Former Gov. Roy Barnes announced Wednesday in Marietta his intentions to become a candidate for governor in 2010 by promising to restore Georgia to its leadership role in education, job creation, and “returning government to the people and out of the hands of the special interests.”
His decision to run again, he said, was made after months of talking to the people in Georgia in an extended tour in far ranging counties. He said he found people worried that they were losing the Georgia in which they had grown up.
Barnes said that defeat seven years ago taught him lessons of leadership. He said he tried to do too much, too quickly and didn’t explain himself enough. He pointed specifically to his changing of the state flag and his hard-driving education improvement program.
“Listening is something I didn’t do enough of when I was governor. I tried to do too much, too fast,” he said. “My heart was in the right place but I was impatient and didn’t consult enough different people outside the Capitol.”
Barnes leveled much of his criticism at special interests that he said won too many battles in Atlanta at the expense of working people, families and children.
“The lobbyists in their tassel loafers with their eel skin briefcases have too much influence on our lives, how much we pay for electricity and how well our children are educated in the public schools,” he said.
“The special interests get the bailouts and our people get higher taxes and the crumbs that fall from their banquet table. Georgia needs somebody to balance the scales, to stand up for them,” the former governor said.
He said there was plenty of blame to go around and referred to Democrats, Republicans and the lobbyists who have too much power.
Barnes has two daughters, a son and five grandchildren. One of his daughters is a special education teacher, another an attorney in his law firm, and his son is in the computer industry.
The official campaign launch will come in July. Barnes said he needed the time before becoming an official candidate to make arrangements in his law firm and to finish his obligations as chairman of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and his work in the Institution of Educational Leadership.
He said that Georgia needed industry and jobs, improved teacher pay and to “tear government out of the hands of the lobbyists.”
His opponents on both sides were quick to answer Barnes’ entry into the race.
“General Sherman was the last person to march all over Georgians the way Roy Barnes did with his hatchet man,” said state Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton).
Other candidates weren’t as sharp in their tone as Scott.
“Roy and I served together in the state Senate, and I consider him a friend,” said U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Gainesville). “I am sure that he is as focused on getting his party’s nomination as I am on mine. Today, I wish him well.”
DuBose Porter, the state House Minority Leader who is one of three other Democrats running for the nomination, addressed Barnes’ declaration of candidacy.
“I am not running against Roy or any other candidate,” Porter said in a statement. “I am running for Georgia. I have a vision and a bold plan to rebuild our economy. I plan to take our state from the bottom 40 to the top 20 in our rankings in education. My transportation plan will get Atlanta out of gridlock and make rural Georgia attractive to industry.”
Barnes was first elected to the Georgia State Senate when he was 26 and served eight terms. He served as a floor leader for Gov. Joe Frank Harris. After being defeated by Zell Miller in a 1990 governor’s race, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, where he served for six years before he was elected governor.