The pool on both ends has been crowded — DuBose Porter, David Poythress and Thurbert Baker on one side and Karen Handel, Nathan Deal, John Oxendine, Austin Scott, Eric Johnson and Ray McBerry on the other end.
But the big whale just may have made the biggest splash.
Roy Barnes has something the other candidates don’t have right now. That’s experience as governor. Of course, he also has the experience of being defeated as an incumbent governor, something else the rest of the pool of candidates does not possess.
With a great machine and a war chest flush with cash, Barnes was the victim in 2002 of one of Georgia’s greatest political upsets — and that lead to the current two-term governor, Sonny Perdue.
The one-time Senate President pro tem George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue — just in case you wondered what his first name really was — beat the former Senate Majority Leader and became the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction. Barnes had served in the Senate, lost in a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, and then served in the House of Representatives before beating Lewis Massey (remember him?) for the right to beat Guy Millner (remember him?) in 1998.
Though Barnes and Perdue were both Senators, and both Democrats, they didn’t serve together. Barnes left the Senate in 1990 to run for governor, and Perdue was elected that year. He switched parties in 1998, a bold move for someone who was a party chieftain in the General Assembly.
But while Perdue has been assailed by his critics as a “do-nothing” governor — they point to Georgia’s continued stagnant education stature and the stagnant traffic that chokes the state’s ever-growing capital city metro area — many of those same critics have lauded Barnes for his progressive, forward-thinking attitude.
Yet Barnes, especially here, will be most remembered for his push to change the state flag and his comments that Daimler-Chrysler would build a plant at the Pooler megasite. The state flag did change; the Pooler megasite remains unoccupied — for now.
The word is that if Barnes, Mableton-bred and now Marietta-based attorney, were to enter the race — he made it official Wednesday afternoon, following weeks of touring the state and dropping hints about the election and assessing the current and prospective governors — the business community would get behind him again. Saddled by the state’s education reputation and by the mess that is the state’s transportation system, business wants to be able to do business.
So much of that focus is Atlanta-centric. But there are road woes in other parts of the state, too — like, say, getting the big trucks and cars out of each other’s way on Highway 21 going in and out of one of the busiest ports on the Eastern seaboard.
Barnes’ figure overshadows the remainder of the field, on both sides of the ideological fence. But whoever winds up being the nominee of either party, it would be nice — and who knows, maybe even beneficial since they might get a few votes out of it — if they would pay attention to the rest of the state outside of I-285.
On the Georgia GOP’s Web site, you can go to the candidate’s page, where the Republican contestants for a variety of statewide and other federal offices are listed, all with their Web sites linked. Granted, the information you get on a candidate’s Web site is geared toward making that candidate look better than the rest. You also might be glean just where a candidate stands on certain issues, though, and that’s never a bad thing.
On the Georgia Democratic party Web site, you get … a release on “Georgia Democrats Work — Making a Difference in Our Communities,” which is about party members cleaning up parks and embarking on food drives, and you find out who the party officers are. There’s little if anything on the candidates, who they are and what they’re running for.