ANDREW YOUNG began his campaign to be the first black governor of
Georgia by optimistically courting white voters in conservative,
rural counties. But in the closing days of the race, he was working
desperately just to hold his core of black support in Atlanta.
It was no surprise then when Mr. Young, once a trusted lieutenant
of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., suffered an overwhelming
defeat in the Tuesday, Aug. 7, runoff primary. The winner by a 62 to
38 margin: Democratic Lt. Gov. Zell Miller, who is white.
Young hoped to duplicate last November's victory of L. Douglas
Wilder (D) of Virginia, the nation's first black governor. But
Young's campaign suffered badly - both from political
miscalculations, as well as from what some critics call Young's lack
of "fire in the belly."
Young also tripped on an issue that had surprising power with
both black and white voters: the battle over starting a state-run
"Young could have done better than he did," says Merle Black, a
political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. He explains:
"A black candidate who is trying to win in a white-dominated
state must do two things. One, maximize the black base. Two, appeal
to a strong minority of whites. The Young campaign did not do either
Claibourne Darden Jr., a longtime Atlanta pollster, says it is
obvious that Young had several things against him. He is black, and
"that is a liability in every state, and maybe a little more in
Just as important, however, was Young's previous post as mayor of
Atlanta. If you mention Atlanta to most rural Georgians, they think
of "14-lane expressways, ... drug busts and killings, ... and
generations of struggle between Atlanta and the rest of the state
for money," Mr. Darden says.
Another problem: in the context of white, rural Georgia, Young's
politics "are a little to the left of Abby Hoffman, no doubt about
it," Darden says.
"In their recent debate, Young admitted he was a liberal. He
talked about the homeless, about the state's responsibility to house
all its people. He said he can work with liberal Democratic
congressmen because he communicates well with them. He wants public
money to pay for abortions, and he said so," Darden observes.
"While Wilder (in Virginia) went over to the conservative side
(in his campaign), and people bought it, Andy reminds you of
(Democratic presidential candidate Michael) Dukakis, admitting he
was a liberal. …