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Ex-Miss Universe Runs for Governor

January 30, 1999

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Former Miss Universe Irene Saez says she’s running for state governor, two months after her bid for Venezuela’s presidency collapsed.

Saez, 37, told reporters Friday that she is officially a candidate in the March 14 governor’s race in Nueva Esparta state, which includes the popular tourist destination, Margarita Island. The incumbent, Rafael Tovar, was re-elected in November but died after an operation three weeks ago.

``A lot of polls have been conducted and the support of the people of Nueva Esparta is impressive ... because I’ve shown how to manage a government and above all govern with honesty,″ said Saez.

The 1981 Miss Universe said the leftist Patriotic Pole coalition that helped former coup leader Hugo Chavez win the Dec. 6 presidential race was backing her, though that could not be confirmed immediately.

For months, the 6-foot-1 blonde led polls for the presidential race, but her popularity ratings sank after she accepted the endorsement of a discredited traditional political party, the social Christian COPEI.

Saez gained a reputation as an honest and efficient politician while running Chacao municipality in Caracas, the richest municipality in the country. In 1995, she was re-elected with 96 percent of the vote.

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