ATLANTA, JULY 18 -- Former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young made Georgia history Tuesday as the first black to survive a statewide primary election. But today it seemed a hollow victory, even in the heart of Dixie, where such achievements count still as measurements of changing racial attitudes.
The civil rights leader and preacher failed to inspire black voters to go the polls, and their absence put Young so far behind in the runoff that it may be impossible, party insiders say, for him to win the Democratic nomination for governor.
With all but a fraction of the votes counted in the five-way race, Young trails Lt. Gov. Zell Miller by more than 105,000 votes -- 11 points -- as the two head into the Aug. 7 runoff. Miller ran surprisingly well in suburban Atlanta, considered Young's stronghold, and did well among blacks, gathering about 10 percent of the black vote.
Republican Johhny Isakson easily won his party's nomination.
"Andy Young was a long shot to win the governorship. He became an even longer shot after last night," said Merle Black, an Emory University political scientist and leading analyst of Southern politics. "Any black candidate who can't get 95 percent of the black vote and a large turnout is in trouble."
Black also noted that history is against second-place finishers, regardless of color. In the last 25 years in southern elections, he said, no front-runner with 40 percent of the vote and a 5-point lead has ever lost the runoff. Miller got 41 percent to Young's 30 percent.
"Young would have to do what no other runner-up has done in 25 years -- and they've all been white," Black said.
Clearly disappointed by his showing, Young today announced a shift in strategy.
"We traveled to 119 communities trying to make new friends," Young said. "Now it's time to come back to my base and get out the vote."
Young's vote totals may have revealed more about the candidate than it did about Georgia's attitudes on race. On the trail, Young displayed little emotion, playing the role of businessman with world experience as ambassador to the United Nations and a member of Congress, one who could bring jobs and economic development to Georgia.
"Those are extremely important issues," observed Charles Schroder, executive director of Georgia's Democratic party. "But it's not what people get excited about."
Miller, on the other hand, played to gut issues, such as crime, and promoted a statewide lottery to fund education -- a concept popular with voters and given only a lukewarm embrace by Young.
The results seemed to reflect that. Even in Fulton County around north Atlanta, Young's home, his win was blunted by Miller's strong showing.
"Why should a guy from north Georgia cut into Andy's white support? Andy should have run stronger than that in his home county," Schroder said.
Young fared better in heavily black, rural counties, where he outpolled his white opponents. But he did not rack up the kind of black votes that Jesse L. Jackson did in the 1988 "Super Tuesday" primary.
For example, in Dooly County, home of Young's campaign manager, Hobby Stripling, Young took 36 percent of the Democratic vote. Blacks comprise 42 percent of the voter rolls, and in 1988 Jackson earned 49 percent of the total vote.
Young said repeatedly that he could not win the election with black votes alone. He doggedly traveled rural Georgia courting conservative white voters. Some Democratic activists argued that Young was wasting time tilling a garden not likely to produce any fruit. Exit polling Tuesday tended to indicate that Young had made no appreciable gains in white support in the rural counties.