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Georgia Senate

Filing Deadline: May 1
Primary: July 21

Nov. 4, 1998 — Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell won a second term, defeating millionaire Democrat Michael Coles. Coverdell won 52 percent and Coles won percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting. No other Senate incumbent from Georgia successfully defended the seat since 1974.

Debates: The two agreed to meet three times in October, where they scrapped over health care and veterans' benefits. Coles accused Coverdell of opposing HMO overhauls and of voting against a federal measure providing health care for children. He said Coverdell voted for a transportation bill that used money cut from veterans' benefits. With Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole in his corner, Coverdell defended his actions on veterans.

Issues: Coles challenged Coverdell to submit to drug screening during the summer. Coverdell accepted the challenge and also signed a pledge that he had never used illegal drugs. Coles refused to sign Coverdell's pledge until the incumbent underwent a second test. In 1997, the Supreme Court overturned a Georgia statute that mandated drug testing for political candidates.

Coverdell praised his own campaign for taking the high road, then criticized Coles's campaign style. Coles slammed Coverdell for missing six votes in the Senate, then Coverdell accused Coles of not voting in 16 of 26 local, state and federal elections between 1988 and 1997. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) helped Coverdell reach out to women voters, and former vice president Dan Quayle also stumped for him. Former president Jimmy Carter endorsed Coles in a television ad.

Polls: An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll conducted Oct. 24-28 showed Coverdell with 53 percent and Coles with 35 percent. Another survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Oct. 26-28, showed Coverdell with 51 percent, Coles with 38 percent and 11 percent undecided. That poll had a 3.5 percent margin of error.

Advertising: Coverdell and Coles waged an impressive air war, accusing each other of misrepresenting the truth. Coles cried foul over a Coverdell spot that said employees of Coles's business, the Great American Cookie Company, had to pay to take care of a dying relative. Coles said the company never enforced that rule. Coverdell accused Coles of lying in an ad about his voting record on health care. The spot said Coverdell opposed patients' rights to sue their insurers and featured a woman who said her daughter died because of HMO bureaucracy.

Fund-Raising: Coverdell raised more than $6.4 million for this race, spent nearly $5.5 million and had nearly $990,000 on hand in mid-October. Coles raised $4.4 million, including the $3.1 million he loaned his campaign, spent $4.1 million and had nearly $280,000 on hand.

— Lisa Todorovich,

Lisa Todorovich can be reached at

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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