Is Georgia ready for a black governor? Young thinks it is

Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young is planning to run for governor of Georgia in 1990. ``I believe a black candidate can be elected,'' he says. ``No, the people of Georgia have not gone stone liberal all of a sudden. But they are willing to vote for a candidate they believe can do the job.''

When asked (as he often is) about a black president, Mr. Young says: ``Yes, I believe a black can be elected. ... I would say a major party will nominate a black person for president or vice-president, even in my time.''

Blacks will survive the Bush administration, he says. ``And I feel that it wouldn't be bad if some blacks became Republicans. It's not good for all blacks to be in the same party.''

Young's remarks may sound out of place from a man who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in places like Birmingham and Selma, Ala. Those demonstrations ignited the fervor that led Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Those laws, the mayor says, were the basis for the increased participation of blacks in the electoral process. Georgia has nearly 500 elected officials who are black, says the 1988 edition of Black Elected Officials. Black officials in the United States rose from 6,681 in 1987 to 6,829 this year, says the publication, put out by the Joint Center for Political Study, a black think tank in Washington.

The mayor spent a day in Boston recently as the featured attraction of ``Evening with Andy Young,'' a $100-a-person benefit for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Young is assessing his political future because he is wrapping up a second term as mayor of Atlanta and is not eligible for reelection.

Although his name has often comes up in talk about the US Senate race, Young discounts that prospect. ``If I run for the Senate in 1990, I will have to face everybody's favorite, Sen. Sam Nunn, in the Democratic primary,'' he says. ``Prospects for victory over an incumbent are never bright for any candidate.

``On the other hand the race for governor will be wide open. [Democrat Joe Frank Harris is in his second term and cannot succeed himself.] I won't have to compete against an incumbent....''

``He will make a strong candidate,'' says Charles Schroeder, a Georgia State Democratic official.

Young could face two strong moderates in the 1990 primary. One is Lt. Gov. Zell Miller. The other is Georgia Secretary of State Max Cleland, who served as Veterans Administration chief under President Carter. Also mentioned are State Sen. Roy Barnes of Marietta and State Rep. Bubba McDonald of Commerce.

GOP hopefuls include State Rep. Johnny Isakson; two lawyers, Guy Davis and Robert Irvin, both of DeKalb County; and George Israel, the former mayor of Macon, Ga.

Young has wide experience in public office: two terms in the US Congress, US Ambassador to the United Nations under President Carter, and now two terms as Atlanta's mayor.

``White people in rural Georgia know me and have told me they would vote for me,'' he says.

Young, a Baptist minister, explains why he is in politics:

``I owe a whole lot to reapportionment. This brought the creation of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District, which made it possible for a black to be elected to Congress from Georgia. I lost the first time I ran. The next time I went out to the people....''

Young will not forecast who he thinks will be the first black presidential nominee. But he will discuss Jesse Jackson, who has come closest to being nominated for president by a major political party.

``Jesse ran well this year,'' Young says. ``He was the only candidate in either party talking about the real issues.''

He praises the Rev. Mr. Jackson for resisting calls to head a third party ticket and for sticking with the Democratic Party. ``The Democrats are a party for everybody - the poor, blacks, Hispanics, other minorities, farmers, factory workers, everybody,'' he says. ``You are what you are, and you can't run from this fact. Jesse Jackson ran as himself....

``Because of his campaign, both parties are concerned with drug abuse, children and day care, the defense budget. Many people are now concerned with reapportionment and an accurate count of blacks and other minorities in the 1990 census. What Jesse does in 1992 will depend on the 1990 census and the resulting reapportionment of districts and how well Bush does as president.''

Returning to the subject of a black governor in Georgia, Young says:

``Georgia is more liberal than Massachusetts on issues of race. Georgia has a large black population. It has 20 years of black people and white people living and working together in a desegregated society. ... I believe the people are ready to move and vote beyond race. It doesn't mean they will elect me governor, but they might.''

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