in office, Miller joined Texas Republican Phil Gramm, a Georgia native, in co-sponsoring Bush's tax program. Some Senate Democrats were miffed that Miller did not consult with them first, or hold back, as they certainly would have urged. But in May 2001, amid rumors of defection, he stated, "I am not going to switch to the Republican Party. I am saying it as plainly as I know how." But one of Miller's "Corps values" is to speak out loudly for what he believes and--fearless and evidently not caring much about re-election to a seat he accepted only under the most unusual circumstances--he is likely to do so until his term expires in 2005.
||Zell Miller (D)
|Mack Mattingly (R)
||Paul Coverdell (R)
|Michael Coles (D)
||Paul Coverdell (R)
|2000||Receipts||Receipts from PACs||Expenditures|
|Zell Miller (D)
|Mack Mattingly (R)
National Journal Group offers both print and electronic reprint services, as well as permissions for academic use, photocopying and republication. Click here to order, or call us at 877-394-7350.